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Albert S. Cook Library

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Why are Citations Important?

Citations allow you to distinguish your work from the work of others. While this includes citing direct quotes of text-based information, it also includes citing works when you paraphrase or summarize as well as citing non-text based works like images, videos, data sets, etc.

Citations are also important because they...

  • ... can be used to show how information supports your arguments
  • ... allow readers to identify and verify your information
  • ... give credit to the creators of ideas
  • ... are required for academic assignments

In-text vs. Bibliographic Citations

Citation styles all follow different rules, but in general they will require some type of in-text citation and some type of matching bibliographic citation.

In-text Citations

In-text citations occur within the body of your work and tell your reader where within your paper or project you use someone else's information. In-text citations may occur within parentheses, or they may occur as footnotes. See the Library's citation guides for in-text citation examples.

Bibliographic Citations

Usually found at the end of your paper or project, bibliographic citations provide the full citation details for your information sources. Depending on the citation style, you may be asked to create a "Works Cited," "Bibliography," or "Reference List" - these all refer to bibliographic citations. See the Library's citation guides for bibliographic citation examples.

Beware of Citation Generators

Many of our research databases include tools to help you collect citation and reference information. While these tools can be useful, they can also be wrong, as you can see in this example. Author names and article titles might be in all-caps, information can be missing or extra information added, and typos show up regularly.

Errors from auto created database citations, including wrong capitalization for authors' names and article title, missing end of page range, and missing DOI or URL.

Tools like this can help you keep track of important information, but you can't copy-paste these citations into your paper without double-checking all the elements. Capitalization, typos, and other editing errors you can check yourself - you can also use the Library's citation guides to be sure all the right information is there.

Cook Library Citation Guides

Need help citing your sources? These guides from Cook Library should get you started.