WR121 Fisher: Citing your sources

Why Cite?

We cite to:

  • Avoid plagiarism – give credit where credit is due
  • Allow our reader to follow up on points that interest them
  • Give our writing more credibility
  • Help our reader see how we came to our conclusions

When should you cite?

Academic writing requires that you give credit for others’ work.  You should identify and give credit to the work of others when you:

  • Use a direct quote
  • Make a claim that might be challenged/questioned
  • Paraphrase of the ideas of another person
  • Offer an expert opinion

It is not necessary to give credit for commonly known facts or expressions.

MLA Citations

Proper citations have to be written according the rules of a citation format.  In this case, you'll be using MLA.  Why is it so important to follow a particular format?  Consider this example:

Strout, Elizabeth. Olive Kitteridge. New York: Random House, 2008.

From this citation, we are able to know immediately that the author of the book is Elizabeth Strout and the title of the book is Olive Kitteridge.  If we didn't have a set format to follow and could just put the elements of the citation anywhere, it would take us much longer to read and use cited works!


  • Sources cited are only those sources you actually refer to in your paper.  You will likely consult many more sources than you cite in your paper.
  • Email articles you’re interested in to yourself from the databases;  depending on the database the email will include a citation in MLA format or will at least include all of the information you will need to create your citation.
  • Consult the library for examples and guides:  http://www.pcc.edu/library/research/how_cite.html