Skip to Main Content
Mary Baldwin University Logo
Martha S. Grafton Library

Citation Help: Home

Information on properly citing research.

Parts of a Citation

Citations are made up of two parts, and you need both in your research papers. In-text citations are notes in the text of your paper for each borrowed idea or passage, either as a note with a superscript number or a parenthetical (like this!) that identifies which source you're using.

You also need bibliographic citations for each source in an alphabetized list at the end of your paper. These citations include enough information for someone else to find the source you've referenced.


Keep detailed notes about each source you use, and the information within each you find interesting, for your research. Label direct quotes in your notes and write down page numbers and information you will need to cite the source. Keep notes about how you found each source, it can be difficult to find sources again after you've navigated away from the page. Some citation managers, like Zotero, can help you keep track of your sources and related notes.


Image credit: dbdbrobot

Welcome! Using other scholars' work as evidence in your own research and properly citing those findings and ideas is an important part of the academic process. You want to show how your work is building on the work of others and protect yourself from committing plagiarism (the unacknowledged use of someone else's work). Plagiarism, even accidental or unintentional plagiarism, is a serious honor offense. 

Ask your professor, or consult your assignment description or syllabi, to find out which citation style you should use for your research paper. You can find examples in the tabs above for citations in a variety of citation types. If you run into trouble, contact a librarian or consult the manual for your required style.

Types of Borrowing

Types of Borrowed Information

Direct Quotes

You directly quote information when you literally or figuratively copy and paste words from your source into your paper. Direct quotes must be surrounded by quotation marks " " to show your reader that you've borrowed not just an idea, but the wording, too. Formatting for longer quotations can vary by style.

Quote sparingly and only when you can't think of a way to state the idea better yourself. Your reader wants to hear your voice.

Paraphrased and Summarized Ideas

Paraphrased ideas are borrowed but presented in your own words. Do not simply rearrange the author's original statements. Paraphrases are roughly the same legnth as the original and summaries condense what may have taken the author many more words to convey by only relaying the general idea.

Paraphrase and summarize as needed to discuss important points within the source material or to provide evidence for an argument you are making. You'll still need to cite the ideas you are borrowing, but you don't use quotation marks.

Contact Us

Phone: 540-887-7085

Text: 540-300-4622


JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.

Common Knowledge

You need to cite ideas from other sources when you quote them directly, summarize or paraphrase the idea. The only time you don't need to cite an idea is when it is considered common knowledge. Common knowledge can differ by discipline and includes undisputed facts or dates. If you're ever unsure, it's safer to cite.