Students are often confused and intimidated by the process of citing the sources they use in a paper or other academic project. By bearing in mind the purpose of citations, you can save yourself a lot of worry; and this purpose is simply to
- give proper credit to the creator of an idea you’ve used, whether you’ve quoted this idea exactly or merely paraphrased it
- allow your “audience” (whoever reads or observes your work) to trace this idea back to the source you got it from so that they can learn more about it.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no single correct way to cite your sources. Different academic disciplines tend to prefer certain methods, but there are several widely accepted methods within the academic world (the “correct” one is ultimately the one your professor asks you to use):
- MLA style (often preferred in the humanities)
- APA style (often preferred in the social sciences)
- Turabian style (often preferred in music)
While there are web sites that purport to explain these styles, such as the well-known OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University (https://owl.purdue.edu/), you might be safest in going directly to their respective manuals:
- MLA Handbook (8th, 2016), Reference Area 808.02 G35m 2016.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th, 2010), Reference Area 808.066 P96 2010.
- Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (7th, 2007), Reference Area 808.02 T84m 2007.