Skip to Main Content

Introduction to Library Research: Citing Sources

New to the library? This guide will introduce you to the process of doing college library research.

A citation is a listing of all the information necessary to identify and locate a specific published source - whether it's a book, an article, a video, a website, or a tweet. 

Why do I need to cite my sources?

Citing your sources is important for three reasons:

  1. It gives credit to the person whose idea it is you are referencing. 
  2. It leads readers to your sources.
  3. It helps you avoid plagiarism.

When you find information in another source, whether it is a newspaper, magazine, academic journal, or even online, someone else has published it, which means that essentially that person "owns" the information and the ideas (intellectual property). Not giving that person credit when you borrow their ideas or words is called plagiarism, and that is a very serious academic infraction. 

( - Undergraduate Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

When to Cite

Citing Sources - MLA

Citation Tools in Databases

Most of the library databases have a citation tool that will create a citation for an item. When using the citation tool, make sure you choose the style that your instructor requires (MLA, APA, Chicago). Be aware that while these database-generated citations are a fine place to start, you will need to check the details of the citation using a style guide.

Consider these tips when using citations from a database.

  • Pay attention to capitalization of article titles—it’s different for MLA and APA.
  • Correct any titles or names that appear in all capital letters.
  • Your instructor may want you to include optional elements such as a URL or "date accessed." 

Live Chat


Contact Us

Contact us using Live Chat. It operates during the hours that the library is open for online service. Or email us your questions.

Library Account
Library Account Questions
Technology / Online Access Questions

Additional Resources