Citing Sources

  1. About citations
  2. Citation Styles
  3. About plagiarism
  4. About copyright


About citations

Most academic writing projects require you to gather, evaluate, and use the work of others. When you draw upon the work of others, you must give proper credit. Failure to do so constitutes plagiarism.

  1. Citations reflect the careful work you have put into writing your paper.
  2. Citations allow readers of your paper to review the sources you consulted.
  3. Citations give proper credit to the authors whose works you used to write your own paper.
  4. Citation helps prevent plagiarism.

You must cite sources whenever you directly quote another author's work.  You must also cite any source that contributed to an idea you presented in your paper.  By citing sources, you demonstrate your integrity and skill as a member of the academic community. 

Citations are notations you make both within the text of your paper, as well as at the end of your document.  The location, format, and type of information included in a citation varies depending on the citation style used. 

Ask your instructor which citation style he or she wants you to use and if there are other special formatting instructions you should follow.  The most commonly used citation style at COS is that of the Modern Language Association (MLA).  Another frequently used style is that of the American Psychological Association (APA).

COS offers several resources to help you cite your sources, including the official style manuals, downloadable COS Quick Guides, and links to online style guidelines.




Download a Quick Guide MLA (8th ed.) APA Quick Guide
Guidelines from OWL Purdue

Citing electronic resources MLA - Electronic Sources APA - Electronic Sources
Official style manual available at the COS Library Reference Desk
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Modern Language Association. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 8th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 6th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2009.

About Plagiarism

Plagiarism​ happens whenever you represent someone else’s ideas as your own.  There are many degrees of plagiarism.  In general, we think of plagiarism as an intentional act of copying someone else’s work word-for-word, and occasionally this does happen.  However, more often, plagiarism occurs when you use someone else’s words or ideas without properly paraphrasing and/or crediting the source you used. Plagiarism is a serious academic crime, usually resulting in a grade of "F" on the assignment, but can also result in suspension or expulsion from school.

Citing your sources as directed by the citation guidelines provided above is the best way to avoid plagiarism.  Careful research methods and proper note-taking can also help you avoid plagiarism. The following web sites are excellent sources for identifying and avoiding plagiarism:

About copyright

Plagiarism and copyright are two separate issues. Plagiarism is an academic crime enforced by academic institutions.  Copyright is a form of protection offered by the US government to protect “original works of authorship.”  Violation of copyright is a crime enforced by the United States judicial system. For more information about copyright, visit the U.S. Copyright Office.
Last Updated: 8/24/2017 11:59 AM