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Library Research Tutorial: Module 6: Citing Sources

Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • Understand when and why to cite sources.
  • Identify the bibliographic elements essential for properly citing a source.
  • Define plagiarism.
  • Understand the concept of fair use.
  • Choose the appropriate citation style for your discipline.


A citation is a reference to a book, article, video, website, or other information source for the purpose of giving credit to the author. Citations also give your work more credibility because your readers can find out exactly where you got your information from. Citations typically include: author names, title, publisher, publisher location, date of publication, journal title, volume, issue, and/or page numbers. Citing your sources is a fundamental research skill.

Example book citation:

book citation


Example article citation:

article citation


We recommend watching this two-minute video:

“Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction” by North Carolina State University Libraries is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.


If you use other people's ideas without giving them credit by citing their work, you are committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else's ideas or words and presenting them as your own, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Plagiarism is a violation of the Vincennes University Academic Honesty Policy.

To avoid plagiarism, always provide a proper citation when you quote or paraphrase the idea of another person in your research paper, speech, slide presentation, etc. What constitutes a proper citation will depend on which citation style you're using. You'll learn more about citation styles later in this module.

For further information on avoiding plagiarism, see Is It Plagiarism Yet? by Purdue OWL.

Fair Use

The Copyright Law of the United States provides legal protection for intellectual property. In your search for information, you should assume that all materials you find are copyrighted, unless the document specifies that it is public domain, which can be used freely by anyone. An information source does not have to be registered with the Copyright Office to be covered by copyright. It is copyrighted as soon as it is created.

The doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use generally applies to nonprofit, educational purposes that do not affect the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Section 107 of the Copyright Law describes four factors to consider in deciding when fair use applies. When an information source is copyrighted, you should cite it if you quote or paraphrase it in your paper or speech.

For further information see the Copyright Act and other important documents relating to the law and its interpretation.

Citation Styles

A citation style determines the information to include in the citation, the order of the information, the punctuation, and other formatting. Each discipline tends to use one or two citation styles. Always ask your professors which style they prefer.

Frequently-used citation styles:

  • APA - Used by nursing, business, and the social sciences, including psychology, education, sociology, and economics
  • MLA - Used by many humanities disciplines, including languages and literature
  • Chicago / Turabian - Used by history and the arts
  • CSE - Used by many disciplines in the natural sciences, including biology, geology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics
  • AMA - Used by medicine, health, and the sciences
  • APSA - Used by political science

For further information, see our Research, Writing, & Citation Help guide.

Citation Generators

There are tools available to help you generate citations. Always review citations generated by these tools to make sure they're accurate and meet the exact formatting and punctuation guidelines of the style you're using.

Citation Generators


OneVU has a citation generator that will help you create citations such as MLA and APA. When you look up a resource in OneVU, just look for the Cite button.

OneVU Cite Button

However, you should always double check to ensure that all of the important information is included in the citation. The citations OneVU creates for e-resources, such as eBooks or online articles, typically are missing both the URL and the database in which the resource may be found. See the example below:

OneVU Citation Example


Most databases also include citation generators, just look for a citation button somewhere on the resource's page. As always, when you copy and paste, make sure that the formatting is correct for your paper (titles that need to be italicized, hanging indents, etc.).

Below are examples of 3 databases' cite buttons and citations.

EBSCO Databases (ex: Academic Search Complete): EBSCO Cite Button

EBSCO Citation Example

Gale Databases (ex: Opposing Viewpoints): Gale Cite Button

Gale Citation Example

ProQuest Databases (ex: Research Library): ProQuest Cite Button

ProQuest Citation Example

Citation Generator Websites

Use a citation generator when you need to build a citation but don't need to save it long term.

Citation Managers

Use a citation manager when you're collecting many citations and you want to save and organize them for later use.

quotation marks

Vincennes University

812-888-VUVU | 800-742-9198

1002 North First Street; Vincennes, Indiana 47591

Shake Library

812-888-4165 |

1002 North First Street; Vincennes, Indiana 47591

Jasper Academic Center for Excellence

812-481-5923 |

850 College Ave; Jasper, IN 47546