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Citation Styles: Getting Started

Stuck on how to format a citation for your paper?

What's in this Guide

Welcome to the Citation Styles Guide!

This guide provides examples and links to useful sites and tips on how to format or find help formatting your citations in your academic papers.  Use the tabs to navigate through the pages of this guide

  • MLA: Modern Language Association; this style is the most common for undergraduate work.
  • APA: American Psychological Association; this style is recommended for graduate studies.
  • Chicago: Chicago Style is most commonly used in graduate work in the humanities.
  • Citation Tools: Web tools which allow you to enter information to produce a citation.
  • The Writing Lab: Find out how the Cairn University writing lab can assist students in the writing process

Why Should I Cite?

Citation: The action of citing or quoting any words or written passage, a quotation.

~ Oxford English Dictionary

Why cite sources?

Whenever you quote or base your ideas on another person's work, you must document the source you used. Even when you do not quote directly from another work, if reading that source contributed to the ideas presented in your paper, you must give the authors proper credit.

Citations allow readers to locate and further explore the sources you consulted, show the depth and scope of your research, and give credit to authors for their ideas. Citations provide evidence for your arguments and add credibility to your work by demonstrating that you have sought out and considered a variety of resources. In written academic work, citing sources is standard practice and shows that you are responding to this person, agreeing with that person, and adding something of your own. Think of documenting your sources as providing a trail for your reader to follow to see the research you performed and discover what led you to your original contribution.


Merriam Webster Online notes that to plagiarize is to “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source”. The dictionary source also defines it as “literary theft.”(1)

Essentially, plagiarism is taking someone else’s ideas or words, intentionally or not, and presenting them as your own. This could be a quote or passage that you forgot to cite, or even an entire paper. Ideas can be plagiarized? Yes, ideas. If you read an article and take that stance as your own without crediting the article, that is also considered plagiarism. You are stealing someone else’s position and ideas instead of creating your own. You cannot grow as a student, thinker, and person if you steal from someone else.

At Cairn University we have high academic standards and plagiarism can lead to failure of a course or a complete dismissal. 

(1) "Plagiarism - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary." Dictionary and Thesaurus - Merriam-Webster Online. Merriam-Webster. Web. 13 Sept. 2011. <>.

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