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CJST: Criminal Justice: Citation Matters

Why and How Do I Cite Sources?

Why do you need to cite sources?
While preparing a research paper, you will gather information that supports your ideas, which you find in works created by others. A citation gives your reader the information needed to locate these works. If you don't credit the authors by citing their works in your paper, you are committing plagiarism, which is not acceptable at Northampton Community College.

For help with citations, pick up one of these handouts at any campus Library or Learning Center, or view the handouts online, at the links below:

 

When to Cite

You need to cite:

  • anytime you use someone else's ideas
  • when you summarize or paraphrase text from a source
  • when you directly quote information that you took from a source 
  • if the information is highly debatable

You don’t need to cite your own opinions and insight, and you don’t need to cite facts that are common knowledge (information repeated in multiple sources that is widely known or accepted as a fact).

When in doubt, it's best to cite.

Citing Sources

Depending on what class you are in, you will cite your sources by using MLA style (for most English classes) or APA style (for most science classes, including Psychology and Sociology). Make sure you check with your professor if you are unsure about which citation style to use.

Check Your Professor's Instructions First!

If your professor has given specific instructions about the citation style you should use or how citations should be formatted for their assignments, always follow those instructions. 

If You Use a Citation Generator

No online citation tool or software is perfect. They can find the wrong information for the source you are using. If you enter incorrect information or do not include some information, then the citation they create will be incorrect.

The library's databases may provide a citation for a source you find in them, but this should only be used as a starting point. They may not be entirely accurate, either. They often include too much information or are formatted incorrectly (they might be missing hanging indents, italicization, or double-spacing).

It is up to you to check the accuracy of your citations before submitting research papers or other class assignments. ‚Äč