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Research Basics at NCC: Citation Matters

Citation Matters

Learn about citing the sources you find, citation styles, citation generators, and resources available to help you with citations.

Why Cite?

​Through research, you will gather information that supports your ideas, which you find in sources created by others. A citation gives your reader the information needed to locate these works. Citing these sources is important because:

  • it shows your professor that you actually did research on your topic and gained new knowledge
  • anyone reading your work can check to see if they agree with your interpretation of the information
  • acknowledging other people's ideas is academically honest and helps you avoid plagiarism

If you don't credit the authors of your sources by citing them in your paper, you are committing plagiarism, which is not acceptable at Northampton Community College.

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.

How to Cite

Each discipline and area of study has a citation style or guide that outlines citation rules for writing in that area of study. 

Citation styles differ in regards to formatting and the details of how source information appears, but much of the information required for the citations is the same.

For most citation styles, there are two aspects that work together: 

  • in-text citations (sometimes known as parenthetical citations) within the paper
  • a list of sources known as Works Cited, References, or Bibliography at the end of the paper

The citation styles you'll most likely encounter at NCC are MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and the Chicago Manual of Style

MLA, APA, Chicago, and Other Citation Styles

MLA format is used often in English and other language studies and in humanities. It requires in-text citations and a Works Cited list.

APA format is used in the social sciences, like psychology and education. It requires in-text citations and a References list.  

Chicago format is used in history and the arts. There are two methods for citing that can be used in Chicago: Author-date (with in-text citations and a References list), or Notes-Bibliography (with footnotes at the bottom of each page and a Bibliography list).  

There are many more citation formats for other fields of study. You might also encounter ASA (American Sociological Association), ACS (American Chemical Society), CSE (Council of Science Editors), ASC (AMA (American Medical Association), NLM (National Library of Medicine), The Bluebook (legal, Harvard Law Review Association and others), or the Associated Press Stylebook (journalism).

Any specific formatting instructions or guidelines your professor gives you should be followed, even if they disagree with the rules of the citation style you are using. 

Citation: A (Very) Brief Introduction

Watch this video to learn about how to cite sources you use.

Attribution: Anne Burke, Daria Dorafshar, Kyle Langdon, Andreas Orphanides, and Kim Duckett. 
(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US)

If You Use a Citation Generator

No online citation tool or software is perfect. They could give you the citation in a different style than the one you need. They could find the wrong publication 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.

Some sources provide their own citation. The library's databases may also provide citations for sources you find in them. These should only be used as a starting point, as they may not be entirely accurate, either. They often include too much information or are formatted incorrectly (they might be missing punctuation, 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. 

Check Your Knowledge