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Research Paper: A step-by-step guide: 8. Citations & Plagiarism


About Citations

The Importance of Citations

Writing a research paper requires that you:

  • use outside resources for information
  • let readers know where that information came from
  • make it easy for readers to find the information themselves

That's what citations are for.  Unless you are stating your own ideas or common knowledge (such as that the Earth revolves around the sun), you will have to cite the source where the idea comes from.

Citing the sources you use in your paper:

  • gives credit to the author of the original source
  • avoids plagiarism
  • allows your readers to identify the source for further study
  • shows that your position is well-researched

Citation Styles

There are different citation styles for different areas of study.  APA, Chicago, and MLA are used most. Your instructor may require that you use a specific style for your paper, or let you choose.  Whichever citation style you use, make sure you follow the rules and use the same style throughout your paper.

We often think of the citation style as meaning only the 'References' or 'Works Cited' page at the end of a research paper. In fact, a citation style governs:

  • the format of the paper
  • the in-text citations
  • the bibliography

Check out our guides for each style, or learn even more at the Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab.

It's easy to get citations from most sources.  Watch this video to learn how.



Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another person's words or ideas as if they were your own. This includes:

  • taking someone else's paper and turning it in as your own
  • copying sentences word-for-word from a source
  • quoting someone's words or using their ideas without giving them credit
  • using a substantial amount of information from someone else that makes up a majority of your paper even though you have given credit to the original source

Plagiarism is an academic offense and can have severe consequences. At Butte College, the consequences of plagiarism can range from failing a course to long-term suspension from the College.

While some students plagiarize with intent, many students commit plagiarism unintentionally. So it is important to be aware of different forms of plagiarism and make sure you avoid mistakes.  Watch this video to learn about avoiding plagiarism.

Citation Generators

The citation generator links below can help you format your citations using forms and prompts. Just choose your style and type of source.

Need More Help?

Get your paper and citations checked at the Center for Academic Success (CAS).

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