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Research Toolkit: Know when to cite

 Related Guides: How to Cite a Specific Source



General Guidelines on when to cite

These guidelines apply to papers, presentations, and all other academic projects that require you to use sources.


  • Anytime you use facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge. 
  • Anytime you use ideas, words, theories, or exact quotes that another person used in a publication.
  • When in doubt, cite your sources!

Everything from books to articles to tweets can be cited. The types of sources you cite depend on the sources you use for your paper or project.


Avoiding Plagiarism


Plagiarism is a serious offense; it can be accidental or intentional. You must acknowledge with proper citations any information you share that comes from other people.

Plagiarism can be:

  • Copying someone's words without giving them credit
  • Quoting someone's words incorrectly or out of context
  • Using or repeating someone's ideas without giving them credit
  • Misrepresenting someone's ideas or concepts
  • Copying images or music without permission or proper attribution
  • Intentionally presenting someone else's work as your own

Plagiarism flowchart

EasyBib Grammar & Plagiarism Infographic:


Be transparent and help your instructor understand your research


Another reason to cite your sources is so that your instructor and others can understand what information you have researched and viewed. When others can see the sources you used, they  understand how you developed your ideas for your paper, project, or presentation. Citations provide enough information for the source to be found by the people viewing your research. By citing your sources, you contribute responsibly to the information available about a topic and help inform people. 

Check the page How to Cite a Specific Information Source for more information.