How to Cite Sources Online: A Short Guide for Students

Citing sources is important in all academic writing. It applies to research papers, essays, dissertations and presentations. You can paraphrase a journal, book, or webpage. After quoting any source, you must credit the original author through citation.

Failure to cite sources properly is considered plagiarism because it would appear you were presenting another person’s work as your own. The common citation styles in academics include APA, MLA, Harvard and Chicago.

How Do You Cite Sources?

1. Choose the right citation style
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Your professor will ask you to follow a specific style. Ask the tutor or check the guidelines. In other cases, you may be free to choose a style. Pick a style you are familiar with and apply it consistently. APA style is common in social sciences, while MLA is mainly used in humanities.

Chicago has two systems, the Chicago author-date and the Chicago notes and bibliography. The Chicago author data is used in social sciences. Under humanities, use the notes and bibliography system.

Citing sources may be a little confusing for college or university students. Citation generators can provide help for students who are stuck with assignments.

An easy way to do it is to use a free citation generator to cite your sources for you, is the best public database for quotations. The generator can make the bibliography perfect and make a paper credible. When you’re writing presentations or essays, this tool will make your work will be a lot easier. The automation generator applies to citing books, journals, or online sources.

2. In-text citations

Most in-text citations are in the form of parenthesis. They feature the author’s last name and the year of publication.

For APA referencing style, refer to the following example:

“Social media marketing has changed the way of doing business” (Mwaura, 2020,p 96).

In the numerical citation, you will need to insert a number into the text corresponding to a specific entry in the reference list.

For example:

“Social media marketing has changed the way of doing business” (1,p.96).

You can also use note citation styles. Place the citation either on endnotes or footnotes. Since such notes are not within the text, they give the readers more details. Special Latin terms such as “et al” may be used. Use “et al” when quoting multiple authors. For repeated quotations, use the term “ibid.”

3. Bibliographies and reference lists

The last section of a paper is the bibliography, reference list, or works cited. The term depends on the referencing style. For APA style, use the title “references.” For MLA, use the title “works cited” and “bibliography” for Chicago.

Provide all the information on the sources you used in your research. The information must also appear in the text. This section mostly uses a hanging indent for every entry. Any citation style includes the following details:

  • Title
  • Name of the author
  • Date of publication
  • Container (e.g., where the journal appeared)
  • Name of the publisher
  • Location (e.g., DOI or URL)

The information to include in this section depends on the citation style and the type of source. The format and the order of information also vary. In many cases, you will need to include the author names in alphabetical order. This enables the reader to find relevant entries easily.

In numerical styles of citation, you must number all entries in the reference list. This is based on the order of citation. It will make it easier for the reader to find the entries that are in the text.

The Importance of Citing Sources


Citing sources is important because it helps you to become a better researcher. Attention to detail is a requirement in academic writing. The proper source attribution entails details such as author names and the correct page numbers. By becoming focused on detail, you acquire good research habits, bolstering your skills as a student.

A good reference or bibliography is an indication of your scientific knowledge. A bibliography is a compilation of sources you used in your research. An extensive list indicates that you are a well-informed scientist.

Another importance of citing sources is that it facilitates the verification of work. Professors must vet every piece of academic writing. They must track sources in the bibliography to confirm the accuracy of the citations. Your paper will receive approval if you have cited the sources correctly.

Enhance the Credibility of Your Paper

Citing sources is important for any form of academic writing. It shows that you are a good researcher and enhances the credibility of your work. Whenever you face challenges with citation, use a citation generator.

Choose the right style and focus on in-text citation and bibliography. The idea is to ensure the accuracy and relevance of information.

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