Citation Basics (Writing Centre)

The Importance of Citation

The importance of proper citation in academic writing cannot be overstated. The documentation of sources not only prevents plagiarism also gives due credit to scholars. (See Robertson Library’s Academic Integrity Portal.) There are three main styles of documentation: MLA, APA, and Chicago.

The three primary classifications of sources are:

  • Primary Sources: A primary source is firsthand research, writing, or documentation. This includes poems, historical government documents, and original scientific studies.
  • Secondary Sources: Secondary sources are works that are once removed from the original source they analyze, respond to, or reference. Encyclopedias, anthologies, and meta-analyses are all secondary sources.
  • Tertiary Sources: Tertiary sources contain or compile primary and secondary research. Though they are less reliable than other sources, they can be used as a starting point in research.

Style Guides

MLA (9th ed. published 04/2021)

Students in the humanities will often use the Modern Language Association’s system. When using MLA, students should double-space their work, use parenthetical author-page citations, and create a Works Cited list.

General MLA formatting:

MLA Citation:

APA (7th ed. published 10/2019)

The American Psychological Association’s system is widely used in the social sciences. When writing in APA, use in-text author-date citations, and create a bibliography.

General APA formatting:

APA Citation:

Chicago and Turabian

The University of Chicago lists two styles in their manual: an “author-date” system and a “notes-and-bibliography” system that is often used in philosophy and history. Turabian is a simplified version of Chicago sometimes used in social sciences.


Annotated Bibliographies

You may be asked to include an annotated bibliography with a paper. Annotations vary based on assignment and citation style, but, according to Purdue OWL's guide, they often summarize or evaluate sources.

Further Resources