The act of telling your reader where you got your information is called citing your source.
The information you share when you cite a source is called a citation, or sometimes a reference.
When you include information from a source in a paper, presentation, or other project, you must give credit to the source's author. (You do not have to cite information that is common knowledge, such as that the U.S. has 50 states.)
Different disciplines use slightly different formats for their citations. For example, scholars who write about literature usually use MLA style, while psychologists and other social scientists use APA style, and historians usually use Chicago style.
This guide covers APA, Chicago, and MLA style. For information about other styles, visit Purdue Online Writing Lab | Research and Citation.
If your paper is a chocolate chip cookie, the source material (quotes, paraphrases) are like the chocolate chips, and your own original writing is the cookie dough.
Your writing is what holds everything together! In your writing, you might analyze the source material, relate it to your own ideas, critique it, use it as evidence to back up a claim, or refer to it as an example of a broader idea.
Your writing is what gives the source material context and meaning for your reader. If you just drop in quotes and paraphrases, that's like tossing someone a handful of chocolate chips when they asked for a great cookie.
Always properly cite an author's original idea, regardless of whether you have directly quoted or paraphrased it.
There are two kinds of citation.
Readers look at the short in-text citation and then if they want more information, they look up the rest of the information in the long list at the end.
These are short so that they don't interrupt the flow of reading. The exact rules vary according to citation style, but the in-text citation typically contains the author's name and the date of publication, sometimes with a page number.
Sometimes it is just a number - when it is a number, it is called a footnote or endnote number.
According to Smith (2015), NYC pizza was ranked the most foldable kind of pizza by 999 pizza-eaters.
As a reader, you would now have enough information from this in-text citation to look at my list of references to find more information about where Smith provided this information in 2015 - it could be a book, article, video, interview, or any other source.
The matching end-of-work citation would be a reference list citation.
Smith, B. (2015). Survey of pizza-folders and their preferences. Journal of Pizzaology, 2(6), 16-20.
This longer citation provides the following information: