Citation Definition and Examples


A citation is a source quoted in an essay, report, or book to clarify, illustrate, or substantiate a point.

Failure to cite sources is plagiarism.

As Ann Raimes says in Pocket Keys for Writers (Wadsworth, 2013), "Citing sources shows your readers that you have done your homework. You will earn respect for the depth and breadth of your research and for having worked hard to make your case" (p. 50).

Examples and Observations

"Unless it is a scientific or academic report, parenthetical documentation (instead of footnotes and bibliography) may work best for citing sources.

Follow this style for parenthetical documentation: Humorist Dave Barry cited a headline that read 'Search for Woman in Fertilized Egg Suit Goes Nationwide' in his Sunday column ('Grammar Just Loves a Good Infarcation,' Bergen Record, Feb. 25, 2001)." (Helen Cunningham and Brenda Greene, The Business Style Handbook. McGraw-Hill, 2002)

What to Cite

"The following . . . shows what you must always cite and indicates when citing is not necessary. If you are in doubt about whether you need to cite a source, it always safer to cite it.

What to Cite
- exact words, even facts, from a source, enclosed in quotation marks
- somebody else's ideas and opinions, even if you restate them in your own words in a summary or paraphrase
- each sentence in a long paraphrase if it is not clear that all the sentences paraphrase the same source
- facts, theories, and statistics

What Not to Cite
- common knowledge, such as nursery rhymes and folktales handed down through the ages; information that is available from many sources, such as the dates of the Civil War and chronological events in the lives of public figures"

(Ann Raimes, Pocket Keys for Writers, 4th ed. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2013)

The Importance of Citations

"Citations protect you from a charge of plagiarism, but beyond that narrow self-interest, correct citations contribute to your ethos. First, readers don't trust sources they can't find. If they can't find yours because you failed to document them adequately, they won't trust your evidence; and if they don't trust your evidence, they won't trust your report or you.

Second, many experienced researchers think that if a writer can't get the little things right, he can't be trusted on the big ones. Getting the details of citations right distinguishes reliable, experienced researchers from careless beginners. Finally, teachers assign research papers to help you learn how to integrate the research of others into your own thinking. Proper citations show that you have learned one important part of that process." (Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research, 3rd ed. The University of Chicago Press, 2008)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Citation Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2018, Nordquist, Richard. (2018, February 9). Citation Definition and Examples. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Citation Definition and Examples." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 25, 2018).