When should I use a citation?

When should I use a citation?

A citation is a reference parts of your text to a published or unpublished source. It is the way to tell your readers that some parts of your text is not original and has been outsourced from someone’s work. It helps the reader to distinguish your own ideas from the outsourced ideas.

Many people who are new to writing have difficulty in citing, they don’t know how what and where to cite. Here is all you need to know about the citation.

Citation has several important purposes and among them is to uphold intellectual honesty to avoid plagiarism, to give the reader the necessary information (the title of the work, information about the author, date the copy was published and the exact page number ) needed to find the information.

It keeps you off from taking the consequences of someone else’s bad work, strengthens your work by lending external support to your ideas and also shows that the writer conducted extensive research.

When do you need to cite

Whenever you borrow ideas whether from published or unpublished you need to cite their sources. Citing doesn’t make your work look less original, it shows you did research on the topic. Here are the situations that always require citation.

1. When you use quotes

When writing someone’s quote or powerful words you need to cite to show whose quote it is. Failure to quote the reader will take that quote as your own.

2. Summarizing or paraphrasing

When you use an idea that has been expressed by someone else to support your own ideas. Paraphrasing and summarizing are writing someone’s idea in your own words without changing the meaning. You translate their ideas into your own words to support your idea.

3. When giving data that is unfamiliar to the reader

Readers are not familiar with statistical data and therefore whenever we use statistical data in our writings we should cite the sources. These give the reader room to confirm the given data is correct.

4. Not only books and articles

There are many sources of information but many writers only cite books and articles but this shouldn’t be the case. Cite any information that is not your original. Information from websites, TV shows, and interviews should also be cited.

5. There is no need to site what is known as common knowledge. Something that is known by everyone such as the number of hours in a day shouldn’t be cited.

How to cite

Now that you know why and when to cite you might be asking yourself how is citation done. Citations can be done either manually or automatically using referencing generators such as the free harvard referencing generator. There are many ways you can cite outsourced information depending on your professor’s preference.

1. In text

The source author is included in the body of the text.


The cited ideas and quotes are noted with a number at the end of the document.


The cited ideas and quotes are noted at the end of each page.

Your professor can also be specific in which format to use either the APA (American Psychological Association) style and format, MLA (Modern Language Association) style and format or the CHICAGO manual of style.