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Citing sources: Overview

Know what and why to cite


  1. Statistics, facts, figures, ideas and information that is not characterized as common knowledge should be cited.
  2. Any exact language needs to be in quotations and cited, and ideas and/or theories that are not your own also need to be cited.
  3. If you are unsure, play it safe and cite it.


  1. It gives credit to the person who created the idea.  Failure to properly cite your source could be construed as plagiarism, and you could get yourself in a lot of trouble.
  2. It allows your readers to locate and evaluate the sources you used for themselves.  Remember, scholarship is a conversation, and citing your sources is part of the dialogue.

Avoid plagiarizing


  1. Cite everything that isn't "common knowledge," which is best defined as a fact known by the general public. A good example of common knowledge would be that George Washington was the first President of the United States.
  2. Obtain a RefWorks account. RefWorks is an online citation manager which will help streamline the citation process. Email ( or call (254-3375) for assistance.
  3. Learn to use reliable, authoritative and scholarly resources. Smart researching begins here!
  4. Make an appointment for a research consultation with a librarian. We're here to help with library and research anxiety.
  5. Learn to be an excellent note taker. For each of your sources keep written documentation, including all citation information, all quotes you might refer to, notes on the source, etc. RefWorks can help with this process.
  6. Remember, there are in-text citations, footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies.  If or how you use them depends on which citation style your professor has asked you to follow.  
  7. Understand when to use quotes and how to paraphrase. Below are links to some excellent sources that will help you understand how to engage in good scholarship, while avoiding unintentional plagiarism:

Who Can Help

Email us at - or email one of the librarians below.

Call us at 401-254-3375 or call one of the librarians listed below.





Susan McMullen
Research Services Librarian

Christine Fagan
Collection Management Librarian





John Fobert
Electronic Resources Librarian





Lindsey Gumb
Instructional Technology Librarian





Barbara Kenney
Instructional Services Librarian


Mary Wu
Metadata & Cataloging Librarian





John Schlinke
Architecture/Art Librarian