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A citation...

  • describes a book, journal article, website, or other item;
  • enables the reader to retrieve the item you refer to,
  • includes the author, title, source (publisher and place of publication or URL), and date,
  • follows the desired style of the assignment, publication, or other venue for the project.

Why do we cite?

  • Helps us keep track of our own ideas: Citing as you go creates a good trail for your research.
  • Helps us give credit to the originator of an idea, thus preventing plagiarism.
  • Helps us celebrate the original work of the originator of an idea, lifting up their work and ideas and making them more visible. The author(s) did a lot of work to create their book, journal article, or other item, and citing them not only gives them credit, but also kudos.
  • Helps us connect others' ideas to one another.

How do we cite?

  • In-text citations and footnotes: Quickly give credit and reference to others' words and ideas inside our writing.
  • Bibliography/Reference list: List of our citations at the end of a paper, presentation, or other project. Helps readers find the full information for the sources we referenced when creating our own work.
  • Annotated bibliography: Helps readers -- or ourselves -- know/remember what an article was about, and why it was good to use in our project, by providing a brief description of each work being cited, summarizing and/or assessing the source.

Failing to cite a source correctly is plagiarism. Plagiarism is an academic offense and could get you in serious trouble! But don't panic: as long as you follow the citation guidelines, you will be fine. And remember: when in doubt, cite. It is always better to include a citation that you don't need than to forget a citation that you do need.

Check out our Citing Sources Guide if you need more help!

Citation Tools

Citation tools can be useful for anyone doing research. Citation tools allow you to create bibliographies quickly and automatically format in-text citations with word processing software (Word, Google Docs, Open Office). They can manage your references for big or long-term research projects by helping you:

  • Collect citations as you research and save them in a personal account
  • Add citations automatically from JMU's Library Catalog and databases without having to cut and paste or retype the information
  • Annotate citations and link them to full-text documents
  • Organize citations into folders

Zotero is a Citation Management Tool that will be helpful for this class.

Some features of Zotero are

  • You can create shared folders with your lab group
  • It integrates with Google Docs, allowing you to easily cite and create a reference list. (Learn how to here)


If you want to quickly create citations, I would suggest using ZoteroBib. This is a simple version of Zotero, where you just add the citation information, DOI, PMID, etc... to the toolbar and it can create your citation for you!

Citation Styles