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describes a book, journal article, website, or other item;
gives credit to the originator of an idea, thus preventing plagiarism;
enables the reader to retrieve the item you refer to, and
includes the author, title, source (publisher and place of publication or URL), and date.
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.