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Information Literacy: 04. Why Cite Sources?

Strategies used to incorporate research skills for the College of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School of Management.

Why Cite Sources Video

Why Cite Sources
Students will learn some of the reasons it is important to cite sources when writing a research paper.

CLIP video, length 3:01 minutes)

Why You Should Cite Sources

When you do research for your papers and projects, you always need to cite your sources.  To cite means to point to the evidence. You need to show where you found the information you used in your research.

It does not matter what type of source it is. It can be in print or online. It can be an image or a conversation.

Examples: data, journal article, chart or graph, newspaper article, book, ideas, theories and concepts, course lectures, emails & phone conversations, blogs & wikis, the web. We could go on, but you get the idea…


Quoting and paraphrasing are two important concepts when you are writing a research paper.  You need to cite when you quote a source and when you paraphrase a source.

Quote: To quote means that you are using the author's exact words in your text.  Quotes from other authors should be in "quotation marks".

Paraphrase: To paraphrase means to restate the words of the author in your own words. In your document, your restating of the original is not in quotation marks but remember to cite your source!


  • It lets the reader know about the original source of your information.
  • It gives authority to your own work and shows the instructor and peers that you did your research, opposed to making it up.
  • It helps the reader identify and retrieve the sources that you used, so they can use it for their own research.
  • It gives credit to the person whose ideas you have quoted, summarized or paraphrased.
  • Not doing so constitutes plagiarism, is a violation of copyright law, and goes against most educational and professional policies.  Serious cases of plagiarism have lead to severe discipline or expulsion from school and employees being fired.


There are two places where you need to cite your sources: in the body of your document, and either as footnotes at the bottom of each page or in a list of sources at the end of your paper.  Your list of sources at the end of your paper can be called a bibliography, works cited list, or reference list. 


Style manuals or style guides tell you where and how to properly and consistently cite your sources.  For example, they will tell you how an author's name should be arranged or whether an article title should be italicized, placed in quotation marks, or use bold fonts.

There are several different style manuals, including APA, MLA, and Chicago.  You should ask you instructor which one to use.  Here is a link to Willamette's citation guides


You might find that resources provided by your library can be really helpful, and you can access many of these resources online through your library's website. 

Don't forget that our librarians are excellent resources!