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There are many good reasons why scholars and students cite the sources that inform their research and scholarship. Very generally, citing sources is a way to acknowledge when information is not one's own and credit those authors and creators who originated the information being used. Citing is the formal way that the acknowledgement and credit is documented.
In addition to giving credit to others for the work they have done, citing also:
The OWL (Online Writing Lab) website from Purdue University provides some great examples of citing in APA style and in MLA style (look at the left side menu on the page for the links to examples for various source types).
There are certain basic things you need to cite just about any source, using just about any format:
There are also certain things that must be included for specific types of works. For example, for an article or a book chapter, you would provide page numbers. For a website, you would provide the URL.
The moment when you are most likely to have easy access to all of this information? When you find it in the first place. Know then what you need to take note of to cite it effectively later.
The basic format for a journal article citation in APA style is as follows (pay attention to capitalization in the article and journal titles and to where italics appear).
In-text Citation (3-5 authors)
(Bull, Levine, Black, Schmiege, & Santelli, 2012)
So where do you find this information on the article? See the image below for one example.
The basic format for a website citation in APA style is as follows (please follow the guidance from the APA Style Blog entry about when to use Format Description).
Author, A. (Year, Month Day). Title of document [Format description]. Retrieved from http://URL
(Mayo Clinic, 2014)
121 The Valley Library
Corvallis OR 97331–4501