Skip to Main Content

Research Toolkit: Know when to cite

Tools, techniques, and resources to help you find the information you need.

 Related Guides: How to Cite a Specific Source



Knowing when to cite can be a little tricky when you're first getting started. Here are some general guidelines for when to cite. These guidelines apply to papers, presentations, and any other academic project that requires you to use sources.

  • Anytime you use facts, figures, ideas, or other information that is not common knowledge. 
  • Anytime you use ideas, words, theories, or exact quotes that another person used in a publication.
  • When in doubt, cite your sources!

The type of source you cite will depend on the source(s) you use for your paper/project. Everything from books to articles to tweets can be cited.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism can be accidental or intentional and is a serious offense. It is crucial to acknowledge when information you are sharing comes from other people, which is why you are required to cite.

Plagiarism can be:

  • Copying someone's words without giving them credit
  • Quoting someone's words incorrectly or out of context
  • Using or repeating someone's ideas without giving them credit
  • Misrepresenting someone's ideas of concepts
  • Copying images or music without permission or proper attribution
  • Intentionally presenting someone else's work as your own

EasyBib Grammar & Plagiarism Infographic:


Another reason to cite your sources is so your instructor and others can understand what information you researched and viewed. When others can see the sources you used, they can understand how you developed your ideas for your paper, project, or presentation. Citations provide enough information for the source to be found by the people viewing your research. By citing your sources, you contribute responsibly to the information available about a topic and help inform people.