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5. Citation & Annotated Bibliography


Always ask your professor if the sources you’ve chosen are appropriate, and if they have any special instructions or requirements for citation.

Why are you citing in the first place?

This is a question that many students believe they know the answer to, but may not fully understand.  There are, in fact, multiple reasons to cite, and they are closely tied to the research process and the TRAP method for evaluating web resources.  You are asked to cite:

  • to provide credit where it is due, because information has value.  When you think about what adds value to any item, there is a certain amount of time, skill, effort, and knowledge involved when it is created or shared.  The same is true of information.  
  • to prove your own credibility to your reader (your instructor), because researching and sharing information in any field is the best way for you to join the scholarly conversation. At this point in your academic career, you are being challenged not only to review and process information, but to analyze it within a much larger context and begin to understand how various pieces of information in a field fit together (or don't).  
  • to help your reader find out more about the topic!  This is the reason citation exists in the first place.  The list of resources provided by the author showcases the rich history of the scholarly conversation surrounding the topic.  Investigating an author's list of resources is also one of the best ways for you to find out more about a topic that is proving difficult to research.    

Citation Basics

Each academic discipline uses a different citation style because each has a different priority for information.  Because of these different priorities, the information within a citation will be in a different order, and sometimes in a different format (i.e. foot or end note v. a parenthetical in-text citation).

If you need a style other than APA, Chicago, or MLA, try visiting the Other Citation Styles page, or Ask a Librarian

What are the differences?

Style APA Chicago MLA
Who usually uses it: Social Sciences, Nursing and Health, miscellaneous other disciplines. History, Art, Philosophy, and anyone who is going to use a lot of different types of outside information. English and other languages (it stands for Modern Language Association).
What they pride themselves on: Thoroughness, avoiding bias. Flexibility (you can cite almost any kind of source in Chicago). Simplicity.
What is important: Date and authority. Ease of reading and authority. Authority.
What you need to know for in-text and other formatting: Always in a date with the author(s); Running heads can be tricky to format; the list at the end is called References. Notes are not very different from bibliography entries (once you have made one, the other is simple); the list at the end is called Bibliography The list at the end is called Works Cited
I'm ready to use: APA Citation Style Chicago Citation Style MLA Citation Style


What stays the same for all styles?

  • In-text citations are meant to lead your reader to the source in the list at the end. 
  • The list of sources should be alphabetized and have a hanging indent. The title of the list (References, Bibliography, or Works Cited) goes at the top, centered.  It is not bold, italics, underlined, or given any other special formatting. 
  • You cite only the sources you actually used in the paper, unless otherwise instructed in the assignment.
  • All styles (including those not listed here- yes, there are more) expect that you have found good quality, scholarly sources.  Your assignment is only as good as its sources. 
  • You are expected to cite where an idea came from, even if you reword it.  This is called paraphrasing, and it is considered plagiarism to paraphrase without a citation.  In other words: if the idea did not originate in your brain (or if it is not considered common knowledge), cite it!
  • Each style includes many of the same parts, just in a different order.  All should have: Author(s); title; date of publication; publisher or source (like a journal); page or section numbers where applicable. 

Tips from the Librarians:

  • Write your list of sources first.  Even if it is not perfect, it is much easier to write your paper if you know what you want to incorporate and where it came from.
  • It can seems intimidating, but paraphrasing is almost always preferred over a direct quotation.  A quote shows that you read something.  A paraphrase shows that you understood it.
  • When in doubt- ask!  Ask your instructor, ask a librarian, ask a tutor. 
Last Updated: Oct 4, 2023 9:32 AM

Annotated Bibliography

If your instructor has assigned an Annotated Bibliography, you are lucky!  An annotated bibliography gives you a head start on your research and helps you to organize your information and thoughts before you have to sit down to write your entire paper.  It is a great way to break up the research and writing process.  

Note: If you are using a citation organizer like Zotero, you may still want to look at this worksheet to see what details will be important to include in your annotation.