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Open Access for Africa: Citing Sources

Open access resources for students and health workers in developing countries

Citation Aides

Citation Style Guides

Citing Sources

This guide is aimed to help students through the often confusing process of citing sources and/or writing reference lists.

Writing on a piece of paper.

Here you will find background information and a links to reliable websites that guide students through academic writing, avoiding plagiarism, citation styling, citation aides, etc..

The Why

Why do we cite books, journal articles, web sites. etc. we have referred to in a research paper? It's not just about plagiarism!

All writers (that's you!) must cite material...

  • To reflect the careful & thorough work you have put into locating and exploring your sources.
  • As a courtesy to your reader.
  • To acknowledge those authors who made possible particular aspects of your work. Failure to provide adequate citations constitutes plagiarism.
  • To demonstrate your integrity and skill as a responsible participant in the conversation of scholarship.

The How

Librarians are often asked "How do I cite this book/journal article/web site in my research paper?" There is not one correct way to cite something. Writing guides (commonly referred to as style manuals) provide rules and instruction on research paper composition.

You should use a style manual in order to properly cite materials, set up footnotes or in-text citations, and/or a works cited list (aka: reference list, bibliography.) Different style manuals are used for different disciplines or subject areas:

  • The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) is used in the Social Science.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) Handbook for Writers of Research Papers for the Humanities.
  • Turabian (Chicago) A Manual for Writers of Term Papers Theses, and Dissertations for History.
  • Council of Science Editors (CSE) Scientific Style and Format for the Sciences.

Many style manuals (or portions of them) are also freely accessible on the web. See links to the right. However bookstores sell many useful paper or "pocket style" versions which students often prefer. 

Be sure to check with your instructor if you are unsure which style to use for your research paper.

Academic Writing

Online Writing Lab (OWL) from Purdue University

This outstanding website contains high quality information about academic writing and much more.

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