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Citations: Definitions

Information on why and how to cite your sources using APA & MLA. Includes links to useful tools and tutorials, as well as other citation styles.

Miniature DNF Dictionary

By © 2010 by Tomasz Sienicki (Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki (Own work)) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


You may have stumbled upon this Subject Guide on your own, or you may be looking at it in one of your classes. Either way there is a large amount of information contained within these pages. Below you will find some of the most common terms used when talking about citations and writing styles.

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge is "[i]nformation that is readily available from a number of sources or so well-known that its sources do not have to be cited" ( 

You do not need to cite information that is considered to be common knowledge. 

What is Common Knowledge?


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, plagiarism is "[t]he practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own."

Plagiarising can damage your credibility and have other consequences such as failing an assignment or class, and other disciplinary actions. 

What is Plagiarism?


There are many different types of writing styles, be sure to ask your instructor which they prefer. The two most common styles are APA and MLA. Each style has a different format and will require different information.


A citation is a way to identify the sources you have used. It typically includes the author's name, title, and date of the publication. It allows the reader of your paper to locate the original information. 

In-text Citation

An in-text citation is used to give credit to your source directly in the text of your paper. These citations are sometimes called "parenthetical citations" or "in-text references".

Bibliography & Annotated Bibliography

A bibliography is a listing of all sources used in a paper. This may also be called a "Reference List" (APA Style) or a "Works Cited" list (MLA style).

An Annotated Bibliography is similar to a bibliography. It is a listing of all sources used in a paper, after each citation include a summary or evaluation of the source.

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