When and how to cite sources?

by Carson

When you write an article, especially a report, you must cite when you think you used others’ ideas and media. So, when and how to cite sources, and what is its importance?

Why is Citing Sources Essential?

Citation is the most effective way to prevent plagiarism, which can get you into legal trouble. Also, they can give references to visitors of your webpage if they want to learn more. Moreover, they can signify that you have done some research. However, citing encyclopedias like Wikipedia may not be appropriate if you’re writing a report or research paper. Use these articles as background research. If you really trust the content, look for other webpages to fact-check, and cite them instead.

Furthermore, add links to credits if it isn’t printed. It facilitates visitors to go to the site credited so that they can learn extensively about the topic. It can also improve their SEO (Part 1, Part 2) as someone uses their information.

When do you need to cite

Remember, citing is to avoid plagiarism, so we need to cite carefully. Always cite in these circumstances:

  1. If you quote words from a webpage or a book, even when you use only one word uniquely specialized in this source.
  2. If you paraphrase (use your own words) ideas from someone else.
  3. If you apply information that the reader may not know about or use what you’ve explicitly learned in this research.
  4. If you use others’ media or use others’ apps or programs to create media or take screenshots from them.
  5. If you’re using not-commonly-known algorithms of code.
  6. If you collaborate with someone to create an article or a research paper.

Et cetera.

What to cite?

Well, you need to provide enough information for the webpage, book, or human you are citing to make them convenient for users. There are some official citation formats, including MLA and APA. Today, we will take the APA citation as an example.

A citation for NASA’s Perseverance Rover Is Midway to Mars, using the APA format, generated by Google Docs
Screenshot taken from a PowerPoint document. To get this app, please visit https://www.microsoft.com/en/microsoft-365/powerpoint

Therefore, we must include the information below if available:

  1. The author and main contributors
  2. The publication date
  3. The title
  4. The journal or website
  5. The date of retrieving
  6. The URL

However, other than at the bottom, it’s better to have in-text citations that improve clarity. For instance, when you have an image or video from somebody else, you can cite that in the caption.


Do you know that you need to cite your own work other than citing others, that is obvious? That’s probably a bit surprising, and the corresponding action is self-citation. This is when you cite webpages from the same journal or website. Why? Remember that not all your articles are really your own words. You may quote or paraphrase from other sources. Thus, citing yourself is important as it also links to citing other people’s work.

Google Docs

We use Google Docs to generate citations, whether it is MLA or APA. There is a useful citation tool that can instantly cite sources properly. In fact, the citation image I used in this essay has its content through Google Docs, which cited a NASA article.

How to use the citation tool

If you want to utilize the tool above:

  1. Create a Google Document firstly.
  2. Click ‘Explore’ in the bottom-right corner.
  3. Copy a URL and select a format.
  4. Hover your mouse over the box of your source, and click the button which has a quotation mark.

Hover your mouse over the box of your source, and click the button which has a quotation mark. Then, there’s an appropriate citation! Copy that to your text.

So, today, you’ve learned when and how to cite sources, and why is it important. Remember being original is always the best!

References, Credits, and Links

  1. (2020, February 10). Overview – Citing sources – LibGuides at MIT Libraries. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://libguides.mit.edu/citing
  2. (n.d.). Warning: When You Must Cite | Poorvu Center for Teaching …. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/writing/using-sources/understanding-and-avoiding-plagiarism/warning-when-you-must-cite
  3. (n.d.). Google Docs – Google. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://docs.google.com
    A big thanks for Google Docs to generate all citations in the website.
  4. (n.d.). Self-Plagiarism: How to Define it and Why You Should Avoid It | AJE. Retrieved November 17, 2020, from https://www.aje.com/arc/self-plagiarism-how-to-define-it-and-why-to-avoid-it/

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