Skip to Main Content

Citations: Why cite correctly?

Why should I cite correctly?


When writing academically, it is important to reference the sources and literature you use. By referencing sources correctly, you credit other authors' and researchers' work, give your reader the opportunity to find and use your sources, and at the same time, you avoid plagiarism.

In this guide, we describe how, why and when you should make citations. 

How do I cite my sources?


Citations can look different depending on which citation format you use and the type of source you are referencing. You can read more about the different citation formats using this link: Citation formats 

Generally, citations consist of two parts:

  1. In-text citations are written in the text it self, for the purpose of making it clear to the reader which excact part of the text is references previous works or a source. In some citation formats, this is shown by writing the author and sometimes a year of publication, while other citation formats show this with a number. In both cases, the in-text citation is few details that point the reader to a more detailed description of the works cited, in the bibliography.
  2. A bibliography is a detailed list of the works and sources used that appears at the end of the paper. Depending on the citation format and type of source, the information listed varies. The purpose of the list is to enable your reader to find the sources and works you have used themselves. Often the bibliography will only include the works you cite in-text, but in some formats, a full account of all the literature you have consulted during the project is required.

During your writing process it is thus important to note information about the sources you intend to reference. The information you need for a citation will usually be information like:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Year of publication
  • Page number
  • Volume and issue (for journal articles)
  • DOI (Digital Object Identifier). 
  • URL (for online ressources)
  • Date the source was downloadet/visited

It is worth considering whether using a reference management software would be useful for your project. You can read our guide to using the reference management software Zotero by using this link

When should I cite?


You should always provide citations to the sources you rely on when doing research or writing papers. In general you should cite everything you use that is not "common knowledge".

Your use of books, book chapters, articles, websites, film clips, reports, etc. should all be cited.

It is important to reflect on the fact that what is considered common knowledge can vary depending on the field you are working ind.

When in doubt, it is better to include one citation too many than too few!

Direct quotations and paraphrasing


Whether you are quoting directly, paraphrasing or referencing in other ways, it changes how you cite your sources.

A direct quotation is placed in quotation marks in the text and should also include the precise page number for the quote.

Paraphrasing is when you summarize someone else's words or ideas in your own words. When you paraphrase, you should always cite your source and often a page number will be required as well.

Referencing that in other ways incoporates someone else's theory/idea on a more general level still needs a citation, even though a page number is not always necessary.