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What is a citation?

The primary purpose for citing sources in a paper is to inform readers where you found information for the paper or document you wrote. With cited sources, it gives an indication of what items you have read, heard, or viewed that led you to the viewpoints that you present. Sources of information are cited for the following reasons:

  • To show the work that you did locating information and giving credibility to the document that you wrote or produced.
  • To inform the reader exactly where the information was found so that the original items can be found in their entirety
  • To give credit to the authors that wrote and/or produced the materials you used to write your paper. By acknowledging other author's words and ideas instead of using them as your own, prevents plagiarism

How do I create a citation?

There is no one way to create a citation.  There are a number of different citation styles which each have their own rules about what information should be included and how to properly format that information.   You can find many of the rules online in websites like Purdue OWL, but the official rules for each style are found in printed style guides, which you can find at the reference desk of the PGCC library if you need to consult them.  See our PGCC Research Guide to Citation Styles for more information about each of the most commonly used styles.  

The citation style for this course is APA or American Psychological Association.  This style is most often used in psychology and social science courses.  We have a general PGCC Research Guide for APA; this guide you are reading now will just focus on citing academic journal articles. 

These guides to APA style provide examples you can use to model your own citations after.  A proper citation must include all of the elements in the example below when they are available.  If you have problems with a particular part of your citation, each part is explained in detail on the next page, "Parts of a Citation".