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Source and Citing FAQs
If you're trying to determine what source to choose or what you should cite, read on for FAQs and helpful answers.
I'm citing a book, article, video, photo, etc., that I found online. Does that mean it's a "website"?
If you can classify your source as something other than a website/web page, choose that as your source. Be as specific as possible. Most times, the source citation form will give you the option to cite the source as something found online (see tabs at the top of the citation form).
- E-book -- choose "Book"
- Online newspaper article -- choose "Newspaper"
- Digital photo -- choose "Photo"
What's the difference between an "Online database" and a "Journal"?
In research, a journal is a scholarly or academic periodical featuring articles written by experts. These articles are reviewed by fellow experts (peer-reviewed) before being published.
An online database is an electronic collection of information. They are searchable and most databases found at your library provide credible, published content. Depending on the database, it might also let you access information in various formats (e.g., journals, videos, books, newspapers, etc.).
This means an online database could have several journals.
- Journals -- Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), PLOS One, New Scientist, Ecology Letters
- Online databases --- Academic One File, Britannica Academic, EBSCOHost, Facts on File
I'm still not sure what source I have. What should I do?
Scroll through our long list of source options and make your best educated guess. If you're still unsure, choose "Miscellaneous."
If there is no author, can I still cite a source?
Yes! It's always better to cite a source, even if you're unsure of all the source details. Also, not everything has an indicated author so it's ok to leave an author out in those cases. When this happens, most citation styles will list the source by its title instead of the author's last name.
I only need to cite one source, right?
A well-balanced paper usually cites several sources; often in different formats (e.g., books, journals, interviews, etc.). There isn't an exact number of sources that is ideal, but try to have more than a couple sources listed.
Also, you should cite everything you've consulted or mentioned in your paper. It's the ethical thing to do.
If I have a full citation at the end of my paper, do I really need to make in-text citations (e.g., parenthetical citations, footnotes, etc.)?
Yes, absolutely! Showing where you got certain ideas or points in your paper will help support any arguments you make. Including in-text citations is also ethical — give credit where it is due.
I heard that "common knowledge" does NOT need to be cited. What is it?
Common knowledge is general information that you can assume a normal individual would know without needing to consult a source. Yes, you do not necessarily need to cite common knowledge. However, if you are unsure if you should cite a fact or source, err on the side of caution and cite it.
- London is the capital of England
- A penguin is a bird
- The moon orbits the Earth
- Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius