Pew Learning Center & Ellison Library

Painless Library Research

Documenting Sources & Avoiding Plagiarism

It's not as bad as it seems. First, do you know which style you are using? If not, ask your instructor. Then, you can use either printed manuals and/or web resources to help you. The library has several of these manuals (sometimes called "style guides") in our Reference Collection. In each, you will find examples of proper ways to cite various types of sources. Here are some of the more commonly used style guides and their call numbers:

The Chicago Manual of Style R 808.027 C532 2003
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers R 808.027 G437m 2009
Cite Right: A Quick Guide to Citation Styles--MLA, APA, Chicago, the Sciences, Professions, and More R 808.027 L767c 2011
The Bedford Handbook R 808.042 H118b 2010
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association R 808.06615 P976 2010
Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers R 808.0666 S416 2006

Each of these guides will assist you in citing electronic resources as well as traditional print sources.

Now, there are also several "electronic" options for generating citations and managing bibliographies. One of our favorites is Zotero. Zotero is a free Firefox extension that stores citation information in the browser. It can also be "synced" so that you can share information among multiple computers. The Zotero Documentation Page is a good place to start--there is a video tour and all the basic information for using the program.

EndNote Web is an easy-to-use web-based service for managing citations. WWC has a subscription that allows our students to use the service. You can import references from other databases, format them in the correct style, and then export them into your papers. Here is a page with some tips on Using EndNote Web.

There are also some great web sites designed by librarians (and other folks who know these things) that will help you cite your sources with relative ease. One of the best, and easiest to use, comes from the Duke University Libraries. This site covers all of the major styles in an easy-to-use format. It also has sections on choosing and refining a topic and evaluating resources. Highly recommended!

Another good site is a companion site to the print Bedford Handbook. This site covers MLA, APA, Chicago, and CSE styles.

Another tool is the Son of Citation Machine, which is an interactice web service that generates citations in APA, MLA, Turabian and Chicago format based on information you enter about the item. EasyBib is a similar tool, although the free version only covers MLA style.

For Harvard Style, there are several good web sites to help you out.

Here is a good overview of CSE (Council of Science Editors) Style.

Here is a page from the American Anthropological Association on using AAA Style. It contains a link to a pdf file that gives more details about AAA Style.

Here is a Quick Style Guide from the American Sociological Association (ASA).

Finally, there are a couple of books in our Reference Collection which focus on citing electronic sources:

The Columbia Guide to Online Style R 808.027 W181c 2006
Electronic Style: A Handbook for Citing Electronic InformationR 808.027 L693e
APA Style Guide to Electronic References R 808.06615 A639 2007

Related to the issue of documenting your sources is that of plagiarism. By carefully documenting your sources, you can avoid plagiarism. You can learn about other strategies at the following sites:

Avoiding Plagiarism, from Duke University Libraries
Recognizing & Avoiding Plagiarism, from the U. of Indiana
Plagiarism Resource Center, from the U. of Virginia