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How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: Step 5: Cite

How to do research

Using Information Legally and Ethically

Citing resources is common practice for writers engaged in any type of research. By providing citations, the writer is contributing to the ongoing scholarly discussion of the topic. Properly cited resources:

  • Attribute credit where credit is due
  • Provide credibility for your arguments
  • Demonstrate evidence of your research
  • Offer a path for your readers for ongoing scholarship
  • Help avoid plagiarism

The legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of information goes beyond avoiding plagiarism and properly citing sources.

Researchers should be knowledgable about isses related to:

  • privacy
  • censorship
  • freedom of speech
  • intellectual property
  • copyright
  • fair use


Turnitin helps educators check students’ work for proper citation or possible plagiarism by comparing it against three continually updated content bases:

  • billions of pages of web content,
  • millions of pages of proprietary content from subscription publications, and
  • over 80 million student papers previously submitted to Turnitin.

Easy-to-read Originality Reports help teach students about proper citation and ensure their academic integrity.

Your instructor may choose to use the Turnitin service which is embedded within the Canvas course management system.

What are Citations?

Choosing a Citation Style

Various disciplines have preferred citation styles, depending, usually, on which bits of information about sources is most relevant to researchers. Commonly used styles are:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) - used in psychology, education, and other social sciences (See Basics of APA Style tutorial.)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) - used in literature, arts, and humanities
  • Chicago - used in the humanities and social sciences
  • Turabian -  based on Chicago style, and designed for students to use with all subjects - used in many disciplines in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences
  • APSA (American Political Science Association) - used in political science (APSA Style Manual)
  • ACS (American Chemical Society) - used in chemistry
  • CSE (Council of Science Editors) - used in biology

Your instructor may want you to use a particular style. When in doubt, ask.

The following style guide books are available on reserve at the Library Services Desk. They can be checked out for use in the Library only.

  • APA (Publication manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed.)
  • MLA (MLA handbook for writers of research papers, 7th ed.)
  • Chicago style (The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed.)
  • Turabian (A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 2013)

See Purdue Owl: Research and Citation Resources, or ask at the Library Services Desk for help.