Philosophy Library Guide and Resources: Citing Sources

Citation Formatting Tools

Formatting Citations

This tab contains citation guidelines and examples in both APA and MLA style formats, along with links to other styles and resources on citation styles. The style you should use is usually determined by the discipline or course in which you are working. Ask your instructor what style s/he requires or recommends.

Why Cite Sources? Avoiding plagiarism is the most obvious reason; it also helps you back up your arguments with credible evidence and allows others to track down the same resources.

Before turning in your paper, check for these common citation errors:

  • Is the list of sources alphabetized?
  • Are titles capitalized and/or underlined as required?
  • Is spacing and indenting correct?
  • Is proper punctuation used?

What is Plagiarism?

To plagiarize means to:

  • Steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own;
  • Use (another's production) without crediting the source;
  • Commit literary theft;
  • Present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

(Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of "plagiarize," retrieved June 20, 2005)

CSUN Policy on Plagiarism

. . .Cheating or plagiarism in connection with an academic program at a campus is listed in Section 41301, Title 5, California Code of Regulations, as an offense for which a student may be expelled, suspended, or given a less severe disciplinary sanction. . . .
(California State University Northridge Undergraduate/Graduate Catalog, 2008-2010 (PDF), Appendix E-2. Academic Dishonesty, p. 587)

Plagiarism: Intentionally or knowingly representing the words, ideas, or work of another as one's own in any academic exercise. Comments:

  1. Direct Quotation: Every direct quotation must be identified by quotation marks, or by appropriate indentation or by other means of identification, and must be promptly cited in a citation. Proper citation style for any academic department is outlined by the MLA Style Sheet or K. L. Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations. These and similar publications are available in the Matador Bookstore and at the reference desk of the Oviatt Library. [See also: Citing Your Sources: Style Guides]
  2. Paraphrase: Prompt acknowledgment is required when material from another source is paraphrased or summarized in whole or in part in your own words. To acknowledge a paraphrase properly, one might state: "to paraphrase Locke's comment . . ." and conclude with a citation identifying the exact reference. A citation acknowledging only a directly quoted statement does not suffice to notify the reader of any preceding or succeeding paraphrased material.
  3. Borrowed Facts or Information: Information obtained in one's reading or research which is not common knowledge among students in the course must be acknowledged. Examples of common knowledge might include the names of leaders of prominent nations, basic scientific laws, etc. Materials which contribute only to one's general understanding of the subject may be acknowledged in the bibliography and need not be immediately cited. One citation is usually sufficient to acknowledge indebtedness when a number of connected sentences in the paper draw their special information from one source. When direct quotations are used, however, quotation marks must be inserted and prompt acknowledgment is required.

(California State University Northridge Undergraduate/Graduate Catalog, 2010-2012, Appendix E-2. Academic Dishonesty) (Retrieved December 6, 2010)

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Creating an Annotated Bibliography

What is an annotated bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources such as books, articles, and documents. Each source in the bibliography is represented by a citation that includes the author (if given), title, and publication details of the source. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to help the reader evaluate whether the work cited is relevant to a specific research topic or line of inquiry.

Annotations versus abstracts

Abstracts are brief statements that present the main points of the original work. They normally do not include an evaluation of the work itself.

Annotations could be descriptive or evaluative, or a combination of both. A descriptive annotation summarizes the scope and content of a work whereas an evaluative annotation provides critical comment.

What an annotation usually includes?

Generally, annotations should be no more than 150 words (or 4-6 sentences long). They should be concise and well-written. Depending on your assignment, annotations may include some or all of the following information:

  • Main focus or purpose of the work,
  • Intended audience for the work,
  • Usefulness or relevance to your research topic (or why it did not meet your expectations)
  • Special features of the work that were unique or helpful
  • Background and credibility of the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by the author
  • Conclusions or observations reached by you

Which citation style to use

There are many style manuals with specific instructions on how to format your annotated bibliography. The style you use may depend on your subject discipline or the preference of your instructor. Whatever the format, be consistent with the same style throughout the bibliography.

Consult our sample style sheets for various Style Guides for examples of how to format citations in MLA, APA, or other style formats.

Need More Help?

Further information on writing annotated bibliographies may be found in:

  • Harner, J.L. (2000). On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography. New York: The Modern Language Association of America. Reference Room Z1001 .H33 2000
  • Ikeda, A. (2002). Writing Annotated Bibliographies. Claremont, California: Claremont Graduate University Writing Center. Retrieved 7th September 2004 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cgu.edu/pages/836.asp.
  • Stacks, G. and Karper, E. (2001). Annotated Bibliographies. West Lafayette, Indiana: Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University. Retrieved 11th July 2002 from the World Wide Web: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/614/01/

How to Cite Articles

  • Determine which citation style to use; the two most commonly used at CSUN are MLA and APA. If your professor didn't specify, pick one and use it consistently.
  • Check the sample style sheets (MLA or APA) to see what information the article citation should contain and how it should be formatted.
  • Be sure to indicate where material you quoted directly or paraphrased came from.

For more information, see Citing Your Sources - Plagiarism.