When you use someone else's idea(s) in something you write, you should always cite the original source. (Otherwise, it is considered Plagiarism.) There are a few different ways to cite works in papers and articles you write, and we will highlight a couple of these in this lesson.
What does it mean to "cite your work?"
Citing your work is a neat way of saying "giving credit" to whoever first wrote or said the quote or fact that you are using. You are providing a citation (an "act of quoting") to who came up with the idea first, and where you obtained it.
Why you should cite your work
If you don't cite your work, it is considered Plagiarism, which is banned everywhere. Depending on the degree of Plagiarism it is, you may actually be doing something illegal - copyright infringement. Usually in papers for school, however, it's not copyright infringement - but it can still get you into pretty deep trouble if you do it.
How to cite you work
There are two major standards that discuss how to cite a paper. These are the "APA" and the "MLA" formats. MLA stands for Modern Language Association; APA stands for American Psychological Association. We highly recommend buying a desktop reference book in order to be able to cite sources from any kind of medium - citing a magazine is different than a book; both of which are different from citing an encyclopedia, which is also different from citing a newspaper or the Internet.
With the two major standards established, we see two types of ways to cite your work most frequently used: a Works Cited page at the end of your paper, and using Footnotes in the paper with the citation at the bottom of the page the cite is given.
Works Cited Page
Having a works cited page works in addition to citing each quote (or source) in your paper. For example, when you use a quote or fact that isn't your own and you want to cite it, you will usually end the sentence with: (Author name, page number). And then, in your works cited page, depending on the type of citation, style (format; APA or MLA) you're using, and where the quote came from (magazine, book, Internet, etc.), you may have an entry on your works cited page that looks like:
Author Last Name, Author First Name. "Title Of Source." Location Of Source. [Details of Source (Date, page)]
Usually the Works Cited page will be in alphabetical order by author last name. However, if noted, there are sometimes put in order by citation - that is, as the work is cited in the paper, it is placed into the works cited page.
We are not sure why, but many academic settings try to not use footnotes. Using a footnote is similar to a works cited page, except rather than having a works cited page at the end, each individual works cited reference is located on the bottom of the page that the citation occurs in. Usually, after the quote, a number will appear immediately afterwards, indicating which number of citation to use. Then, at the bottom of the page, the same works-cited information as the works cited page will appear for the individual quote rather than the entire paper.
Our guess as to why these are not as popular in academic settings is because a student could use the footnote to increase the overall page length of the paper. Whereas if you're using a works cited page, that page is not counted in your total page count!
Now that you know how to give credit to other authors, become a better author yourself by reading another Writing Topic in the Writing Lesson Center!