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Research Guides

Citation Styles & Tools: When should I use a citation?

Quick help on citing sources and tools for storing and organizing sources.

When should I use a citation?

A citation should be used when content that did not originate with you is used to support your writing.

Content includes:

  • words (quotations, phrases, sayings, etc.)
  • thoughts or ideas (summarizations and paraphrases)
  • audio or visual material (photos, videos, screencaptures, powerpoint slides, social media content, audio recordings, etc.)

Here are a few resources that will help get you started:

What you don't need to cite

No need to cite what is known as common knowledge.

But, what is common knowledge? Common knowledge includes information that someone can easily trace and find the answer to.  In an academic context, common knowledge will depend on the audience, but here are some examples to get you started:

  • There are 24 hours in a day.
  • The President of the United States can serve up to two terms in office, each term lasting four years.
  • The phone number for emergency services in the United States is 9-1-1

For more examples of how to determine if something is common knowledge, check out this resource:

PRO Tip

When in doubt: CITE -- You won’t be judged harshly for adding a citation when it isn’t needed.  However, skipping a citation (whether it’s an accident or not) is considered plagiarism, which can have serious consequences.