When writing a paper for college or an academic source, it’s easy to brush aside the citations throughout the article and at the end. Whether in MLA or APA style, they can feel unnecessary and a forced requirement. So why is it important to cite other people’s work in your research?

In text citations are crucial to avoid plagiarism, give credit, and provide a string of information for the people reading your essay. If you write an essay about a specific subject and don’t cite your sources, your readers won’t be able to find more information on the topic. 

Citations protect you from copyright infringement and plagiarism. They also help readers, graders, and teachers find out where you got your information so they can fact-check or learn more. With a citation maker or a plagiarism checker, you should be able to cite your sources successfully and avoid accidental plagiarism. 

What’s the Purpose of Citing Sources?

So, why do we use citations? When writing a paper, you are often required to find outside sources on your subject. This ensures that you don’t make up the content of your article without checking the facts first and that you have a steady base of scholarly sources on which to base your argument. 

However, if you didn’t write those sources, using their ideas or quotes without crediting them will result in a plagiarism case. Plagiarism is when you steal the work of others, such as words, opinions, or quotes. This is where citations come in. Here are a few reasons why citing sources is crucial. 

Crediting the Original Author

The main reason we cite sources is that it’s essential to give credit where credit is due. If the author of a series or scholarly article has provided us with proof for our own argument, crediting their work is crucial. For many authors, credit is how they will be able to find jobs or write more pieces. It’s ethical writing practice and good manners. 

Provide Information to Reader

When you cite a source, you are protecting yourself from accusations of plagiarism, whether accidental or intentional. You also give credit to the original author of the source and allow a path for your readers to find that information. A citations page is an excellent source for any readers looking to learn more. 

By giving your reader this information, you can assist them in learning more about the topic while bolstering your own credibility as an author. 

Demonstrate Integrity and Credibility

Citations show that you know how to write correctly and credit others appropriately. They also give the audience an idea of how much information you have built upon to create your research paper, which improves your credibility. If you were able to do all this research, you are likely a trustworthy source. 

Your academic integrity is on the line when it comes to using citations. If you aren’t referencing citations, audiences will know that you didn’t research at all or are stealing ideas. 

Prevent Plagiarism

Of course, accidental plagiarism is just as serious as intentional plagiarism. It’s much more common to accidentally steal someone’s ideas by using them without giving proper credit to the original author. However, attribution and a works cited page can prevent this type of plagiarism and any accusations of intentional plagiarism. 

When Are Citations Required?

Now that you know the importance of citations, it’s time to learn about when they are necessary. Sources are required any time you use someone else’s work or idea, even if you’re paraphrasing. Here are some of the most common situations where you will use citations in academic writing, whether in APA or MLA style.

When Using Direct Quotes

The most obvious time to use a citation is after any direct quote from the author. When you use another author’s words, you should always put quotation marks around them and end with a citation. This is crucial for avoiding plagiarism, as an author’s words are their intellectual property.

Paraphrased or Summarized Content

However, a citation is also necessary when you summarize or paraphrase another author’s idea. Even though you’re not using their exact words, you are still summarizing their ideas in your own words. Don’t take credit for it – add a citation. That way, you won’t be accused of plagiarism or intellectual property theft

Information That’s not Common Knowledge

While you don’t have to cite every piece of information in your paper, you should add a citation after pieces of information that not everyone knows. For example, you don’t have to cite the definition of an apple, but if you discuss the molecular structure of an apple, you will need a citation. 

Content From Any Form of Media

You will need to cite if you take content from any source of media, whether it’s a video, journal article, TV show, streaming service, text message, blog, book, social media platform, text message, or website. Any of these sources of information are not original, and using them without a citation is intellectual theft. 

How to Cite Sources

If you know what to cite and why you should cite it, the last piece of information you need is how to cite your sources. There are several prominent forms of citation, but the most common citation styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago styles. Each of these has its own rules on how to format a citation. You will need in text citations and a reference list.

However, each citation style generally includes the same 5 things that must be cited or documented:

  • The title of the original source
  • The year published
  • Where it was published
  • The author’s name and information
  • The publisher’s name

For a tutorial on how to cite your sources in each of these style guides, check out our post, Best Way to Cite Sources: MLA, APA, and Chicago Style.


Citations are crucial for proper academic writing in high school or college. While there are several different formats for citing your sources, all citations do the same thing. Without citations, plagiarism would run rampant, authors wouldn’t be credited for their work, and there would be no information chain. 

If you are confused by citing sources in your paper and aren’t sure how to do it, that’s okay. Use a citation generator like Quetext. Quetext has a plagiarism checker and citation generator that are both easy to use and can automatically generate citations, regardless of the paper’s format.