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Research Skills Tutorial: 7. Citing Sources

Intended to help you develop the skills required to complete research assignments

When Should I Cite?

Always Cite:

  • Direct quotations taken from sources - place quotation marks around direct quotes as you write them down.

  • Paraphrased ideas and opinions taken from someone else's work.

  • Summaries of ideas taken from someone else's work.

  • Factual information, including statistics or other data unless it is considered common knowledge.

You must cite all sources used in all assignments that you create. It does not matter what format your assignment (for example, presenation or paper) is in or where in your assignment you use a quote, summary, paraphrase or statistics. 

The Exception: â€‹Common knowledge

When writing an essay, the only source material you do not have to cite is information that is considered common knowledge. Common knowledge generally refers to any well-established, uncontroversial fact about the world, or a fact that cannot be attributed to a single source. However, common knowledge does not necessarily mean that everyone knows it.

Common knowledge: 5 credible sources rule

A general rule is that you can consider information common knowledge if you can find that information uncredited in 5 credible sources.

If you're not sure if something is common knowledge, it's better to be safe and cite it!

Test Your Knowledge!

Which of the following do you NOT have to cite?
A quote from another source: 5 votes (2.33%)
A summary of an article in your own words: 39 votes (18.14%)
Information such as the capital of British Columbia: 77 votes (35.81%)
You have to cite all of the above: 94 votes (43.72%)
Total Votes: 215

Citation Style Guides

Interpreting Citations

Book (entire)

Works Cited

Bales, Kevin. Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World. Spiegel & Grau, 2016.

Author: Kevin Bales
Title: Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World
Publisher Spiegel & Grau
Date of publication: 2016

Clues that this citation is for an entire book:

  • Contains only one title
  • Includes the name of a publishing company: Spiegel & Grau

Journal article


Aydarova, O. (2015). Global discourses and local responses: A dialogic perspective on educational reforms in the Russian Federation. European Education, 47(4), 331-345. doi:10.1080/10564934.2015.1107375

Author O. Aydarova
Date published 2015
Title Global discourses and local responses: A dialogic perspective on educational reforms in the Russian Federation
Journal title European Education
Volume & Issue 47(4)  - Volume 47, Issue 4
Pages 331-345
doi: 10.1080/10564934.2015.1107375

Clues that this is a journal article:

  • Contains the title of the article, sometimes in quotation marks, depending on the citation style.
  • Contains another title, the title of the journal, newspaper, or magazine in which the article appears, often underlined or in italics: European Education
  • Contains a volume and, sometimes, an issue number: 45. 1, or 45(1)
  • The date is sometimes a year, sometimes month and year, sometimes season (example: Spring) and year.
  • Contains page numbers
  • Online articles often have a unique doi, or digital object identifier

Newspaper Article


Authier, P. (2016, Nov 02). Quebec tightens rules for spying on journalists; press freedom is fundamental, premier says. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from

Author P. Authier
Date November 2, 2016
Title Quebec tightens rules for spying on journalists; press freedom is fundamental, premier says
Title of newspaper The Vancouver Sun

Clues that this is a newspaper article: 

  • Like journal articles, it contains both the title of the article and the title of the publication. In some citation styles, the title of the article appears in quotation marks.
  • Unlike journal articles, the date includes the month and day in addition to the year
  • Some include section numbers as part of the page numbers (e.g. A6, B4)

Plagiarism tutorial

Check out our Plagiarism Tutorial to learn more about using sources in your assignments.