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Citation Guides


What is Citation?

Citation is simply telling your reader - in an organized way - what resources you used to write your paper, and giving enough information so your reader can find it themselves, know where to look in it to find the same info you did, and and credit who created those resources.

You will use different styles of citation - such as APA or MLA formats - but these are just what they say: styles. In any citation style, you are always trying to credit your resources and provide your reader the means to find them.

Why Cite?

  1.  Allows readers to retrace your steps, by finding exactly the same resources you used.
  2.  Provides your readers with further reading to pursue, so they can understand your paper better, by reading the same resources.
  3.  Gives credit where credit is due, to the creators of the resources you based yours on.
  4. Builds your credibility, by letting your audience review all the resources you used, and prove that you didn't misquote or misunderstand them.                                               


When do I need to cite something?

You cite when
 Using a direct quote
 Paraphrasing a passage from a resource
 Summarizing an author’s thoughts
 Referencing facts or figures
 Referring to the general idea of a work
 Basing a thought on the work of another author


In other words: All information that you draw fromanysource other than your own head at the moment you are writing the paperneeds to have that source cited !

Remember: When in doubt….CITE!

[if you happen to be an author and want to refer to a previous book you wrote? You still need to cite it!]



Why can't I use just an URL?

Why isn’t the URL enough for citation?  The short answer is, because URLs can change.  Websites undergo redesign all the time, and URLs often change without notice.  Think of it as moving without leaving a forwarding address.

We cite our sources for two main reasons: one, to give credit to the source of your information (to avoid plagiarism); two, to make it possible for others to go back and find that source.  If the only piece of information provided is a URL, and that URL is changed after you use it, this prevents others from verifying your source, resulting in plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense.  In order to make the source “findable” you need to provide key pieces of information that don’t change.  If you have also provided the author, title, date of publication, etc., it gives someone enough information to search for and find the source you used, even if it moves.

While you should always provide the URL for an online resource, you must include other pieces of information so that if that URL should change, that source could still be found.  The format for a citation changes based on your field of study – you’ll learn MLA format in ENG 101 and 102, but other courses might ask you to use APA (social sciences), AMA (medical), Chicago/Turabian (history), or others.  

General Services

Library Tutorials

Here you will find self-paced video and print tutorials on how to find and use the resources available to you through the Gateway Library, as well as how to perform all the proper steps in the research process.

Citation and Style Guides

Here you will find information on how to properly utilize the two citation styles used within Gateway classes, as well as example papers and other related resources.

Contact us!

Go to the link above to find our contact information, a direct link to chat with us during business hours, and several other ways to submit questions. Don't be shy! As as student, asking questions is your job!

***Adapted from Ashford University***

State your topic

Your topic is the essential idea of your paper. It is usually a few words or a phrase that summarizes the subject of your paper. For your thesis statement, try to make your topic as specific as possible.

State your main idea about this topic

What are you trying to state or prove about your topic? What are you trying to persuade the reader to believe? When stating your opinion, be sure to:

  • express one major ideal
  • name the topic and assert something specific about it
  • take a stance on an issue that you can support with facts and reasons.
  • state your position on or opinion about the issue.

Give a reason that supports your main idea

Write your reason as a clear statement. Be sure that you can support this reason with logical facts and evidence.

Give another reason that supports your main idea

Write your reason as a clear statement. Be sure that you can support this reason with logical facts and evidence.

Give one more reason that supports your main idea

Tell us one reason that supports your opinion. Write your reason as a clear statement. Be sure that you can support this reason with logical facts and evidence.

Include an opposing viewpoint to your main idea, if applicable

A good thesis statement acknowledges that there is always another side to the argument. So, include an opposing viewpoint (a counterargument) to your opinion. Basically, write down what a person who disagrees with your position might say about your topic.


Click the button to generate your thesis statement!



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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library
San José State University