- Academic Research and Writing Tips / Tutorial

How to Cite Your Essay Sources

There are several types of citation that are used in academic writing. The most common forms are internal documentation, footnotes, and endnotes. With all types of research, it is important to cite where you obtained the information according to whichever style your professor prefers. Without proper citation, you could be accused of plagiarism, resulting in possible sanctions, a failing grade, or even removal from your college or university.

. Cite Sources

A citation is a method of indicating within your paper where a certain piece of information or idea came from. At the undergraduate level, most of your research will not be original, but will be a compilation of others' ideas and concepts woven together to make a meaningful presentation about a topic. At the graduate level, you may do some original research but part of that research will require a discussion of everything that has been written about your topic up to this point and what it is lacking that you aim to solve or discuss in your research. Knowledge of proper citation is critical at both levels to ensure that you give proper credit to those whose ideas you discuss or "borrow" in your own writing in order to make your own points or develop your own theories.

You will need to cite the information according to a particular "style." (see article on citation styles for further information). Whichever style your professor prefers, there are some commonalities about the types of citation listed above.

Internal Documentation

By far, this is the easiest method of citation, internal documentation requires that you place the author or publication information right next to the information within the paper. This is done in parentheses right after the piece of information. Depending on citation style, you might put the author's name and date, or page number. It also depends on how you introduced in the information. If you mention in the sentence, "according to Miller, ..." then you wouldn't have to put Miller’s name in the internal citation but only the date or date and page number, depending on citation style. A typical internal citation might look like this:

The humpback whale is one of the largest in the north Atlantic Ocean (Jones 26).

That is an internal citation per MLA style indicating that it came from a work listed in the Works Cited page (at the end of your paper) on page 26 of that work. APA style would require you're your citation look like this: (Jones, 1995, p. 26).


These are commonly used in the fields of art, dance, history, music, religion, theater, and theology to document sources. Footnotes come at the bottom of the page and are indicated like this. This provides the same information in the bibliography but in a different form. This footnote is done per MLA style. Footnotes can also be used to further explain a concept that may be unknown to the reader or it can provide further information about something discussed in the paper and provide sources for further reading, like this.


Endnotes are similar to footnotes, but they appear at the end of the document as opposed to at the bottom of the page. They can be used in the same way as footnotes-for citing source, providing further information or clarification, or to direct the reader, like this. The type of endnote for citing sources would look like this.

When you are writing a paper, you will want to know what citation style your professor prefers (APA, MLA, or another style). Then you should ask if he/she prefers internal documentation, footnote, or endnote style. Once you have the answer to those two questions, you can find all the information you need from the style guide or online about how to properly cite your sources within your paper.