Skip to Main Content


AP, APA, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and other citing resources for students.

Common Citation Questions

Why do I need to cite?

Ideas matter. In our culture, we often see ideas as belonging to the person who came up with them, and these people deserve credit when you use their ideas. Other reasons to cite:

  • Give credit to the original creator
  • Demonstrate your own credibility, critical thinking, and analysis
  • Show where you found your evidence
  • Allow your reader to see, use, and interpret that evidence for themselves
  • Show that your work is part of broader conversation

What is a citation?

A citation is the small chunk of text that shows where you found your information. It is formatted based on something called a citation style. Some styles use parenthetical or in-text citations and some use footnotes or endnotes. Just about every style includes a long list of all of your citations at the end, sometimes called a Bibliography, Works Cited Page, or Reference Page.

Why are there different styles? Which one do I use?

Human beings don't always agree. Different academic disciplines created some style rules that worked for them, but these rules didn't work for everyone, so other groups of people decided to create their own style.

Always always ask your professor which style you should use! Most professors prefer one of the common citation styles (MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, AP), but there are hundreds of styles so you will want to verify. If your professor tells you they don't care, it doesn't matter which style you pick as long as you are consistent and use the same style throughout your paper. 

What do I cite?

  • Do cite these things:
    • Direct quotations, kept in quotation marks
    • Anything you paraphrased. Make sure you are putting everything in your own words. 
    • Images, graphs, charts, film clips, or other media that you did not create
    • Anything that came from another source
  • You do not need to cite:
    • Common knowledge, such as "the sun is hot" or "UTM is a college in West TN"
    • Your own ideas

The Writing Center is an EXCELLENT resource to discuss direct quotations, paraphrasing, and what is considered common knowledge.

I need help!!!

You are not alone. Citations can be overwhelming for a lot of students, but don't worry! The Writing Center and the library are here to help. We can talk more with you about why citations are important, how to figure out which style to use, how to use the style manuals, and how to cite specific books, articles, movies, and more. The Writing Center can also help you look over your full Works Cited list and make sure everything looks as it should.

Capitalization in Foreign-Language Titles

When citing a book or article title in a foreign languge, follow these basic rules regardless of citation style:

For German and Spanish, capitalize the first word and all nouns.

For French, capitalize all words until after the first noun in the title.

For Italian and other languages, capitalize just the first word.

(NOTE: Always capitalize all proper nouns, of course)