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Introduction to Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Interpreting Citations

Research and library resources for students taking ESL/Wr 107, Wr 109 and SEC 111 at Caltech.

Why Cite?

There are many reasons why citations are included in academic work. Among them:

  1. Avoiding plagiarism. Plagiarism can generally be described as misrepresenting someone else's ideas as your own. You can find more information about what plagiarism is, as well as how to avoid it, at the Hixon Writing Center.

  2. Providing context. Almost all scholarly writing is based upon the prior work of scholars in the field. By citing relevant prior works, you place your original ideas in the context of the field and show how they will advance overall understanding of the topic.

  3. Establishing credibility. Similar to the above point, by showing relevancy, you establish your own credibility as a scholar. It is also important to understand the types and quality of sources that you choose to cite.

How to Find a Citation in the Library

If your citation is a book:


If your citation is a journal article:


If you are not sure:

  • LibAnswers has a list of frequently asked questions, along with portals to chat with a librarian (when available) and submit a question (when not available)