Skip to main content

New to NYU Libraries: How do I cite sources?

A basic guide to NYU Libraries' services for new NYU students.

Saving and Organizing Your Research

Specialized research tools help you to:

  • import citations from databases and catalogs
  • organize your research
  • format your reference list in dozens of standard styles (MLA, APA, and more.

NYU Libraries provides Zotero, RefWorks, and Endnote. For a complete list and info on how to access and use these tools, go to the Research Tools page.


Academic Integrity Policies at NYU

College of Arts & Sciences (CAS)







Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. See your own school or program's policy on academic honesty and plagiarism for more information.

Why Do I Need to Cite My Sources?

When you are writing a paper, you must cite your sources in order to:

  • avoid plagiarism (see boxes below and on right)
  • acknowledge the author of ideas and words other than your own
  • enable readers of your paper to re-locate your sources

There are various styles for citing sources (see box below).  You will find that you may need to use one style if you are writing a paper for a literature course, and a different style if you are working in the sciences or social sciences.

Research tools exist to help you organize your sources and format your citations in a given style (see box to your left).

NYU's Writing Center is a place where any NYU student can get help with his or her writing.

How Do I Cite My Sources Properly?

Academic or scholarly work requires a bibliography, which may also be referred to as a works cited page, a citations list, or a reference list. Below are two examples of formatted citations.

A complete list of examples in APA, MLA, and other styles is found on the library's Citation Style Guide.


Reference Type

A sample citation in APA format: In-Text Citation
Book with one author

Batavia, M. (2006). Contraindications in physical rehabilitation: Doing no harm. St. Louis, MO: Saunders Elsevier.

  (Batavia, 2006)  
  A sample citation in MLA format:  
Journal article with two authors

Collard, Scott, and Tempelman-Kluit, Nadaleen. "The Other Way In: Goal-Based Library Content Through CMS." Internet Reference Services Quarterly 11.4 (2006): 55-68. Print.

(Collard and Tempelman-Kluit 63)

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Make your own ideas the focus of your paper.
  • Use the ideas of others to reinforce your own argument, and give the original author credit by citing the source.
  • Keep track of complete citation information whenever you take notes and while you are writing your paper.  Unintentional plagiarism can result from sloppy research or from careless "cutting and pasting" of online sources.
  • Make it a habit to regularly use RefWorks or Zotero to not only format your citations but also provide you with an online file cabinet of your research sources.
  • Any words, ideas, opinions, or original research that are not your own must be cited.  This is true whether you copy material word-for-word or if you summarize a passage and change a few words around.  Use quotation marks when you directly state another person's words. 
  • Common knowledge, established facts, and well-known proverbs do not need to be cited.  None of these sentences needs a citation:
    • Albany is the capital of New York. 
    • Water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    • Look before you leap.

What Is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism (pronounced: play-juh-riz-um) is the act of taking someone else’s words, ideas, or information and passing them off as your own. If you don’t give credit to the author of these ideas in footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography, you are committing plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense.

Everything you find that is written, whether in print in books and journals, or on the web, should be considered copyrighted. That means that you should think of it as belonging to someone else. Information that you find on the web is not free to take or use – it is someone else’s intellectual property. Any material lifted from an original source, including web resources, without proper acknowledgement or credit is considered plagiarized. Inadvertent or accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism. Plagiarism can inadvertently happen if you are not careful about taking notes while you research; it is sometimes difficult to remember exactly where your ideas came from when you are doing research, so remember to cite your sources while you work.

It is your responsibility to know what constitutes plagiarism. Not knowing citation standards is not an excuse. When in doubt, err on the side of over-documentation and cite the source. You can also ask your professor, teaching assistant, or a librarian for help in determining what is and is not plagiarism.