Pine Technical & Community College

Table of Contents
Print Resources

Available in the library:

MLA Handbook

APA Manual 6th Ed.
Online Resources
Purdue APA Citation Style Guide
Online APA style guide that demonstrates how to cite a wide variety of resources.

Purdue MLA Citation Style Guide
Online MLA style guide that demonstrates how to cite a wide variety of resources.

Citation Builder
An easy to use citation generator for both APA and MLA styles.  Just enter some basic information about your resource, choose a format, and Citation Builder will create a citation for you.

The easiest way to cite tweets.  Just enter the url of the tweet and Tweet2Cite will generate a citation in APA and MLA styles.

Free citation management software that allows you to organize your resources and generate automatic in-text citations and bibliographies.

Free, open source citation management software
that allows you to organize your resources and generate automatic in-text citations and bibliographies.
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Contact Your PTCC Librarian
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Ask a Librarian MN
24/7 reference service that will help you with any questions you may have about citation.
Citation Overview
What is citation?
Academic Writing is a Conversation

Academic writing is an ongoing conversation that students and scholars have with each other about various topics.   When you write an essay, you are not just writing out your own thoughts.  Instead, you are contributing to the development of knowledge in your field by responding to and building on the ideas and research of others.  Citation is the primary way that you engage in this conversation.  Citation is the act of giving someone credit when you mention or respond to their work in your own work.  This happens in two ways:

In-text citations: An in-text citation is when you indicate information about a source you are citing within the text of your essay.  This is usually done by paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting the source directly, followed by a parenthetical indicating the author, the year it was published, and sometimes a page number.

Bibliographies: A bibliography, sometimes referred to as a “Works Cited” page, is an alphabetical listing all of the sources you cited in your essay at the end of the essay.  Bibliographic citations include information about the source that will help others locate that source if necessary.  They are formatted differently depending on if you are using MLA or APA style guidelines.
In-text citation using quotation
  • Replicates the words of the source exactly, set off by quotation marks.
  • Includes a parenthetical indicating the author, year, and page number the quote was taken from.
  • Is typically set off by a signal phrase, which incorporates the quotation into the flow of the essay.  The signal phrase can introduce the author or source of the quote, provide context for it, or call the reader’s attention to some specific aspect of it.
  • Should be indented, rather than set off with quotation marks, if the passge being quoted is longer than 40 words.  



Proper Quotation (MLA)

Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.

Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London, Bloomsbury, 2017.
  In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, magic is used as a metaphor for the power of language.  Rowling writes, “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it” (165).

Use Quotations:

  • When you not only want to call attention to what a source says, but also how it says it.
  • When you want to introduce words or phrases unique to a given author.
  • Sparingly.  Direct quotation is necessary when analyzing primary texts in the humanities, but will typically not need to be used heavily in the social and health sciences.
In-text citation with paraphrase and summary
Paraphrase and Summary:
  • Incorporate a portion of the source into your essay by conveying its meaning in your own words.
  • Paraphrase aims to replicate the all of the ideas of the source passage, while summary aims to express only its main points or points.
  • Are introduced by a signal phrase, incorporating the source passage into the flow of the essay.  Typically, the signal phrase will indicate to the reader something about the source of the paraphrase.
  • End with a citation indicating the author of the source and, in APA style, the year it was published.



Paraphrase (APA style)

The struggle to fill nursing positions is different from the effort to add to the physician workforce. One main reason: there are not enough faculty to teach incoming nursing students. Either faculty are leaving due to retirement -- like their counterparts in health-care settings, they too are aging – or they’re gaining higher salaries elsewhere in practice settings other than teaching.

Moore, M. (2015, June 5). The nursing shortage and the doctor shortage are two very different things. The Washington Post.  Retrieved from
Moore (2015) argues that a lack of nursing instructors is a major reason why the nursing shortage is not comparable to the physician shortage.  Given that nursing positions pay more than teaching positions, nursing schools are having a difficult time replacing faculty when they retire.

Summary (APA style)

Moore (2015) argues that unlike the physician shortage, the nursing shortage is exacerbated by a lack of nursing instructors.

Use Paraphrase:


Use Summary:

  • When you want to call attention to what a source says, but how it says it isn’t important.
  • When you want to call the reader’s attention to specific claims, arguments, statistics, or information from a source.
  • Frequently.  Most citations in the social and health sciences will be paraphrases.  In the humanities, paraphrase is primarily used for citing secondary sources.

  • When you want to call attention to the broad outline of a source or its main point, rather than any specific part.
  • When you need to compare and contrast a great deal of arguments or research in a very short amount of time.
  • When you need to condense the narratives of primary sources (i.e. historical accounts, literary texts, films, or etc.) to only those parts needed to provide the reader context.

Creating bibliographic citations
Bibliographic Citations are formatted differently depending on if you are required to use APA or MLA style guidelines.  For examples of bibliographic citations in MLA and APA style guidelines, see the MLA and APA quick reference sections of this guide.   
Citation styles

There are many different ways to format in-text and bibliographic citations, but the two main citation styles that are used at PTCC are APA and MLA.  Which you will need to use for your assignments will depend on the subject area or program you are writing your essay for and/or the preference of your professor.

  • APA style (American Psychological Association)  is most often used by the hard sciences (chemistry, physics, biology), the health sciences (nursing, psychology), and the social sciences (sociology, business, economics).
  • MLA style (Modern Language Association) is most often used by English and the humanities (history, philosophy, cultural studies).

Check with your instructor to make sure that you use the style required for your class. And whatever style you choose, BE CONSISTENT!

When do I need to cite a source?
You should cite a source when:

•    Referring to someone else’s research or statistics in your own essay.
•    Referring to someone else’s original argument or point of view in your own essay.
•    Including someone else’s images or media in your essay.

You do not need to cite a source when:

•    The information is your own original ideas or interpretations.
•    The information you are referencing is common knowledge that appears in multiple sources.
•    The information you are referencing is knowledge or theory that is well established within a particular subject area.

Since failing to cite a source properly runs the risk of plagiarism, even if you are unsure if something is general or original knowledge, it never hurts to cite it anyway.  When in doubt, cite!
Database citation generators

Most databases provide citation tools to assist you in the process of creating a citation entry. You will find citation links in the item records in the library's book, magazine, newspaper, journal, and other databases. Pressing on the database citation link provides the citation of the resource in various formats. There are advantages and disadvantages with database citation tools. The big advantage is that the database citation system formats the citation for you. The disadvantage is that the citations often contain errors.

Common database citation tool errors include:

  1. Improper capitalization
  2. Misplaced or incorrect punctuation
  3. Incorrect date or volume/issue number information

As a results you cannot completely trust the citations generated from the databases. You must make sure to closely review all citations and refer to your citation style guide to validate your citations.

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