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Citing: Bibliographies

Information about bibliographies, annotated bibliographies and plagiarism.

Common Knowledge

If something is common knowledge, then you don't have to cite it.  But, that leaves a major question:

What Qualifies as Common Knowledge?

One way to get an idea if something is common knowledge is to ask a couple of your friends if they know it.  If all of them know it, it is probably common knowledge (unless all of your friends happen to have done extensive research on the subject).

Also, here are some guidelines to determining what is common knowledge.  But, remember, not everyone agrees on what counts as common knowledge.  It is always better to cite something than to risk plagiarizing.

Common Knowledge Not Common Knowledge
Some facts Someone's interpretation of the facts
Some historical events Historical documents
Facts that can easily be found multiple places Facts that can only be found in specialized sources
Facts that most educated people know Facts that only specialists in a subject know
A myth, a legend, folklore, an urban legend A particular retelling of the story

 Common knowledge also depends on the field you are working in.  For example, symptoms of schizophrenia may be common knowledge to  psychologists, and thus not need citing, but it may not be common knowledge for a biologist.

If you are still in doubt, cite it.

It is better to cite too much than to not cite enough.


A citation is a reference to another source.


Who Needs to Include a Bibliography?

Everyone who uses the ideas, research, or writing of another person in his or her own work needs to include a bibliography as a part of that work.

This includes students, researchers, authors, professors, academicians, and Klingons.


What Is a Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of all the sources that you reference in your paper. 

The reader should be able to find every source that you mention at the end of your paper in your bibliography. 

It can also be called the “Works Cited” or “References,” depending on the format (MLA, APA, Chicago, Turabian).


When Should You Include a Bibliography?

Include a bibliography every time you use something that someone else produced.  This includes quotes, paraphrases, ideas, and facts. 

If you did not come up with it, and if it is not common knowledge, you need to cite its author in your bibliography.

When Should You Begin Working on Your Bibliography?

Begin working on your bibliography as soon as you begin your research.  Keep track of the sources you use and the page numbers of passages that you quote or paraphrase.  This will save you time later!


Where Does Your Bibliography Go?

A bibliography should be included at the end of your paper, with the title “Works Cited,” “Bibliography,” or “References,” depending on what format you are using for your paper (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc).

The page numbering of your paper should continue into the bibliography.  Thus, if the last page of your paper is page 11, the first page of your bibliography will be page 12.


Why Do You Need to Include a Bibliography?

It is important to include a bibliography so that you give credit where it is due.  If you use any idea or research that is not your own, you must acknowledge the scholarship of the person who created that idea or research.

If you don’t properly acknowledge other works that you have used, you will be guilty of plagiarism, which not only will lower your grade for the class, but is illegal.

A bibliography shows that your work is supported by good research.  The reader of your paper can see what resources you used to produce your paper, and thereby see that there is support for what you have said.

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How Do You Create a Bibliography?

There are many different styles of writing, and each has its own nuanced specifications for creating a bibliography.  They all, however, require some basic information, such as the name of the author and the name of the work.  Each format has different rules for in-text citations, as well as the “Works Cited” page.  Use the following resources to find out how to do a bibliography in the style your paper requires.

All styles

Cite Rite: a quick guide to citation styles—MLA, APA, Chicago, the sciences, professions, and more.  (ebook, available online via Grace Library). 

Also, search the Purdue OWL website for detailed help with all styles.

Here are online resources with detailed information about citing: 


The MLA Handbook for writers of research papers, by Joseph Gibaldi (available in the Learning Center at the library)


Publication Manual of the American Psychology Association (available in the Learning Center at the library)


A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations : : Chicago Style for students and researchers


A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations : : Chicago Style for students and researchers