Avoiding Plagiarism - Cite Your Source

Whenever you take information from a source, whether that source is published on paper, presented in a lecture or broadcast, or made available online, you must tell your reader where the information came from:  that is, you must cite your source.

What does it mean to “cite” a source?

In writing a paper or report, it means:

You show, in the body of your paper, where the words or information came from, using an appropriate formatting style.


You provide complete information about the source (author, title, name of publication, date, etc.) at the end of your paper, in the bibliography (also called the works cited or references page, depending on the style you use).

Note: Different disciplines use different citation styles, as do various journals within a single discipline. If you are unsure which to use, check with your instructor.

In giving formal presentations, it means:

You acknowledge, on your slide, where the graph, chart or other information came from.

In writing a computer program, it means:

You use comments to credit the source of any code you adapted from an open source site or other external sources. Generally, providing a URL is sufficient. You also need to follow the terms of any open source license that applies to the code you are using.

Why should I cite my sources?

  • To show your readers that you have done your research.

  • To give credit to others for work they have done.

  • To point your readers to sources that may be useful to them.

  • To allow your readers to check your sources, if there are questions.

Citing sources points the way for other scholars. Future generations of engineers, scientists and leaders will look to work done at MIT to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. Citation helps that process continue.

What should I cite?

  • Print sources:  books, journal articles, newspaper – any material published on paper.

  • Electronic sources:

    • Articles retrieved from databases such as Lexis-Nexis and ProQuest
    • Personal and organizational websites
    • Government and institutional websites
    • Blogs
    • Email messages
    • Social media, such as Tweets and Facebook pages
    • Computer source code

In short, any material published or made available on the Internet.

  • Data: geospatial (GIS) data, Census, economic and other types of data published by governments, data from surveys, economic indicators, bioinformatics data.

  • Images: charts, graphs, tables, illustrations, architectural plans, photographs.

  • Recorded material: television broadcasts, podcasts or public speeches.

  • Spoken material:  personal conversations, interviews, information obtained in lectures, poster sessions, or scholarly presentations of any kind.