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Giving Credit

An important aspect of information literacy is learning how to use information ethically by citing sources and observing fair use.



When you quote or paraphrase the idea of another person in your research paper or speech, you must provide a proper citation for the source in a bibliography or list of references to: 

  • Give credit to the author or creator; 
  • Enable a reader to locate the source you cited. 
Providing references for sources you used also lends credibility to your work, especially if you use authoritative sources. Be sure to provide full citations to all types of sources you use, including: 
  • Books; 
  • Government documents; 
  • Internet sources; 
  • Interviews; 
  • Magazine or journal articles; 
  • Plagiarism media (videotapes, audiotapes, pictures and images); 
  • Software.

For examples of citations for the above resources, visit the Interpreting Citations page.

If you use the ideas of others and do not give them credit by providing proper references to their work, you are committing plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing someone else's ideas and presenting them as your own. Not only is plagiarism an honor code violation at Riverside Community College, punishable by temporary or permanent suspension from the college, it is also a federal crime. 

For information on the growing problem of plagiarism with statistics and background information visit Plagiarism.org. 


When citing sources, be sure to use a conventional bibliographic style. Most disciplines have a standard style that writers are expected to use. Each style will specify a uniform way of citing sources that will: 

  • Give an orderly appearance to your bibliography;
  • Provide all the essential elements of information that a reader will need to locate the source.

    A citation must include:

    For books and nonprint materials: For periodical articles:
    • author 
    • title 
    • place of publication 
    • publisher 
    • date 
    • author 
    • title 
    • periodical title 
    • volume number or date of publication 
    • page numbers 

Your professor may require you to use a particular bibliographic style. If you are unsure, ask your professor. Below you will find three commonly used bibliographic style manuals that show how to cite a variety of sources, including documents from the Internet:


APA is the preferred citation style in the field of psychology and in most social science disciplines.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: APA, 1994.(Ref BF76.7 .P83 1994) <available at all 3 campus libraries>

This book presents APA style requirements and provides examples for all types of information sources.

Try The OWL (Online Writing Lab at Purdue) Or try EasyBib - A suite of interactive tools designed to aid students and professionals with their online research. Use NoodleBib to generate and edit MLA and APA-style lists. Get expert tips on how to cite sources and find information on the web with NoodleBoard.


The Chicago citation style (also called Turabian style) is used primarily in the fields of history and the natural sciences.

The Chicago Manual of Style. Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1993. (Ref Z253 .U69 1993.) <Available at all 3 campus libraries>

This book is a comprehensive guide to preparing manuscripts for publishing. 

A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. By Kate Turabian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Ref LB2369 T8) <Available at all 3 campus libraries>

Guide to writing papers in the Turabian variation of the Chicago style.


MLA style is most commonly used in the humanities, especially the fields of literature and languages, although other disciplines also utilize this format.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. New York : Modern Language Association of America. (Ref LB2369 G53) <Available at all 3 campus libraries> 

The MLA style set forth in this book is used by writers in the humanities. 

See also the LAMP section Citing Electronic Sources.

Additional bibliographic style manuals may be found in the Reference collection. 


The Copyright Law of the United States provides legal protection for intellectual property. In your search for information, you should assume that all materials you find are copyrighted, unless the document specifies that it is public domain, which means that it can be used freely by anyone. An information source does not have to be registered with the Copyright Office to be covered by copyright. It is copyrighted as soon as it is created. 

The doctrine of "Fair use" allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use generally applies to nonprofit, educational purposes that do not affect the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Section 107 of the Copyright Law describes factors to consider in deciding when fair use applies. The issues related to copyright of computer software, digitized images, and other products and sources are becoming more and more complicated. Some have not yet been adequately interpreted by the courts.

Remember that all information sources and technology have been created by someone. Depending on how you use their property, you might have to ask those authors, developers, publishers, etc for permission. To be safe, do not copy anything unless you have explicit permission or a clear statement that the item is in the public domain. Whether an information source is copyrighted or in the public domain, you should cite it if you quote or paraphrase it in your paper or speech. 


The United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress

The web site for the United States Copyright Office of the Library of Congress provides online access to all of the copyright key publications, including informational circulars, application forms for copyright registration, news of what the Office is doing, including Congressional testimony and press releases, our latest regulations, a link to our online copyright records cataloged since 1978, and links to the copyright law and to the web sites of other copyright-related organizations.

Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia

These Guidelines for Educational Multimedia provide guidance on the application of the fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Act by educators, scholars and students in creating multimedia projects that include portions of copyrighted works, without having to seek the permission of copyright owners. These guidelines do not represent a legal document, nor or they legally binding. 

Fair Use of Copyrighted Material by Georgia Harper, J.D.

Georgia Harper is considered the foremost expert on copyright among the members of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA). She is manager of the intellectual property section in the General Counsel's office for the University of Texas System, and a member of the Association of American Universities Copyright Advisory Board. This site includes (for example): 

Crash Course in Copyright

University of Texas's Copyright Crash Course includes presentations for administrators, faculty, students, libraries, and university attorneys.