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How to Cite Your Sources

Referencing without formal citation

While formal citation is the most visible form of attribution, there are variety of other ways to acknowledge other people's ideas and the products of other people's work. These show up in all kinds of contexts, including:

  • Presentations
  • Websites
  • Journalism
  • Class discussions
  • Even informal conversations

The key thing to keep in mind is what your audience will want to know in order to understand your use of sources.

Remember: expectations around attribution can vary greatly from discipline to discipline and even from assignment to assignment. It's a good idea to clarify expectations with your professor if you aren't sure whether you should be using a formal citation style or these less formal (but still important) methods of acknowledging others' contributions to your work.

Referring to sources in spoken communication

There are several common options that people use when referring to source material in their spoken presentations

Example 1: Formal Citation

Some scholars will build references to authors, source titles, etc, into their talk and then either give people either a handout or a slide that functions as the Works Cited or Bibliography.

"One of the key voices on this topic is Andrew Piper, who wrote an article in 2006 on Goethe and the Book of Everything. ....."

[Handout]

Works Cited

Piper, Andrew. “Rethinking the Print Object: Goethe and the Book of Everything.” PMLA, vol. 121, no. 1,  Jan. 2006, pp. 124-38. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25486292.

Example 2: Less formal attribution

Make sure that your listeners can glean enough information to be able to follow up and find the full citation if they're interested.

"One of the key voices on this topic is Andrew Piper, who published a 2006 PMLA article on Goethe and the Book of Everything. ....."

Example 3: Informal attribution

Often people's names or positions are the most important to reference in informal presentations and conversations.

"I read this one great article by a scholar named Piper, and it was especially useful because it highlighted....."

Referring to Sources in your Slides

Of the many ways the people refer to other people's ideas and work in presentation slides, here are a few good options.

References to outside sources in your slides

As with the other examples on this page, people accomplish this task in a variety of ways depending on their audience and goals. Typically, attribution strategies fall into one or more of these options:

  • Formal: Include full citations on each relevant slide, plus a full bibliography slide and/or handout
  • Less formal: Include brief references on each relevant slide, plus a bibliography slide and/or handout.
  • Informal: Attribution alongside or even without formal citations (including image credits, acknowledgements slides, etc.)

References to Images in your slides

Depending on your audience there are various strategies.

  • Formal: The major citation styles give guidance on citing images (see our guides to MLA and Chicago)
  • Less formal: Include robust image captions
  • Informal: Provide the name (or username) of the person who created the image, perhaps a brief title, and a URL.

Referring to forum posts (like Moodle)

Option 1: Formal Citation

See our page on Citing Course Content for examples of formal citations of Moodle posts.

Option 2: Informal Attribution

Often, it's enough to give the name, URL if available, and either subject line or time stamp of a previous forum post when you refer back to something someone else has said.

"That last point that Zoe made in her Tuesday 10:52pm post about soil pH made me wonder if..."

Acknowledgements Sections

An acknowledgements section is a great place to provide attribution for support, conversations that helped you think about your topic or refine your presentation, and anything else that helped you produce the work that you did.

Example 1: Thanks with explanation

I would like to thank my professor, Professor Plum, for his insights and the many office-hour conversations that helped hone my thinking. I also am grateful for my roommate's willingness to read drafts of this paper, and for the academic technology department for ...

Example 2: Thanks with less explanation

Many thanks to all who helped me throughout this project, especially Daamir, Claudia, and Chris.