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Research: A Quick Start Guide

This guide will help you find resources and organize your research

Citing Your Sources

There are lots of reasons to cite your sources

Here are just a few:

  1. When you use someone else's words or ideas without citing their work, you are plagiarizing. 
  2. Citations are a way of showing you did the research and know your stuff! 
  3. Citing your sources and providing your thoughts and ideas around other people's work makes you a part of the scholarly conversation. Your ideas matter, make sure we know which ones are yours. 
  4. Citations keep you organized, keep you honest, and will get you a better grade! 

illustration student citing a source with clapping

Library Citation Generator

In section 4 of this guide, "Staying Organized," we mentioned the library's citation generator. You will see this option in the top right corner of each of your search results. The icon looks like a quotation mark. If you click it, a pop-up window will appear and you will see a dropdown menu where you can choose which citation style you want (for more info on citation styles, see the "Citation Styles" tab on this page). You can then copy and paste or export the citation into your references or works cited list. 

the citation generator button is in the top right, next to the permalink icon. a new window will open and you can generate your citation in any citation style then copy and past or export the citation.


Just like anything in life, citation generators are not perfect! Always double check the citation to make sure it is formatted properly.

MLA Style

Modern Language Association (MLA) style is typically use to cite English, Cultural Studies, and other Humanities-based disciplines. 

For guidance on how to use MLA style, please see our MLA citation guide

You can also check out the Excelsior OWL MLA guide

APA Style

American Psychological Association (APA) style is typically used for Psychology and other social science disciplines. 

For guidance on using APA style citations, check out our APA guide

Or check out the Excelsior OWL APA Guide.

Chicago Style

Not the pizza! Chicago, sometimes referred to as Turabian style, is often used for History, including Art History. 

For guidance on using Chicago style citations, go to this library guide

Or check out the Excelsior OWL Chicago Guide

CSE and ASA Styles

For information on CSE (Council of Science Editors) style, see our guide. Or check out the CSE Style website

For information on ASA (American Sociological Association) style, see our ASA Guide. Or go to the ASA Style website

Quoting vs. Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing

You need to provide a citation whether you're summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting directly from a work. 


Quoting directly from a source should be done sparingly. Writers typically quote from a text when using statistical data, providing textual evidence from a poem or literature, or providing a unique definition.

Example One: The University of Maine at Augusta's mission statement is to "transform the lives of students of every age and background across the state of Maine and beyond through access to high-quality distance and on-site education, excellent student support and civic engagement, and innovative professional and liberal arts programs." 

Example Two: In "The Unbeginning" the poem is true to form. The first line, "-- or, maybe you could just give up on beginnings. After all," does in fact seem to not begin the poem so much as continue it from some other thought (Hillman 34). 


To paraphrase means to explain someone else's work in your own words while still giving credit to the author for their thoughts. Paraphrasing is often more desired than quoting because it shows you understand the topic and the research you have done.

Example One: In a 2022 New York Times article on rewilding her garden, Margaret Renkl argues that while many people think environmentalism takes great effort, it can be easy to make just a small difference. One example she provides is to put a milkweed plant out on your balcony to attract butterflies. 

Example Two: Octavia Butler's work is part of a history of political commentary existing within the science fiction genre, however, in her novels Butler creates political agency specifically for Black women (Hampton 72). 


A summary is typically used to give the reader a general overview or history of your topic. You may end up citing a few different authors when writing a summary. 

Example One: In Charlotte Perkins Gilman's novel, The Yellow Wallpaper, the main character is a woman whose husband locks her into a room as a way of "treating" her post-partum depression. The story is told through the woman's journal entries. As the woman's imprisonment continues, she comes to believe that there is a figure emerging from the peeling yellow wallpaper in the room - a woman who must be freed from the wallpaper. 

Example Two: Numerous studies have established that climate change will effect ecosystems in Maine in several ways (DeUrioste-Stone et al., 2016; Lesser, 2016; Elias, 2019; Kim et al., 2021).

How to Avoid Plagiarism Video Series

What is plagiarism and how to avoid it

This video series from Scribbr goes over the basics of plagiarism, how to use quotes, paraphrase, summarize, and cite your sources. The link to the full video series will appear at the end of this introductory video. 

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