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Researchers use other authors' works to learn about a topic, make connections, support arguments, and discover gaps in research. Citing sources ensures that researchers get credit for their work. It shows that you've done research for your paper. It also helps other researchers find more useful sources on the topic. You should cite a source any time you directly quote that source, paraphrase the source, or generally use an author's ideas to inform your research.
If you're not sure whether you need to cite something, just cite it--it's better to be safe than sorry!
Failing to cite sources is plagiarism, which is a violation of the Honor Pledge. For more on the Honor Pledge and Randolph College's plagiarism policies, see the Student Handbook.
What goes into a citation?
Often your professor will tell you which style to use for an assignment, but if the decision is up to you, here's a quick breakdown of which styles typically apply to which subjects:
APA is most often used in social sciences--fields like education, sociology, psychology, and political science
MLA is most often used in the humanities--fields like philosophy, religious studies, and English
Chicago is most often used in history, art history, music, and business