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Reference & Citation in Writing

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This resource provides a list of key concepts, words, and phrases that multi-lingual writers may find useful if they are new to writing in the North American educational context. It covers concepts and and key words pertaining to the stages in the writing process, style, citation and reference, and other common expressions in academic writing


When your professors or instructors say you need to give reference to some work that you used in your paper, it means that you should indicate where you got the work or information from. There are a variety of ways to write references such as APA style, MLA style, and Chicago style. Your professors or instructors will want you to use one of these styles to write references at the end of your paper. When readers read your paper, they should be able to know where you the sources have come from.


You will often hear that you need to cite your work from your professors and instructors. This means that you should indicate where the information that you're using came from. For example, when you want to use some words or phrases from some websites or books, you should let the readers know what kind of sources you used, who created the source, and when the source was created. Basically, you are giving credit to the authors of the source that you used in your paper.


Plagiarizing means that you have taken information, ideas, or phrasing from a source and then used them in your own text without mentioning anything about the author who originally created your sources. In a way, you are stealing something from people without telling the people who had created the original source. For more information on plagiarism, click here.


When you summarize, you find the main points of the original text and compose a shorter version of the original text. A summary should be able to tell the readers what the original text is about and who the author is. You may use summaries to review some materials about a topic or support your ideas. For more information on writing summaries, click here.


Paraphrase means that you take some words or sentences from your sources, and put them in your own words. You still need to mention the original author of the words and sentences by appropriate citation style (APA, MLA). You paraphrase words or sentences by changing them to different words, or sentence structures without changing the original meaning. For more information on writing paraphrases, click here .

In-text citation

In-text means in a body of text that you have composed. In-text citation means that you cite the sources that you use in your words, sentences, and paragraphs in the actual body of your essay. Whatever you are using outside information your text, you should cite the sources that you are using in-text. For example

“Keeping diary helps one think about one’s writing” (Smith, 2000, p. 23).


Quote means that you take a word, phrase, or sentence(s) directly or indirectly from the person who originally created that word or phrase or sentences. You then place these inside of quotation marks with an in-text citation.

Direct quote

Direct quote means that you take a word, phrase, sentence directly from the person who created that word, phrase, sentence. You then place this inside of quotation marks with an in-text citation.

Indirect quote

Indirect quote means that you take a word, phrase, sentence from the person who created that word and put them in your own words. When you use them in your text, you must use them with an in-text citation. In this case, you do not need quotation marks around the word, phrase, or sentence. You should still put in-text citation.

Block quote

Block quote means that you take a paragraph or two from the original source and put them in your text with citation. In a block quote, you do not need quotation mark. Usually, if the quote has more than 40 words, you should take it as a block quote.

Smith (2000) said that a student should keep a diary. According to Smith (2000),
A student needs to keep a diary to think about certain topics and write about them in his or her own words. Keeping a diary gives students the opportunities to express their ideas and reflect on their everyday life and write about how they felt or thought about certain topics (Smith, 2000, p. 23).