You are here

Citing & writing: Services & resources for Fraser International College (FIC) students

What do you have to cite, and why do you have to cite it?

"Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery." As true as this may be, when it comes to academic research and writing, you must always give credit when you use someone else's words or ideas, and provide the information for where you got it. Giving credit and providing this information is called citing, and citing properly is one part of academic integrity or academic honesty.

Learn about academic integrity and when and how it is acceptable to use other people's ideas with this short and very funny video:

How do you cite?

There are a number of different ways to cite your sources. Although formatting rules can vary, all citations consist of:

  1. An "in-text citation." This is a very quick note of where you got your information that is inserted in your paper at the point where you've used someone else's idea.
  2. A reference list. This is the section at the very end of your paper where you give detailed information on how to find the sources you've used. Other words for Reference List  (APA style) that mean the same thing are Works Cited (MLA style) and Bibliography.

No matter which style you use, all citations are made up of four elements. The order and appearance of these elements may look different from style to style, but all citations must include this information:

  1. Who (Author or authors)
  2. When (Year of publication)
  3. What (Title)
  4. Where (Source - for books this is the publisher, and for journal articles this is the journal title and information such as volume, issue, page numbers, and DOI)

To find the information you need for your citation, look at the publication information (book) or the abstract page (article).

Here is a diagram of an abstract page as you will see it in the Academic Search Premier database:

Abstract page

What is a DOI?

A DOI is a unique number assigned to articles in electronic databases. It is a permanent identifying number, and so is a more reliable way to tell your reader where you found the article than a URL or a database name, which may change over time or be hidden behind a proxy server. You can use a DOI resolver to track down known articles for which you have a DOI number. Just copy and paste the DOI to be directed to the article.

Style & citation guides: Formatting your citations correctly

Different departments often require different citation styles for research papers. Always check with your instructor which style they require. Here are three of the most common citation styles. Watch the animated tutorials for APA and MLA for a step-by-step demonstration of building an in-text citation and a reference list.

Avoiding plagiarism: Giving credit where credit is due

Plagiarism is the result of not citing correctly. Whether it happens accidentally or on purpose, plagiarism means taking credit for someone else's ideas. Plagiarism is an example of academic dishonesty. There are often serious consequences for academic dishonesty. It is up to you to learn how to recognize plagiarism and to make sure you avoid it.

SFU Library has created an interactive tutorial to help you learn about plagiarism.

Academic writing: Composing your paper

SFU Library has a number of style guides and handbooks to help you with your academic writing. Many include activities.

Academic Writing: An Introduction. By Janet Giltrow (2009).

The elements of style. By William Strunk, Jr. 50th Anniversary Reprint. (2009).

Academic Writing: Making the Transition. By Steve Marshall. (2011).


Effective academic writing
1: The paragraph. By Alice Savage and  Masoud Shafiei. (2007).

Effective academic writing
2: The short essay. By Alice Savage and  Patricia Mayer. (2005).

Effective academic writing
3: The essay. By Jason Davis and Rhonda Liss. (2006).


Academic writing: a handbook for international students by Stephen Bailey. (2006).

Academic writing: a practical guide for students by Stephen Bailey (2003).

The library has many other handbooks and style guides for you to use and borrow.

The Student Learning Commons: Help with learning, research, and writing

The Student Learning Commons provides workshops and resources to help FIC students develop their study, research and academic writing skills. See:

At this time, the Student Learning Commons does not offer personalized tutoring or consultation to FIC students, but there are other options for finding a tutor at SFU.