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Writing & Citing

This guide will help you cite sources for your papers and demonstrate tools to make this process easier.

Giving Credit

Paraphrasing is restating someone else’s ideas into your own words. It differs from a quotation because you are not copying the source in a word-for-word manner. Like a direct quotation, paraphrased writing should be cited. Here are some tips for effective paraphrasing: 

  • After you read something, make a practice of summarizing the main concepts in your own words and record this in your notes.  
  • Avoid patchwriting which is just changing the word order or using synonyms from a thesaurus to distinguish your paraphrase from the original material. 
  • You may include specific terminology, core concepts, or names in your paraphrase to effectively restate the meaning of the original source.  

Just Because You Put It in Your Own Words...

This video (2:28) from Lehman Library explains how to give credit to someone else's ideas by paraphrasing.

Lehman Library. (2014, April 23). "Just Because You Put It in Your Own Words..." YouTube

A direct quotation or quote is restating someone’s ideas or words exactly in your writing. Use direct quotations selectively to support your own ideas and used quotation marks to signify you are quoting verbatim. Consult a style manual for precise guidelines to directly quote a source. 

Direct Quote in MLA Style

According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (194).

Direct Quote in APA Style

Effective teams can be difficult to describe because "high performance along one domain does not translate to high performance along another" (Ervin et al., 2018, p. 470). 

Sources: MLA Handbook 9th ed. edition (p. 228) and Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 7th ed. (p. 272).

Summarizing condenses the meaning of long passages into a brief statement of the main ideas in your own words. You should cite the original source when you summarize.

Common knowledge is information that is widely known by the average reader or could be described in reference sources like dictionaries and encyclopedias. It includes historical events, factual information, and biographical information for well-known figures. Common knowledge does not need to be cited. 


Cal State LA students may access the premium version of Grammarly@edu for free. Grammarly can spell check, review grammar, and act as a plagiarism detection tool.

Visit the Grammarly for Students YouTube channel for tutorials to learn how you can use Grammarly to improve your writing. 


What is Plagiarism?

Academic honesty is critical to higher education. As consumers of information, we trust that scholarly writing is truthful and accurate. As a learning community, we trust that students present work that honestly demonstrates their knowledge and is not plagiarized. At Cal State LA, plagiarism is defined as the act of using ideas, words, or work of another person or persons as if they were one’s own, without giving proper credit to the original sources. Please refer to the University Catalog Appendix D – Academic Honesty for more information on plagiarism. 

The following examples of plagiarism are intended to be representative, but not all-inclusive: 

  • Failing to give credit via proper citations for others’ ideas and concepts, data and information, statements and phrases, and/or interpretations and conclusions 
  • Failing to use quotation marks when quoting directly from another, whether it be a paragraph, a sentence, or a part thereof 
  • Paraphrasing the expressions of thought by others without appropriate quotation marks or attribution 
  • Assembling parts from various works and submitting the synthesis or single paper as one’s own creation 
  • Representing another’s artistic/scholarly works, such as musical compositions, computer programs, photographs, paintings, drawings, sculptures, or similar works as one’s own

Tips to Avoid Plagiarism

  • Allow plenty of time to think about your topic, gather sources, and write and revise your paper. Plagiarism can be the result of taking shortcuts when you don’t have enough time to complete assignments.
  • When you read sources for your assignments, make clear notes about the information including the source location (author and page number), and use quotation marks when directly copying from the source. 
  • When in doubt, cite.

Generative Artificial Intelligence

If you use words or ideas in your research and writing that are not your own, they must be cited. This concept is universal and pertains to text that is created using Artificial Intelligence.  

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) by students is a complex and evolving question. Students should always defer to their instructor on if and how they might use AI to facilitate their research.  

You cannot use programs like ChatGPT or OpenAI to write entire research papers for you, and doing so would be considered plagiarism. However, there may be instances where AI can be used to support the research process or when AI is the focus of your research itself. In these cases, you must cite the tool according to the citation style you are using, such as APA or MLA.  


  • Ask the AI tool what sources it used to create the text. Are these sources trustworthy? If so, it is likely better to review the sources yourself. If the sources seem untrustworthy or cannot be located, this is an indication not to use the information. 
  • Consider saving a transcript of the generated text in its entirety. The answer an AI tool gives is likely to change depending on how the question is framed and when it is asked.  
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California State University, Los Angeles
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Los Angeles, CA 90032-8300