Homework Help: Referencing, Citations and Bibliographies

October 17, 2018 | Laura

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Research and building research skills is one of the biggest new areas when you enter high school. Last month this blog touched on issues related to plagiarism and in this post we'll expand on that into exactly how to avoid plagiarizing from the sources you use in your research.  While you may recognize creating a bibliography from elementary and middle schools, the rules and procedures around referencing sources change dramatically in high school.  Teachers will begin referring to the process as "citing your sources" and ask you to follow detailed guides to format these citations.  It can be very confusing at first and it’s not uncommon to muddle your way through citing for your first few assignments. 

Good news, we're here to help!

Citing your sources is all about giving credit to the author or creator of the source you are using in your assignment.  It does not matter whether the source is a website, article or book there is a format to follow for giving that credit.  In addition you will need to include an "in-text" citation. Confused yet? Check out this easy to understand video from North Carolina State University.

The two most popular citation styles used in high school are MLA (Modern Language Association) or APA (American Psychological Association).  Often informally called "style guides" or "research handbooks", these manuals give you detailed directions on how to do everything from formatting your papers to citing the sources you use.  To throw another wrench into things, these handbooks get updated every few years, meaning the requirements for your citations can change, so ensure you are following the most up to date guide. The MLA Hanbook is in its 8th edition and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association is in its 6th edition.

MLA Handbook   Publication manual of the American Psychological Association

There are also fantastic websites, usually produced by colleges and universities throughout North America, that break down these guides and all things citation in very easy to understand language and with great practical examples.  The most well know website is the Purdue Writing Lab, from Purdue University. It does a great job of giving you all of the information you might need, with examples on how to cite everything from a website to a tweet.  It also covers both MLA and APA styles. 

Other great websites are:

Citing Sources / Create Your Bibliography from University of Toronto Libraries

How to Cite from Concordia University Library

Online citation generators are a great time saver and offer much-needed help with the most detailed aspects of creating your citations, like order of information and punctuation.  They can be a very useful tool in creating a Reference page or a Works Cited list.  Just be mindful that you should always double-check the citations they create for you against the style guide (MLA or APA) that you are following.  If you are using the ‘auto-cite’ option for a website source it is important to confirm that they did not miss necessary information, such as the author or date.

Citation Machine


Cite This for Me


Keep in mind that many of these free sites do offer "enhanced" services offering more features for a monthly cost.  If you only want the free assistance, make sure you read the website carefully. 

Toronto Public Library offers free databases to help with your research, and not only are they full of published and authoritative sources but they also help you with citing.  Almost every database will give you the properly formatted citation information you need as part of their tools features.  This can save you a lot of headaches when putting together your resource lists.

For more help with homework, research and tutoring, visit our Homework Help page.