How to use references and quotations

"quotation is the repetition of a sentence, phrase, or passage from speech or text that someone has said or written 

— Wikipedia  

In this article you will learn why, when and how to cite your sources in your own works, as well as the elements of a standard bibliographic reference, several templates and even an automatic reference generator.

Why should you cite your sources?

Including citations and quotations to your works lends credibility to their content, helps break up the visual monotony of the text, and provides readers with outside sources to further explore the topics covered.

In addition, citations and quotations allow writers to leverage their own research efforts. The source of key information is tracked and can be easily found in published articles.

As long as their sources are trustworthy, citations and quotations add value to the text.

It is also an elegant way to recognize creators who share their ideas. Citing your sources let readers know that you haven't simply plagiarized other people's writing.

Give back to Cesar what belongs to Cesar

Citations respond to the ethical and legal need to recognize the author's authorship of his or her work.   

The Copyright Act guarantees creators economic rights as well as moral rightsincluding the right of attribution.   

This right provides that an author has the right to claim the creation of his or her workthat is, to have his or her name associated with itnotably by indicating bibliographic references

A legal matter

The Copyright Act provides for a fair use exception* that allows citations to be used for certain purposes: education, research, review, criticism, news reporting.

However, the law requires that the source of the work be acknowledged. This is the bare minimum.

In fact, it is always best to get permission, even if you do give credit.

*Fair use

Warning! Fair use is a complex notion, which is not quantifiable, and requires a case-by-case analysis process that depends on context. It cannot simply be transposed into a uniform policy.

When to use citations?

It is worth quoting its sources...  

"When one: 

  • Quotes an author by reporting word for word what he or she has said or written (copy and paste)  

  • Puts into their own words what someone else has said or written (paraphrasing 

  • Translates an excerpt into another language  

  • Include photographs, images, data, graphs... into a document "  

    —  Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, Bibliothèque et Archives, Pourquoi citer ses sources 

Anatomy of bibliographic reference

complete bibliographic reference includes the following elements  

  • Author's name  

  • Title of the document  

  • Publisher  

  • Place and year of publication  

  • Page numbers reproduced 

The elements that make up a bibliographic reference may vary depending on the type of document cited. Here are examples of APA references: 

Online Journal article

Wong, K. (2004). Asian-Based Development Journalism and Political Elections. Gazette (Leiden, Netherlands), 66(1), 25–40. 

Printed book

Denning, B. A. (2005). Landmarks in the Law (1st ed.). Oxford University Press.


Taylor, C. (2018b). The Ethics of Authenticity (Reprint ed.) [E-book]. Harvard University Press.

Press release

C. (2020, March 30). Copibec taking action as COVID-19 hits the arts and culture industry [Press release]. 

APA style citations

There are several styles of bibliographic references.

Of course, college and university students can refer to the standards of their faculty or institution. 

When looking for best practices for creating the references that accompany citations, we find the APA style. 

It's one of the standards in the field, aimed at both students and professionals to help them write citations in a consistent manner.

"APA style is an editorial format defined by the American Psychological Association for scientific publications and writings, in the humanities and behavioral sciences."

— Wikipédia, APA style 

APA reference generator

The international association of publishers Scribbr offers its APA citation generator for free.   

The tool allows you to create citations according to the type of source; including websites, journal articles, books, reports and images.