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If you’re using outside information in your writing, whether it’s a direct quotation or paraphrased, citations are crucial. They show your reader that you’re using credible information in your writing, and they give credit to the sources of that information (in other words, they help you avoid plagiarism). 


You’ll primarily encounter two citation styles at RMCAD: CMS (Chicago Manual Style) and APA (American Psychological Association). Occasionally, you'll also come across MLA (Modern Language Association). Take a look below for a run-down of CMS and APA, as well as our favorite citation resources.


CMS is used in classes like Art History and Humanities, and it’s characterized by two main features:


1. Footnotes are included in the body of the paper to cite outside sources. You’ll use a superscript number at the end of a sentence and include publication information for the source you’re citing at the bottom of the page. In Microsoft Word, when you want to insert a footnote, click "insert" and then "footnote." Make sure sure the superscript number is outside any punctuation.

2. A bibliography
appears at the very end of the paper and includes all of the sources used in footnotes. You’ll order the entries by the author’s last name and use a hanging indent for each. To create a hanging indent in Microsoft Word, highlight your bibliography entries, click "format" then "paragraph." Under "indentation," select "hanging" next to "special."

For more information on CMS, check out our Tip Sheets. Also, download the Liberal Arts Writing Guide on the left of this page under "Need More Citation Help?"—it contains most of the information you'll need for writing in CMS at RMCAD. And be sure to take a look at the Citation Comparison Chart below.


Citation Comparison Chart

If you need more guidance on how to cite your sources, below is a useful citation chart from Purdue OWL that compares CMS, APA, and MLA and covers some of the different types of sources you might be working with in your paper. If you're still unclear about how to cite properly, don't hesitate to ask your professor or schedule an appointment with an SLC tutor! 


APA Style

APA style requires in-text (parenthetical) citations as well as a separate References page at the end of the paper. In other words, all in-text citations have a corresponding reference that's listed on the References page (in alphabetical order by last name). See below for an example: 

What Is and Isn't Common Knowledge?

Generally speaking, you don't need to cite information that is considered "common knowledge." Common knowledge refers to information that is widely known and accepted by the majority of the population. It's also information that can easily be confirmed using a dictionary or an encyclopedia. This definition seems straightforward; however, in practice, it can be difficult to determine what is and isn't common knowledge. Check out this page from MIT that gives explanations and examples that can help you decide whether or not you need to cite your source! 


While citing oneself happens in the real world, it is typically done by scholars who have ongoing research and multiple publications. At RMCAD, it is highly unlikely you will need to cite any of your previous work. However, if you wish to use portions of a past assignment for a current one, you must still cite yourself in order to avoid self-plagiarism. That's right—reusing past work and passing it off as new is also considered plagiarism! We also recommend that you always double-check with your instructor before citing yourself for an assignment.

When citing an essay, treat it as an unpublished manuscript. We’ve included an example below:

Footnote: Wanda Butterscotch, “Artists and Self-Portraits” (essay, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, 2021), 4.

Bibliography: Butterscotch, Wanda. “Artists and Self-Portraits.” Essay, Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, 2021. 


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