3 good reasons to use citations

To prove your thoroughness and commitment

Inserting citations in your work will allow you to comply with the instructions of your teachers, who, in a number of writing tasks, require you to include some bibliographic references in order to prove that you have gathered enough information about your subject.


To make your work rich and convincing

It might be easier to back up and/or develop an idea personally by using a citation as a starting point for your analysis. This will enable your teachers to verify your capacity to mobilise several written works around a certain subject and to show discernment and very own personal thinking.

In this way, Voltaire’s words won’t apply to you: « The art of citing is the art of those who are unable to think for themselves. »


To pay homage to the authors

Citing will enable you to pick up an idea or concept developed by an author with whom you feel totally in tune, without being accused of plagiarism. Using the ideas from an author is actually not forbidden, as long as their origin is not hidden from the readers, in the respect of the copyright.


How to cite properly?

The essential rules

A reminder of the basic rules in terms of citations can always be useful. A good citation is:

  • in quotation marks and/or in italics
  • copied without any changes, in its original form
  • announced by an introductory sentence
  • one whose source document is clearly cited, most often in the footnotes
  • one that appears in the bibliography, often in accordance with a rule that has been defined by your school


Some exceptions

  • Long citations (more than three lines)

No quotation marks, but a margin to make it stand out visually from the text, as in the example below.


We can see that Prévert is expressing his benevolence in this poem:

As they have drunk a lot

They stagger a little

But up in the sky

The moon watches over them 1


1 Jacques Prévert, Song of the snails who go to a funeral, Words, 1946


  • A specific section from a long citation

If you only intend to use a small section from a full citation you can omit a part of it using square brackets […].


"Old age has a great sense of calm and freedom. When the passions relax their hold, […] we are freed from the grasp not of one mad master only, but of many.1»


1 Plato, The Republic, book VI, 315 BC


  •  Adjusted citations

Sometimes, you will need to adjust the citation in order to insert it into your sentence in a sensible way.


Georges Sand could sometimes tell Flaubert that she loved [his] spirit without fear of going over old ground.1»


1 Georges Sand, Letters to Gustave Flaubert, 12 August 1866