Copyright Corner: Citation: ‘If you didn’t write it, you must cite it!’

by Roxanne MacMillan on 2022-06-20T08:30:00-03:00 in Citation, Copyright, Copyright Corner | 0 Comments

In this edition of our Copyright Corner series, we’ll look at citation. The importance of giving credit where credit is due might seem obvious. Most of us learned the basics of citing sources in high school and understand that it is required in academic writing and publication, but did you know that citation is equally important in our professional roles?

As health care workers, we demonstrate integrity and professionalism by giving credit to the creators of information that we quote, reuse, or adapt in our own publications. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Training materials, such as PowerPoint presentations or LMS courses
  • Patient education materials
  • Subject guides or other online content
  • Curriculum resources
  • Promotional materials
  • Clinical resources, such as pathways or guidelines

Remember: Citing your sources may not be sufficient!

Citation may protect you against plagiarism, but it doesn’t necessarily protect you against copyright infringement. You may need permission to use or adapt resources. Always investigate the copyright terms of use before assuming that a resource is free to use. If you are uncertain, contact Library Services at copyright@nshealth.ca. We are here to help!

Let’s look at how you can tell your readers where the information came from if you do have permission to reuse a work, or if you are quoting or paraphrasing a short excerpt.

Citation styles

There are many citation styles, including:

  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • AMA (American Medical Association)
  • NLM/Vancouver (also referred to as the Vancouver system or the author-number system (MacOdrum Library, n.d.)).

For published works (scholarly or otherwise), you should always ask your publisher if a particular citation style is required. For example, if you are publishing a subject guide with Library Services, we will ask you to use APA style. A medical journal publisher may require that you format your article in AMA or NLM/Vancouver style.

Whatever citation style you use, the basic principles are the same. If you quote or paraphrase from a source, the borrowed text is indicated by an in-text citation, which corresponds to an entry in your reference list. You can think of in-text citations as breadcrumbs, leading you to the full reference. That reference will usually include the author’s name(s), publication date, title, publication information, and (for journal articles) the DOI (digital object identifier).

Citation managers and generators

Citation management tools, such as Zotero and Mendeley, can help you keep track of your citations and create in-text citations and reference lists. You can learn more about these tools on Library Services’ Citation Management subject guide.

Databases often include citation generators, making it easy for you to create a citation in your style of choice. In PubMed, for example, you can click on the ❛❛    Cite button (1). The citation will appear as a pop-up (2). You can then choose your preferred citation style and copy the citation.

Library Services’ new Discover search also includes generated citations. When viewing a record, under “Export to your favorite citation manager” on the right-hand side, you can choose your preferred citation style (3) and copy the citation (4).

Learn more

The next article in the Copyright Corner series will address:

  • copyright attribution and how to acknowledge materials that you have reproduced or adapted with permission.
  • attribution requirements and recommendations for Creative Commons licensed resources.
  • why it is good practice to provide attribution even when it is not required, such as for resources in the public domain.

In the meantime, you can find more information about citing sources on our Copyright subject guide. For one-on-one assistance, book a consultation with a library team member or email us at copyright@nshealth.ca.

Additional Resources

Purdue OWL: Research and Citation Resources



MacOdrum Library. (n.d.). NLM/Vancouver citation style. Carleton University. https://library.carleton.ca/guides/help/vancouver-citation-style.

Roxanne MacMillan

Librarian Educator
Central Zone

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