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How To: Citation and Style Guides

Use the left-hand tabs below to learn about plagiarism, copyright, and commonly used citation styles.


Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to authors. The owner of copyright has the exclusive right to do and authorize the following:

  • To reproduce the work;
  • To prepare derivative works based upon the work;
  • To distribute copies of the work to the public by sale or transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending;
  • To prohibit other persons from using the work without permission;
  • To perform the work publicly.

Copyright protection covers both published and unpublished works as well as out-of-print materials. 

Facts, ideas, procedures, processes, systems, concepts, principles or discoveries cannot be copyrighted.  However, some of these can be protected by patent or trade secret laws.

Copyright protection currently lasts for the life of the author plus 70 years.  If there is more than one author copyright protection lasts for the life of the last author's death plus 70 years. 

Copyright Basics, from the U.S. Copyright Office, provides an excellent overview of the copyright law and procedures.

The Western Nevada College Copyright Policy.  "It shall be the policy of Western Nevada College to observe and adhere to the provisions set forth in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, and any subsequent revisions or additions, including the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Technology, Education, and the Copyright Harmonization (TEACH ) Act that impact the reproduction of copyrighted materials for educational purposes. It shall also be the policy of Western Nevada College to observe and adhere to the provisions of the Higher Education Act of 2008 that prohibit the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials through illegal downloading or peer-to-peer distribution of intellectual property."


The guide does not supply legal advice nor is it intended to replace the advice of legal counsel. 

The information on this subject guide was adapted from the McGoonan Library of Medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Fair Use

Under the “fair use” rule of copyright law, an author may make limited use of another author’s work without asking permission. However, “fair use” is open to interpretation. Fair use is intended to support teaching, research, and scholarship, but educational purpose alone does not make every use of a work fair. It is always important to analyze how you are going use a particular work against the following four factors of fair use.

  1. What is your purpose in using the material? Are you going to use the material for monetary gain or for education or research purposes?
  2. What is the characteristic nature of work – is it fact or fiction; has it been published or not?
  3. How much of the work are you going to use? Small amount or large? Is it the significant or central part of the work?
  4. How will your use of the work effect the author’s or the publisher’s ability to sell the material? If your purpose is for research or education, your effect on the market value may be difficult to prove. However, if your purpose is commercial gain, then you are not following fair use.

The Fair Use Evaluator can help you decide if you are using copyrighted materials "fairly" under the U.S. Copyright Law.

Exceptions for Instructors assists in identifying if an intended use meets the requirements set out in the copyright law.

The following two charts can provide helpful information on deciding if you are using copyrighted material fairly.

U.S. Copyright Office provides a fact sheet on Fair Use. 

University of Texas provides a summary of Fair Use.

Guidelines for Print Materials:

  • Single Chapter from a book
  • A single article from a journal issue or newspaper
  • A short story, essay, or poem from an individual work.
  • A chart, graph, diagram, drawing, cartoon, or picture from a book, journal, or newspaper.

Guidelines for Distributing Copies

  • Copies made do not substitute for the purchase of books or journals.
  • Provide a copyright notice on the first page of the material copied. The American Library Association recommends using "Notice: This material is subject to the copyright law of the United States."
  • Provide only one copy per student which becomes the property of the student.
  • Copying the works for subsequent semesters requires copyright permission.
  • Do not charge the students beyond the cost of making the photocopy.

Guidelines for Using Materials Found on the Internet

  • Look on the webpage to see if there is information on how to use the work. If guidelines exist - use them!
  • Always credit the source of your information
  • If you are using material from the Internet on your webpage ask permission or link to the site.
  • If you gather and receive permission to use the material keep a copy of your request for permission and their response.
  • Western Nevada College authorized users may link to full text journal articles from the databases available through the WNC Library.

Guidelines for Using Multi-Media

Multimedia works are created by combining copyrighted media elements such as motion media, music, other sounds, graphics, and text. It is recommended that you use only small portions of other people's works.

What is considered a small portion?

  • Motion media: Up to 10% or three minutes, whichever is less.
  • Text: Up to 10% or 1,000 words, whichever is less. (The limits on poetry are more restrictive.)
  • Music: Up to 10% of an individual copyrighted musical composition, or up to 10% of a copyrighted musical composition embodied on a sound recording. However, no more than 30 seconds may be used without gaining permission from the copyright owner or licensing collective.
  • Illustrations and photos: Under the guidelines, "a photograph or illustration may be used in its entirety, but no more than five images by one artist or photographer may be incorporated into any one multimedia program. From a published collective work, not more than 10% or 15 images, whichever is less, may be used."
  • Numerical Data Sets: Up to 10% or 2,5000 fields or cell entries, whichever is less.

The following guidelines allow you to use multimedia without permission of lawfully acquired copyrighted works.

  • You may incorporate portions of copyrighted works when creating your own multimedia projects for educational or instructional (not commercial) purposes.
    • Students may incorporate "portions" of copyrighted materials for a project in a specific course.
    • Students may display their own projects, use them in their portfolio, use the project for a job interview or as supporting materials in an application for school.
    • Faculty may use their projects for class assignments, curriculum materials, remote instruction, for conferences, presentations, or workshops, or for their professional portfolio.
  • Give attribution to the original source of all copyrighted material used.
  • Place a copyright notice on the opening screen of the multimedia program and accompanying print material that "certain materials are included under fair use exemption of the U.S. Copyright Law...and are restricted from further use."
  • Fair use of the copyrighted materials expires at the end of two years. To use the project again you need to obtain permission.

Guidelines for Images

Fair Use Guidelines For Digital Images provides useful information for assessing fair use of digital images from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education

The Center for Media and Social Impact from the School of Communication at American University. This site will help media literacy educators understand their rights under the doctrine of fair use in order to help them more effectively use media as an essential part of their teaching.

For More Information...

  • U.S. Copyright Office

    "The Copyright Office is an office of record, a place where claims to copyright are registered and where documents relating to copyright may be recorded when the requirements of the copyright law are met. The Copyright Office furnishes information about the provisions of the copyright law and the procedures for making a registration or recordation."

  • U.S. Copyright Information Circulars and Forms

    "Link to the circulars and fact sheets providing basic information about registration, fees, compulsory licenses, and other aspects of the copyright process."

  • Reproduction of Copyrighted Works by Educators and Librarians (Circular 21 from the U.S. Copyright Office)

  • Crash Course in Copyright

    An excellent resource if you want to learn more about copyright. Georgia Harper from the University of Texas Libraries is responsible for the course content which is updated on a regular basic and licensed under Creative Commons.

  • 10 Big Myths about copyright explained

    Brad Templeton presents the "10" common myths regarding copyright.

  • Copyright Information

    University of Minnesota has put together an extensive website on copyright and fair use.

  • Copyright for Libraries

    A project of the American Library Association providing useful information on using copyrighted material in an academic setting.

Obtaining Permission for Use

Need to gather permission to use copyrighted material?

You may contact Nichole Paul at the WNC Library for assistance with questions concerning copyright, or 445-3229. The Library works with the Copyright Clearance Center to obtain permission to reproduce copyrighted content such as journal and book chapters, place items on library reserve, or on electronic reserve. Click on Copyright Clearance Center for more information about their services.

Creative Commons provides a pool of CC-licensed content that you can freely and legally use.   You can locate hundreds of millions of works — from songs and videos to scientific and academic material — available to the public for free and legal use under the terms of our copyright licenses, with more being contributed every day."

If you choose to seek permission on your own, the University of Texas Libraries provides valuable information about how to obtain permission to use a particular work. It also includes a Sample Letter Requesting Permission, and information on what to do if you cannot find the owner for permission.

SHERPA/RoMEO  is a searchable database of publisher's policies regarding the self- archiving of journal articles on the web and in Open Access repositories.”  As an academic author putting articles you have published online can be a difficult situation.  The publisher may or may not allow you to post the articles.  Search this database to find out the conditions that may apply.