All are good for research papers: cite is short for citation, site is a place, and sight is what your eyeballs are for. The Web has a lot to answer for, good and bad. One item in the minus column is the increased popularity of site and people throwing these sound-alikes all over the place!



To cite something means to do right by whoever said it and give them credit — for instance, if you add a brilliant statement to a paper but you’re not the one who originally wrote it, you should cite, or point to, the original author.

Using cite with the meaning “to reference” or “to note” is just one of several similar uses. A military or other official report can cite someone for an outstanding act of service, and a legal representative can cite individuals, or summon them, to show up in court. To cite a source when writing or verbally repeating something first spoken by someone else is to give a “citation” or “notation” that gives credit where credit is due.


Your sight is your ability to see. If you’re maneuvering through the house at midnight using your shins to locate the furniture, you’ll appreciate your sight that much more. You could also turn a light on.

Sight has many different senses. It can mean the range of your vision, as in when you freak out when your little puppy goes out of sight. You can “take in the sights,” meaning you’re seeing all the special attractions of a town (also known as sightseeing). Sight can also be a verb, as when you sight a celebrity at your local taco stand, or when you sight your target using the sight on your gun, before you shoot.


A site is a location. The leader of a Zombie Army might remind his underlings: “Your web site is just a collection of pages at one address on the Web. Your burial site is where you find more soldiers!”

Site can also refer to a specific parcel of land, such as a building site or a burial site. Although a website has no physical location, it does have a virtual one, which is reached the same way a physical location is: by going to an address.

Cite is a verb to mean to quote, to summon officially, to mention formally, or even to compliment. It’s also the noun form of the same things: a formal summons, or an official mention. You have to cite your sources when you write a paper, but it’s also a nod to wherever you got your idea. Check out what cite can do:

The band, formed in Ohio 10 years ago, cite numerous influences in different genres from hip-hop to rock and blues. (Reuters)

He was taken to his residence in Bellevue, cited and released. (Seattle Times)

A site is a specified place, such as a building site, but it’s also short for Website, which is a collection of Web pages that are found within the same URL. Either way it’s somewhere you can go:

It’s taken nearly nine years, but large-scale commercial redevelopment of the World Trade Center site is tantalizingly close to taking off. (New York Post)

The death also was reported on the singer’s web site. (Seattle Times)

Sight, of course, is vision or something that can be seen. If something is outta sight then it’s fabulous whether you can see it or not. Here’s an example of sight:

Visually impaired servers who have some sight wear blindfolds. (New York Times)

Though cite, site, and sight were confused before the Internet, we are more likely to use sitefor all of them because we use it so often for Website. If you can remember cite is short forcitation and site is a location, whether it’s online or off, you’ll have the sight to use the words correctly.

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