Skip to Top NavigationSkip to Utility NavigationSkip to Search
Mobile Menu
Pages Within Research Tutorial

Research Tutorial—Part 6

Citing Sources

In this section:  

Why It's Important

The fact that there is a section in this tutorial about citations should come as no surprise to anyone. For most people, the need to "cite your sources" has been drummed into them for many years.

But why? Why exactly is it so important?

Really, it all comes down to acknowledging the work that someone else did. People go to a lot of time and effort (A LOT!) when they publish a book or an article. It can take years of research and writing and editing before something gets published. It's only fair that if you use the work that they did, that you acknowledge that they did it.

You wouldn't want someone else taking credit for work that you did, would you?

So that's the point behind citing your sources—to acknowledge the time and effort that someone else spent researching and writing about the topic (not to mention avoiding being in violation of the University's Academic Honesty Policy), and to let other people know how to find that work (and yes, professors really do track down the sources you cite.)

What Every Citation Needs

No matter what type of source you are using, you need to keep track of the following things for a citation:

  • Who Wrote It (the author might be one or more people, or it could be an organization)
  • What It's Called (the title of the article or chapter itself AND the book or journal you found it in)
  • Who Published It and When (the publisher name and publication date)
  • Exactly Where You Found the Information (the page number(s))

For traditional printed materials like books and journal articles, this information is pretty easy to find (even if you're accessing them electronically, like through a database). For websites, finding this information can be a little trickier but that list above should look pretty familiar. It's nearly the same list of things that you need to look for when you are evaluating that website.

Citation Formats

Different academic disciplines have different ways of formatting citations. English/literature use a style called MLA. Psychology (and most of the social sciences) use one called APA. History uses one called Chicago-Turabian. Medical fields, business, and engineering all have their own styles as well.

They're all just slightly different ways of presenting the same information. Make sure to ask your professor what citation style you should use if your assignment sheet or syllabus doesn't say.

In this tutorial, we will be showing examples of MLA and APA citation styles, as those are the two most commonly used.

Citing Books:
The basic format for book citations is as follows:

Last name, first name. Title of book. City of publication: Publisher, Publication Date.

Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. New York: Penguin, 1987. spacer

Author, A. A. (year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: spacerPublisher.

Calfee, R. C., & Valencia, R. R. (1991). APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publication. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

As you can see, all the information we talked about above is there in both styles. It's just in different order, with different punctuation rules.

Citing Journal Articles:
Author (s). "Title of article." Title of journal, volume, issue, year, pages.


Bagchi, Alaknanda. "Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi's Bashai Tudu." Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., and Author, C.C. (year). Title of article. Title of periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. doi:

Scruton, R. (1996). The eclipse of listening. The New Criterion, 15(3), 5-13.

Or (electronic article):
Brownlie, D. (2007). Toward effective poster presentations: An annotated bibliography. European Journal of Marketing, 41, 1245-1283.

Making the Databases Work for You

One of the neat things about finding journal articles in the databases is that many of them will generate citations for you. However, these citations aren't always 100 percent correct, so you need to check them. But they will certainly get you a large part of the way there!

Different databases have the "Cite" option located in different places, and not all the databases even have it.

If you are in an EBSCO database (it'll say so in the upper left corner of the page), you can generate a citation by:

  • Clicking on an article title from your results list
  • Looking on the right side of the page for an icon that looks like a sheet of paper and/or the word "Cite" (sometimes the word only appears if you hover your mouse over the icon)

Screenshot of detailed record for article titled “The Cultural Cover-up of College Athletes: How Organized Culture Perpetuates an Unrealistic and Idealized Balancing Act” in Academic Search Premier. Cite option on the right side of the screen is circled.

  • Click on "Cite" and choose your citation style in the window that pops up above the article title:

Close-up screenshot of citation format window with APA citation circled.

  • Copy the citation into your bibliography, make any corrections necessary, and be done with that citation!

If you are in a ProQuest Database, the process is similar:

  • Click on an article title from your results list
  • Look to the right of the screen for the "Cite" button.

Screenshot of article titled “Collegiate athletes’ experience of the meaning of sports injury: A phenomenological investigation” in ProQuest Social Science Journals database. Cite option on the right of the screen is circled.

  • Click on "Cite" and then click on change to choose your citation style from the window that pops up.

Close-up screenshot of cite window with change button circled.

  • Copy the citation into your bibliography, make any corrections necessary, and be done with that citation!

Online Resources for Citation Formats

Confusing, right? Only a little. Learning how to do citations takes a little bit of time, but fortunately there are some really good websites out there that show you how to format them.

Our particular favorites are:
Online Writing Lab (OWL) from Purdue University—an extensive site for both MLA and APA citation styles. They provide examples of almost any kind of source you might need to cite.

Chicago Manual of Style from Purdue OWL—Purdue University also has an extensive style guide for the Chicago Manual.

Now go forth and cite ALL your sources. And remember, it's hard to cite too much, and your professors would rather see too many citations than not enough. When in doubt, cite it.

Introduction        Part 1       Part 2       Part 3       Part 4       Part 5      Part 6       Part 7