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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. /p>

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:

MLA:
Last name, first name. Title of book. City of publication: Publisher, year of publication.
spacerMedium of publication.

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

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

Example:
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:
MLA:
Last name, first name. "Title of article." Title of journal volume.issue (year): pages.
spacerMedium of publication. Date accessed if it is electronic.

Example:
Wheelis, Mark. "Investigating Disease Outbreaks Under a Protocol to the
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." Emerging Infectious Diseases spacer6.6 (2000): 595-600. Web. 8 Feb. 2009.

APA:
Author, A. A., Author, B. B., and Author, C.C. (year). Title of article. Title of periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. doi:http://dx.doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyyy if accessed
spacerelectronically

Example:
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.
spacerspacerdoi:10.1108/03090560710821161

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)

EBSCO cite

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

EBSCO cite2

  • 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 above the article title for the "Cite" button

ProQuest cite

  • Click on "Cite" and choose your citation style from the window that pops up

ProQuest cite2

  • 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 Citations and Style Guides page has a long list of websites that can help you.

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-style Citation Quick Guide—handy quick reference if you're in a history class and haven't done Chicago-style citations before.

LIU/CW Post University's Citation Style for Research Papers—another good guide, showing all of the major citation styles.

Citation Machine—this website walks you through the process of inputting the necessary information and generates the citation based on what you put in. High accuracy, and they have been adding categories for online media such as emails and blogs.

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