Citing Sources in a Research Paper


| What Is a Citation? | Why do We Cite? | Citation Style | Style Guides |


What Is a Citation?

In research and writing, a citation is a brief reference to a source of published information, providing sufficient bibliographic detail to enable the reader to locate a copy of the source (if copies exist). A citation that does not provide the minimum amount of information is considered incomplete. Citations found in printed and electronic documents are not always correct--they may contain erroneous information, making it impossible for the researcher to locate the original source. The elements included in a citation depend on the format of the material cited (book, article, electronic document, etc.).

Citing Books

A book citation can be distinguished from an article citation by the presence of 1) place of publication and 2) publisher. Also, the publication date for a book is usually given as the year, rather than the month and year, as may be the case for an issue of a periodical.

Example: Klotzko, Arlene J., ed. The Cloning Sourcebook. New York: Oxford UP, 2001.

Citing Articles

A citation for an article published in a periodical (newspaper, magazine, or scholarly journal) can be distinguished from a book citation by the presence of 1) the article title, 2) the journal title, 3) the volume number, and 4) inclusive page numbers.

Example: Wara, Michael W. "Permanent El Niño-Like Conditions during the Pliocene Warm Period." Science 309 (2005): 758-762.

A citation for a work (essay, article, story, poem, etc.) published in a collected work or anthology can be distinguished from a book citation by the presence of 1) the article title in addition to the title of the book and 2) inclusive page numbers; and from a citation for a periodical article by the presence of 1) place of publication and 2) publisher.

Example: Loughran, James N. "Reasons for Being Just." The Value of Justice: Essays on the Theory and Practice of Social Virtue. Ed. Charles A. Kelbley. New York: Fordham UP, 1979. 39-57.

Citing Electronic Sources

A citation for a document retrieved from an electronic database or online publication differs from a citation for an article published in print by the presence of an Internet address, usually the URL of the document at the time it was retrieved.

Example: VandenBos, G., Knapp, S., & Doe, J. (2001). Role of reference elements in the selection of resources by psychology undergraduates. Journal of Bibliographic Research, 5, 117-123. Retrieved October 13, 2001, from http://jbr.org/articles.html


Why Do We Cite?

Scholars and students cite to inform their readers of the sources used in their research and to credit individuals whose previous efforts have facilitated their work. Plagiarism is the presentation of a little-known fact or an idea found in another source as if it were one's own, a serious breach of academic integrity. Promising careers in academia have foundered on a scholar's failure to give credit where credit was due, and many colleges and universities in the United States, including WCSU, consider plagiarism grounds for disciplinary action.

Citations are also used in indexes and abstracting services, bibliographies, and electronic databases that specialize in compiling lists of sources to facilitate research (often in a specific discipline or field of study). Because these tools are published by different publishing companies and citation style is not standardized, the same work may be cited slightly differently in one index or bibliography than in another, as these two examples illustrate:

A foster care research agenda for the '90s. R. Goerge and others. bibl Child Welf v73 p525-49 S/O '94
(from Social Sciences Index)

Goerge, Robert; Wulczyn, Fred; & Fanshel, David. (1994). A foster care research agenda for the '90s. Child Welfare, 73, 525-549.
(from Child Development Abstracts and Bibliography)

PLEASE NOTE that in the citation from Social Sciences Index, the journal title Child Welf is an abbreviation of the full title Child Welfare, and the month of issue is abbreviated S/O for September/October. The publisher's conventions of abbreviation are usually stated at the beginning of each index volume, often in a list of "Abbreviations of Periodicals Indexed." Abbreviated titles are rarely used in electronic journal databases.


Citation Style

Unfortunately for the student, there is no single standardized format for citations. Different forms have evolved through usage in specific disciplines. The three most commonly used citation styles have been developed by the Modern Language Association (MLA) for use in the humanities, the American Psychological Association (APA) for use in the social sciences, and in The Chicago Manual of Style, preferred by many writers. The following citations, representing the same book, illustrate differences between the three styles:

MLA Style:
Leakey, Richard, and Roger Lewin. Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

APA Style:
Leakey, R., & Lewin, R. (1992). Origins reconsidered: In search of what makes us human. New York: Doubleday.

The Chicago Manual of Style:
Leakey, Richard, and Roger Lewin. Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human. New York, Doubleday, 1992.

This lack of uniformity can make life difficult for the student. If you are writing a research paper for a particular course, the professor may require that a specific citation style be used for the assignment. Read the course syllabus carefully--if citation style is not specified in the syllabus, ask your instructor before investing time and effort in the formatting of your notes and bibliography. If you are allowed to choose a citation style, then once you have made your decision, be sure to maintain the same style throughout the paper. Your instructor will expect consistency and may count any inconsistencies against you.


Style Guides

Here is a list of published guides to citation style, available in print from the WCSU libraries, for use in citing sources published in print and online. Please note that items on RESERVE have a shorter borrowing period than normal. To check out a guide at the Circulation Desk, you must present your barcoded student ID card. Copies in reference may not be checked out, but you may use them on the premises and make photocopies of the pages you need. Copy machines are available on the first floor of the Haas Library (near the CyberCafe) and on the third floor.

The ACS Style Guide: A Manual for Authors and Editors. 2nd edition.Haas Ref QD 8.5.A25 1997
American Medical Association Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors. 9th edition.Haas Ref R 119.A533 1998
The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law. Revised edition.Young Ref PN 4783.A83 2002
The Bedford Handbook. Hacker. 6th edition.Haas Ref PE 1408.H277 2002
The Chicago Manual of Style. 15th edition.ON RESERVE - Haas Circ Desk
A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. Turabian. 6th edition.ON RESERVE - Haas Circ;
Young Ref LB 2369.T8 1996
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th edition.ON RESERVE - Haas Circ Desk
MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing. 2nd edition.ON RESERVE - Haas Circ Desk
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 4th edition.ON RESERVE - Haas Circ;
Haas Ref BF 76.7.P83

Information on citation style is also available online. Here is a selected list of Web sites for your assistance:


Please send your comments to Joan Reitz, Haas Instruction Librarian, Western Connecticut State University.
reitzj@wcsu.edu
Last updated on August 29, 2005