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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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: