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How to Cite

Citations, aka, references give credit to others for their work and ideas and allow readers to track down the original work if they choose. The purpose of this guide is to help you identify the basic elements of a citation for some common types of materials. You will find much more detailed instructions to formatting your references in the official guide for the style you are using. Click the "Major Styles" tab and/or the "Using Style Guides" tab to learn more about finding and using style guides. 

Whenever you use someone else's words or ideas in your paper or presentation, you must indicate that this information is borrowed by citing your source. This applies to written sources you've used, such as books, articles and web pages, as well as other formats, such as images, sounds, TV/film clips, and DVDs. Failure to cite such sources may be considered plagiarism. Avoid distress and embarrassment by learning exactly what to cite – the who, what, where and when of your source!

Examining Your Source


Who wrote or created it? Examples:

  • An individual author, musician, artist or other type of creator? a group of authors/creators? a corporation or organization (also known as corporate author)?
  • Is the author/creator anonymous or pseudonymous?

In all these cases the author or creator must be credited. The sole exception is if the author is genuinely unknown - your style guide will explain how to format a citation with an unknown author. Check your style guide's index to find instructions for "author, unknown" or similar phrases.

Depending on the material type:                                                                                

  • Who published it? (primarily print materials)
  • Who produced it? (primarily cds/dvds/videos)


Other points to consider:

Does the work that you are citing appear within a larger work? Examples include journal articles, encyclopedia or dictionary entries and anthologies.

  • Depending on the exact type of material you may have to credit the author/creator/editor of the larger work as well.
  • Was the work originally created in another language?
  • The translator will need to be credited, as well as the original author/creator.



What type of material did your source come from? Note, different material types have different citation elements so "what" to record can differ from source to source.

Just a few examples:

  • Book chapter versus blog entry: Book citations include the city of publication; blog citations never include this information.
  • Edited book versus journal article: Books with editors (usually collections of essays, plays, poetry etc.) require that you cite the editor as well as the author of the chapter you used; Journals have editors too but article citations do not include the editor's name.
  • Online article versus e-Book chapter: Some citation styles require that you include the date you accessed an online article or website; e-Book citations do not include the date accessed.
  • Monograph versus anthology: Monographs (books where the entire publication was written by an author or group of authors) require that you cite the book title only, not the title of the chapter you are quoting from; anthologies (collections of essays, plays, poetry etc all written by different people) require that you cite the title of the anthology AND the title of the chapter you are quoting from.



  • Where was it published? (if relevant – applies primarily to print books)
  • Where did you find it? (if relevant - applies primarily to online items and items which are available in more than one format)
    • did you read the article in a print journal? on the publisher's website? in an article database? on the author's personal page?
    • did you read the print book or the e-book? If the e-book - which platform was it?

Depending on the style guide you are using you may need to include this information.



  • When was it published?
  • Did it appear in a particular edition of a larger work? What are the details of the particular edition?
  • Did you access it on a particular date? (if relevant – applies primarily to web content)