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Citing Sources: What is a Citation?

What is a Citation or Reference?

A citation or reference is a short description of a resource that is used in a paper or project.  Whenever you refer to an idea that is not originally yours, or quote someone else's work, you must give credit to the originator by citing that source in your paper.  You should also provide documentation for any facts or figures you use that are not common knowledge.  All the sources you use will be compiled into a list at the end of your paper.  This is called a Bibliography, Reference List, or a Works Cited.

Parts of a Citation

A citation or reference includes all the information needed for someone to identify and find the source. There are 4 main parts to every citation:  Author, Date, Title, & Location.  Depending on the citation style, a citation may include any of the following: title, author, date, page numbers, publisher, place of publication, etc.


How to Determine if it is an Article or a Book

The parts of a citation will help you determine if it is a book, an article, or a webpage, etc.


What is a Citation Style?

A citation style is the format used when citing a resource.  Styles vary according to academic disciplines.  The same elements are there, but the formatting is different.

Common citation styles include:

  • AMA (American Medical Association)
  • APA (American Psychological Association)
  • ASA (American Sociological Association)
  • Chicago/Turabian
  • MLA (Modern Language Association)
  • NLM (National Library of Medicine)
  • Vancouver/Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals

For examples of each style, see the Styles/Formats tab above.

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