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Citation Guide: Citing Sources Overview

A guide to creating citations for bibliographies and works cited pages


A citation contains the information a person needs to locate a specific source. Basic citation information for a book, for instance, includes the name(s) of author(s) or editor(s), the title of the book, the publisher's name, and the latest copyright year.
A citation style dictates the information necessary for a citation and how the information is ordered, as well as punctuation and other formatting. See Citation Styles.

A bibliography is an organized list of citations.

In an annotated bibliography, each citation is followed by a brief note—or annotation—that describes and/or evaluates the source and the information found in it. See Annotated Bibliographies.

A works cited (MLA style) or references (APA style) list presents citations for those sources referenced or cited in a particular paper, presentation, or other composition.
An in-text citation consists of just enough information to correspond to a source's full citation in a Works Cited or References list. In-text citations often require a page number (or numbers) showing exactly where relevant information was found in the original source.
An abstract is a summary of an article or other work and cannot be used as if it were the full text.  You should not reference or cite an abstract in a paper or presentation, but instead find the full text.


MLA-style and APA-style guidelines change over time, especially for citing sources accessed electronically. This guide incorporates the most up-to-date information about how to cite sources correctly.

If you use a citation generator from a database or website, doublecheck, using this guide, to be sure the generator has used the current rules.

Gathering Citation Information

Whenever you consult a source, you should record its citation information and note whether you quote (copy passages word-for-word) or you paraphrase (put passages into your own words).

For a Book

  • full name(s) of author(s) or editor(s)
  • full title of the book
  • facts of publication: city, publisher, latest copyright date
  • edition name or number, if there’s more than one
  • if applicable, name of series, volume number, and total volumes in the series
  • original publication information of any reprinted work
  • is using a specific section (introduction, forward, etc.), title, author, and page numbers of that section
  • page number(s) for information read or noted

(in addition, if you accessed an electronic book—or eBook—online:)

  • name of the website or database where you found the book (or excerpt)
  • url address (starts with http://)
  • date you accessed the book
  • a doi (digital object identifier), if available

For a Periodical Article

  • full name(s) of author(s)
  • full title of the article
  • full title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper
  • facts of publication: publication date, and, if applicable, volume and issue numbers
  • starting and ending page number(s) for the article
  • original publication information of any reprinted work
  • page number(s) for information noted

(in addition, if you accessed the article online:)

  • name of website or database where you found the article
  • url address (starts with http://)
  • date you accessed the article
  • a doi (digital object identifier), if available

For a Website

  • full name(s) of author(s) and/or sponsor(s) of the site
  • title of the website
  • original publication information of any reprinted work
  • date the website was last updated
  • date you accessed the website
  • url address (starts with http://)

For Other Sources (like films, music, photos, etc.)

  • consult a guide for the specific citation style you are using; see Citation Styles for more information

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