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Finding Materials from Citations: Reading the Citation

Learn how to read a citation and to find the book, periodical article, or other item to which it refers.

Getting Started

To find material from a citation, you must first determine the format of the material. You need to know if you're looking for a book, an article from a periodical (magazine, journal, or newspaper), or some other source, like a DVD or website. 

Read each of the following citations; can you tell which refer to books and which refer to periodical articles?  If so, use the tabs above for Finding Books and A/V Materials and Finding Articles from Periodicals.  If not, use the information below to understand how to read a citation.

Bishop, K. and Kimball, M. A. (2006). Engaging students in storytelling.Teacher Librarian, 33(4), 28-31.

Bittman, M. (2009). Food matters: A guide to conscious eating with more than 75 recipes. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Renner, Stanley. "Secular Meaning in 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find.'" College Literature 9.2 (1982): 123-32. Print.

Updike, John. "A & P." The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, and Writing. Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: St. Martin's, 1996. 487-491. Print.

Zaplan, T. (2004). Human rights for women are receiving greater attention. In L. Egendorf (Ed.), Human Rights. Retrieved from http://www.gale.cengage.com/OpposingViewpoints

Book Citations

For BOOKS, regardless of citation style, basic citation information consists of:

  • the name(s) of author(s) or editor(s)
  • the title of the book
  • the place of publication
  • the name of publisher
  • the most recent copyright date

DEAD GIVEAWAYS for book citations: Editor name(s), edition numbers or names, city and publisher names

Using the current guidelines (2009), an MLA-style citation for a book looks like this:

Pollan, Micahel. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006. Print.

The author's name is Michael Pollan. The title of the book is The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. The book was published in New York by Penguin, copyright 2006, and was accessed in its print (rather than electronic) format.

A current APA-style citation (2009) for the same book looks like this:

Pollan, M. (2006). The omnivore's dilemma: A natural history of four meals. New York: Penguin.

DON'T BE FOOLED BY CITATIONS...

...FOR PARTICULAR SECTIONS OF BOOKS, where the section author and title appear before the book author(s) or editor(s):

Cage, J. (2001). Tribes of times. In R. Katz and B. Grandate (Eds.), Writings for the millenium (3rd ed., Vol. 1, p. 45). Chicago: St. Paul Press.

...FOR articles THAT HAVE BEEN REPRINTED IN books:

Renner, Stanley. “Secular Meaning in ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find.’” College Literature 9.2 (1982): 123-32.  Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 132. Detroit: Gale, 2003.  232-237. Print.

...FOR ELECTRONIC BOOKS, where no publisher information is provided:

Paludi, M. A. (2004). Praeger guide to the psychology of gender. Retrieved from http://ebooks.greenwood.com

Among the examples at the top of the page, the citations for Bittman, Updike, and Zaplan are all book citations.

For more examples of book citations, see the library's Citation Guide

To search for a book, go to the Finding Books and A/V Materials tab.

 

Article Citations

For ARTICLES from periodicals, regardless of citation style, basic citation information consists of:

  • the name(s) of author(s) of the article
  • the title of the article
  • the title of the periodical
  • the volume number and issue number (if applicable)
  • publication date for that issue
  • the starting and ending page numbers of the article

DEAD GIVEAWAYS for periodical citations: issue numbers, dates more specific than the year, title words like Journal, Magazine, Post, Times, etc.

Using the current guidelines (2009), this is an MLA-style citation for a journal article:

Jones, Howard Mumford. “The Attractions of Stupidity.” St. Croix Review 30.2 (1997): 6-10. Print.

The author of the article is Howard Mumford Jones.  The title of the article is "The Attractions of Stupidity," and the title of the journal is St. Croix Review. The volume number is 30, and the issue number is 2.  Published in 1997, the article appears on pages 6 through 10, and it was accessed in its print format (rather than online).

A current APA-style citation (2009) for the same articles looks like this:

Jones, H. M. (1997). The attractions of stupidity. St. Croix Review, 30(2), 6-10.

DON'T BE FOOLED BY CITATIONS....

...FOR PERIODICAL ARTCLES WHERE NO ISSUE NUMBER APPEARS:

Watson, J. D., & Crick, F. H. (1953). A structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid. Nature, 171, 6-10.

...FOR NEWSPAPER ARTICLES WITH NEITHER ISSUE NOR VOLUME NUMBERS:

Munsey, C., & Shuey, P. J. (1997, May 8). Bomb threats to become felony. The Capital, pp. A1, A6.

...FOR ARTICLES THAT HAVE BEEN REPRINTED IN BOOKS:

Renner, Stanley. “Secular Meaning in ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find.’” College Literature 9.2 (1982): 123-32.  Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Janet Witalec. Vol. 132. Detroit: Gale, 2003.  232-237. Print.

Among the examples at the top of the page, the citations for Bishop and Renner are article citations.

For more examples of article citations, see the library's Citation Guide. 

To locate an article from its citation, go to the Finding Articles from Periodicals tab.

Citations for Other Formats

Citations for other sources (e.g., DVD's, websites, television and radio sources, etc.) will make the format explicit:

“Balance vs. Bias in Journalism.” Talk of the Nation. National Public Radio. WYPR, Baltimore. 17 Apr. 2006. Radio.

Gladstone, B. (Host and managing editor). (2004, May 24). Gender detector. In J. Keefe (Producer), On the media [Radio program]. New York, NY: WNYC.

Indigo Girls, perf. “Tangled Up in Blue.” By Bob Dylan. 1200 Curfews. Rec. 1994. Sony, 1995. MP3 file.

Miller, K. P., & Gilchrist, C. L. (Producers), & Miller, K. P. (Director). (2008). Generation Rx [DVD]. Canada: Common Radius Films.

"Cher." Biography.com. A&E Television, 2008. Web. 7 Feb. 2009.

Research Assistance

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Definitions

A citation reflects all of the information a person would need to locate a particular source.

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.

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.

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