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Citation Tutorial



This guide will help you learn how to find and use style guides, locate, use and organize citation information, and understand purposes of citation.

When to Get Help

Seek library help about citation at any point in the research and writing process:

  • While researching:
    • as you record information
    • as you organize the information you collect
  • While writing
    • as you format citations and bibliographic entries

Because citation management tools help do all of the above, save yourself a lot of time and trouble: find a librarian to help you learn how to use one as you begin a project.

Remember, if you are wondering which citation style to use, or if you are worried your formatting isn't correct, a librarian can help you find resources to make decisions, but we can't make these decisions for you. We recommend checking with your professor.

Isn't it Cheating to Get Help?


It would be cheating if someone were to do your work for you and you claimed to have done it yourself.

We won't do your work for you when you ask us for help. Here's what we will do:

  • Find out exactly what information you need.
  • Help you locate resources that can answer your question.
  • Help you use those resources.
  • If those resources don't provide a definitive answer, help you find other ones.
  • If those other resources don't help, refer you to other staff or other offices who can help.
  • Sometimes, we may direct you back to your professor, especially if your question involves clarification of the assignment or whether an answer is "correct."

How do I Find Out How to Format a Weird Citation?

Try an online guide first, because they're handy. Most guides are divided into in-text citations and works cited/bibliographies. Both of those are further subdivided into author types and publication types.

So, do you need formatting guidance on:

  1. an in-text citation, or
  2. a bibliographic entry?

Which is the weird element:

  1. Author type or
  2. Publication type or format?

Non-standard Author types:

  • editor
  • translator
  • multiple authors
  • organization as author (e.g. US Dept. of Transportation, Microsoft)
  • author with several articles included in your bibliography
  • different authors with same name
  • unknown author

Publication types and formats:

  • article in journal
  • article in book
  • book
  • reference book (e.g., dictionary, encyclopedia)
  • electronic (e.g. ebook, web page, article in e-journal)
  • print
  • personal email
  • film
  • tv advertisement
  • YouTube video

Remember, the principal idea is to include the information that someone would need in order to understand the authority of the source and to find the source.

If you can't find guidance in an online guide (such as the Purdue OWL), you may need the print guide, which will be more comprehensive. Recent versions of MLA, APA, and Chicago style guides are at the reference desk in O'Neill Library, and in the stacks in most libraries.

When is it OK not to cite a source?

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, cite. If you answer "no" to all of the questions, it might be alright not to cite.*

  • Do I owe the originator of this idea some credit for its value?
  • Do I need added authority for the claim I am making?
  • Would a reader need to know where to find the source of information?
  • Is it knowledge not widely shared among my target audience?
  • Do I want to make sure someone knows this is not my idea?

*It is safer to err on the side of citing.

Do I Need to Cite a Source that I only Used for Background Information?

If you consulted a reference work like an encyclopedia or dictionary in order to learn more about your topic as you researched, it is quite possible you don't need to cite it; though the specific idea you're using may be new to you, it might be well-known to practitioners in a subject area. (Often, presence in a dictionary or encyclopedia indicates that it is widely known--or perhaps even assumed--by a particular community.) However, if your intended audience would likely not know this information, and you want to provide an avenue for further study, a citation would be useful for them.

In many cases, articles quote a widely accepted definition of a term in the introduction that they intend to challenge or elaborate on. (In the form: Many people believe _____, but recent research actually indicates ______.) In this case, a citation is necessary to establish that the definition is, in fact, widely shared and therefore worth challenging.

Are you using an encyclopedia or dictionary entry as evidence to support a claim? Then you may want to cite, but you may also want to ask yourself the value of the claim. If it's in an encyclopedia or dictionary, that's an indication that a concept is widely accepted; in other words, you don't often need the evidence of a dictionary definition in order to claim that a word has a particular meaning.

If you are analyzing or criticizing the language or claims of a Wikipedia entry or some other reference work, you would cite, just as you would if you were analyzing a poem or other work of literature.

There are a Lot of Cities Listed for the Publisher; Which do I Use?

Unless you have acquired a book in a library on another continent, you can probably assume you should use the city in the United States. If there are multiple cities listed in the US, turn to the publisher information page (a page of small print, usually within a few pages after the title page). In newer books, there is often a publisher and address on that page; use the city in that address. 

Where can I Find Out More About Dr. Schor's Research?

Read Dr. Schor's BC Profile.

Watch a short interview with Dr. Schor.

Watch an in-depth interview with Dr. Schor and some of her graduate students.

Visit Dr. Schor's twitter feed.

Explore her books.

Works Cited in this Tutorial (Showing different major formats)

APA Chicago MLA
Freier, M.P. (2014). The librarian in Rowling's Harry Potter series. CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 16(3):1-10. Freier, Mary P. "The Librarian in Rowling's Harry Potter Series," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 16, no.3 (2014): 1-10.
Freier, Mary P. "The Librarian in Rowling's Harry Potter Series". CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 16 no. 3, 2014, pp. 1-10.
Hicks, A., & Howkins, A. (2015). Tipping the iceberg: A collaborative librarian-historian approach to redesigning the undergraduate research assignment. History Teacher 48(2):339-359. Hicks, Alison, and Howkins, Adrian. "Tipping the Iceberg: A Collaborative Librarian-Historian Approach to Redesigning the Undergraduate Research Assignment," History Teacher 48, no.2 (2015): 339-359. Hicks, Alison, and Adrian Howkins. "Tipping the Iceberg: A Collaborative Librarian-Historian Approach to Redesigning the Undergraduate Reseach Assignment." History Teacher, vol. 48 no. 2, 2015, pp. 39-359.
Van Deth, J.W. (2014). A conceptual map of political participation. Acta Politica 49(3):349-367. doi:10.1057/ap.2014.6. Van Deth, Jan W. "A Conceptual Map of Political Participation," Acta Politica 49, no.3 (2014):349-367. Van Deth, Jan W. "A Conceptual Map of Political Participation." Acta Politica, vol. 49 No. 3, 2014, pp. 349-367.