4.2 Citation Basics

What is a citation?

Citations are a short way to uniquely identify a published work (e.g. book, article, chapter, web site).

There are two parts to any citation: an in text citation and a reference list citation


1. In text citation – a shortened citation that appears in the body of your work and points readers to the reference list

In text citation

2. Reference list citation – longer citations that  appear at the end of a paper and provide enough information needed to describe and find your source again, physically or online.

Reference list citation
What goes into a citation?

Citations consist of standard elements. A citation contains all the information necessary to identify and track down publications, including:

  • author name(s)
  • titles of books, articles, and journals
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • volume and issue numbers (for articles)
  • DOI (a unique identifier for each article)

Citations may look different, depending on what is being cited and which style was used to create them.


When should you cite a source?

You should cite your sources whenever you take words, ideas, figures, images, etc. from another place.

What information do you cite?

You must cite:

  • Facts, ideas, or other information that comes from a resource or publication
  • Figures, images or tables that were created by another person
  • Any exact wording or quotations that come from a resource or publication

You do not need to cite:

  • Information that is common knowledge for your subject area (ie. DNA has a double helix structure, squids are a type of mollusc)



When in doubt, be safe and cite your source!



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Library Skills for 2nd Year Biological Sciences by Lauren Stieglitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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