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Introduction to Citation

What is a citation?

"A reference providing information about where a particular quotation, text, etc., is to be found; a bibliographical reference."

- Oxford English Dictionary Online, version March 2015


Why cite?

  1. A citation informs a reader that material in your work, such as a quote, image, or idea, came from another source
  2. Citations acknowledge the work of others and provide pathways to their work.
  3. Citations establish your credibility as a serious scholar by providing evidence that you have thoroughly considered the topic.
  4. Failure to cite, or citing improperly, is considered plagiarism.

When to Cite

You need to cite your sources whenever you:

  • Quote a sentence or passage
  • Paraphrase or summarize ideas that are not your own
  • Make specific reference to the work of others
  • Utilize data or statistics
You do NOT need to cite:
  • Well-known and undisputed facts
  • Your own ideas expressed elsewhere in the same paper

What to Cite

Cite the source that you used. 

In other words, cite only what you have seen.  To cite a work that you have not seen or used is dishonest and can perpetuate inaccuracies.

Ideally, you should try to view original sources because other authors may have misrepresented quotes, statistics, ideas or meaning from an original source.

Example: A 2008 article examined the accuracy of citations to a commonly referenced hand surgery study.  Of 154 articles that referenced the original study, 63 (41%) had at least one inaccurate reference to this study.  The authors concluded: "Care must be taken in referencing biomedical literature, particularly articles that have a potentially profound impact on clinical patient management."

Miscitation Example

Miscitation Example

Source: Porrino, J. A., Tan, V., & Daluiski, A. (2008). Misquotation of a commonly referenced hand surgery study. The Journal of Hand Surgery, 33(1), 2–7.

Anatomy of a Citation

You need to provide enough information for your reader to easily find your sources.  The information that you include in a citation depends somewhat on the type of source, e.g. book, book chapter, journal article, website...

All citations include:

  • Author(s) and/or editor(s)
  • Title of the chapter or article
  • Title of the book or journal
  • Year of publication

In addition to the information above, citations for BOOKS or BOOK CHAPTERS include:

  • Place of publication
  • Publisher
  • Pages of chapter (if applicable)

In addition to the information above, citations for JOURNAL ARTICLES include:

  • Volume
  • Issue
  • Pages of article

How to Format a Citation

There are two basic approaches to citation:

  • In-text citations + a list of references at the end of the paper
  • Endnotes or footnotes +/- a bibliography at the end of the paper

Scholars writing in the sciences and social sciences typically use in-text citations, while humanities scholars utilize endnotes/footnotes.

While the two basic approaches to citations are simple, there are many different citation styles.

What is a citation style?

The way that citations appear (format) depends on the citation style, which is a set of established rules and conventions for documenting sources.

Citation styles can be defined by an association, such as the Modern Language Association (MLA), publisher, such as the University of Chicago Press, or journal, such as The New England Journal of Medicine.

See below for examples of different citation styles.

What citation style should I use?

The citation style that you use depends on the discipline in which you are writing, and where, or by whom, your work will be published or read.

When in doubt, ask your professor if there is a particular style that he/she would like you to use. 

Where can I find more information on how to cite a specific type of source in a particular style?

The library has style manuals in print and online for several commonly used styles such as American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA) and Chicago.  In addition, there are several excellent citation style guides on the web.

See below for resources on formatting citations in a specific style.

Citation Styles: American Psychological Association (APA)


Frank, H. (2011). Wolves, Dogs, Rearing and Reinforcement: Complex Interactions Underlying Species Differences in Training and Problem-Solving Performance. Behavior Genetics41(6), 830-839. 

Citation Styles: Modern Language Association (MLA)


Frank, H. "Wolves, Dogs, Rearing and Reinforcement: Complex Interactions Underlying Species Differences in Training and Problem-Solving Performance." Behavior Genetics 41.6 (2011): 830-39. Print.

Citation Styles: Chicago


Frank, H. 2011. "Wolves, Dogs, Rearing and Reinforcement: Complex Interactions Underlying Species Differences in Training and Problem-Solving Performance."  Behavior Genetics 41 (6):830-839. 

Citation Management Tools

This page provides you with additional information about citations, includes links to citation managers available at Brown, and to a copyright primer:

Citation and Copyright at Brown

Example: Direct Quote Cited in a Book

Citation in Book

Source: Gabriel, R. A. (2001). Gods of Our Fathers: The Memory of Egypt in Judaism & Christianity. Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press.

Example: Reference within a Journal Article

Citation in Journal Article

Source: Bradt, J., Potvin, N., Kesslick, A., Shim, M., Radl, D., Schriver, E., … Komarnicky-Kocher, L. T. (2015). The impact of music therapy versus music medicine on psychological outcomes and pain in cancer patients: a mixed methods study. Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer, 23(5), 1261–71.

Test Yourself

Provide proper citations for the three articles you selected on the  Evaluate Resources page using either APA, Chicago, or MLA citation styles.