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Organizing and Creating Information

Participate in the scholarly conversation ethically and efficiently. Learn more about citation management and attribution in the production of new knowledge.

Citation and Attribution

This page was designed to help you:

  • Understand the purpose of citation in the scholarly conversation
  • Describe different ways to give credit to the original ideas of others, through attribution and/or formal citation conventions
  • Locate help with citation practices

Citations and Scholarly Conversations

As students, you often hear about citations as something you have to do to avoid looking bad or getting a bad grade - but this page is meant to demonstrate that there is the positive side of citation which is an important part of scholarly communication.

Citation allows us to:

  • Acknowledge our debt to the writers who've come before us and made it possible to make our own contributions
  • Further the future research and writing of others by sharing information about the sources we used in our own research 

There are formal and informal citation practices, sometimes simply called attribution, or acknowledgement.

You will see formal citations in academic journal articles and some books. Trade literature, popular sources, and creative works might give credit in a more informal way - such as a dedication, rolling credits at the end of a movie, a sample in music, a footnote, a comment in parenthesis, or an editorial note.

Citations also allow us to demonstrate belonging to a particular disciplinary community and speak the "language of the group". This is the reason why there are different citation formats, such as MLA (humanities), APA (sciences) and Chicago (history). There are other citation styles for different fields, and even some publishers require unique styling. This page offers examples in MLA, APA, Chicago, and ACS.

In-Text and Full Citations

In writing, formal citations come in two forms: in-text citations and full citations.

For academic assignments, your instructor will usually specify which style you should use, and if they don't you can ask them to.

Whatever style you choose or are asked to use, remember to stick with it consistently throughout your report.

In-text citations

In-text citations are used within the text of your paper and indicate to your readers which source listed in your works cited or bibliography you are referencing.

The format of in-text citations is specified by the citation style you are using. APA uses the author-year format, while MLA uses the author-page number format. Other styles to be on the lookout for are footnotes or endnotes, which use continuously sequenced numbers that connect you to a list of citations somewhere else in the document.

In-Text Examples

In-text citations should always have a corresponding full citation on the Works Cited or References page at the end of a paper.

APA: Students should choose their study locations carefully for best results (Lei, 2015).

MLA: Students should choose their study locations carefully for best results (Lei 197).

Chicago (Full Note): Chicago offers multiple in-text citation options. Here is an example of a full footnote.

Students should choose their study locations carefully for best results1

Simon A. Lei, “Variation in Study Patterns among College Students: A Review of Literature,” College Student Journal 49, no. 2 (2015): 195–98.

American Chemical Society (ACS) : ACS offers multiple options. Here is an example of numbers in parentheses on the line of text and inside the punctuation.

Students should choose their study locations carefully for best results (1)

Full citations

Full citations generally have three major parts, though the order and formatting of these parts depends on the citation style you use.

Major parts
  • Information about the person or body that created it – the author(s), editor(s), speaker(s), etc.
  • Information that distinguishes the content of the specific work being cited – the title of an article, chapter, book, or presentation
  • Information about the location or creation of the work – usually, where and when it was published or presented. This can include whether or not the work is part of a larger publication or series (volume and issue numbers), the number of printed pages it contains, or the web address (URL), and date it was accessed.

Below is an example of an article citation – the full citation for the in-text citation in the example – using MLA and APA styles. Notice the common elements that are present in both. You find the elements for a citation in the fields of a database or library catalog record or on the information item itself.

  • Author – Lei, Simon A.
  • Article Title – Variation in Study Patterns among College Students: A Review of Literature
  • Source Title – College Student Journal
  • Volume and Issue – Volume 49, Issue 2
  • Publication Date – 2015
  • Page Numbers – 195-198

Full-Citation Examples

APA

Lei, S. A. (2015). Variation in study patterns among college students: A review of literature. College Student Journal,49(2), 195-198.

MLA

Lei, Simon A. “Variation in Study Patterns among College Students: A Review of Literature.” College Student Journal, vol. 49, no. 2, 2015, pp. 195-198. Academic Search Premier. Accessed 27 May 2016.

Chicago

Lei, Simon A. “Variation in Study Patterns among College Students: A Review of Literature.” College Student Journal 49, no. 2 (2015): 195–98.

ACS

Lei, S. A.  Variation in study patterns among college students: A review of literature. Col. Stu. J., 2015, 49(2), 195-198.

 

You do not need to memorize citation style formats.

There are excellent online guides and tools that will help you cite sources correctly. Additionally, you can always ask your instructor or a librarian for help if you have a question or a difficult source to cite.

Online guides and tools to consult:

In addition to these tools, many research databases and library catalogs offer citation tools that help you create a citation for an item you’ve located using that service. Look for a button or link labeled cite or citation. Again, with these automatically-generated citations, be sure to double check it for accuracy. They aren’t always correct.


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Citation Management

There are several great tools to help you collect and manage documents and media when you are saving them and when you are writing. These tools save you time by taking care of the formatting challenges that come with citation, allowing you to focus on your ideas and on writing.

Citation Managers collect information about references and connect directly with writing programs like Word and Google Docs.

The Library supports and provides training on Zotero, an open source option, and EndNote.

Email us at Citation-Help-Group@brown.edu with citation questions or for help with EndNote, EndNote Online, or Zotero software.

Further Reading

  • Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva. 5.1: Citations. Humanities Libertexts, 1 Sept. 2019,  LibreTexts
  • Robyn Hartman, Julie Hartwell, Geoffrey Iverson, Eric Kowalik, Kendall Roemer, and Matt Upson (2017) Citations: The Foundation of Scholarly Conversation. [Online Tutorial] New Literacies Alliance. Online Module

Learning Objectives

This page was designed to help you:

  • Understand the purpose of citation in the scholarly conversation
  • Describe different ways to give credit to the original ideas of others, through attribution and/or formal citation conventions
  • Locate help with citation practices
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