The Basics of Citation
What is a Citation?
A citation is a note in a paper or essay to let the reader know that some of the information contained in the essay did not originate from the author of the paper but from some outside source. It also identifies this outside source so that readers can find where the author of the paper retrieved this information.
For example: Let's say you are writing a paper on global warming and you found some interesting statistics on this topic from the book Global Warming Statistics. You wish to include these statistics in your paper. However, when you do so, you need to cite these statistics to let your readers know that this information came from the book Global Warming Statistics.
The Two Parts of Citation
Citations have two essential parts: the In-Text Citation and the Works Cited Page (also called a Reference Page or Bibliography). These parts work in tandem to let your readers know which sections of your paper contain information and ideas borrowed from outside sources and where readers can locate where you retrieved this information from. Let's examine these two pieces now:
The first part of a citation is the In-Text Citation. This part of the citation goes directly in the body of your essay or paper typically following a quote or information you retrieved from an outside source. It often includes the name(s) of the authors who wrote the item being cited or the title of the work and may even include page numbers that refer a reader to the page(s) in which the information was found. The main purpose of the In-Text citation is to alert readers that the information just stated in a paper came from an outside source, and the authors name or title used in this In-Text Citation points readers to the associated entry in the Works Cited Page where readers can get more information about the resource used.
The Works Cited Page
The second part of a citation is the Works Cited Page. This page comes at the end of an essay or paper and it is a listing of the resources used in a paper. It contains valuable information for readers who may wish to follow up on some of the resources used in a paper.
Preparing citations in the proper format for your In-Text Citations and Works Cited page can often be challenging. You first need to determine what style manual your instructor has requested that you use. Common style manuals are MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and Turabian, and each provide guides to citing numerous types of publications, including web sites.
The current editions of these guides are kept at the Information Desk. We also provide handouts to help you with typical citation formats and an online citation guide where you can further information.
The Library Home Page also has an extensive Citation Guide to help you with formatting which includes online documents on style, as well as links to citation generators, and tutorials from other institutions.