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Citing Sources Guide

Basic Structure of a Citation

Main elements of a citation include

  • Author or Editor
  • Title of publication
    •  If you citing a section from a book, you need to include the book title and sometimes the chapter title.
    • If you are citing a section from an article, wou need to include the journal title and article title. 
  • Date of Publication
    • This is one distinct difference in citation styles. Some styles put the date after the author. Some styles put it the very end of the citation, as the last element. 
  • Date of Access
  • Location of Publication 
  • Method of access
    • Some citation styles require a DOI or URL
  • Punctuation
    • Citation styles vary widely on the use of punctuation.
    • Common difference are found in the use of italics, underlining, commas, colons, and periods. 

How to read a citation

Reading a citation from an article, from left to right. 

  • Typically, the first element of a citation is the author or contributor.
  • Next, comes the article title followed by the journal title.
  • Then come publication information such as volume number, issue number, and page ranges followed.
  • The order and punctuation changes according to the style. 

Research Minutes: How to Read Citations

Research Minutes is a series for undergraduate students at Cornell University covering library research topics. This episode covers how to read citations of books, book articles, and journal articles.

Understanding DOIs

What is a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) and why is it important?

  • A DOI is unique alphanumeric sequence given to an article 
  • All DOIs start with "10."  You may see it written as

    • ....
    • ...
    • doi:10. ...
  • It is a series of 10-12 numbers
  • DOIs are also more stable, permanent ways of linking to an article. 
    • DOIs are more stable than URLs. 
    • Finding and linking to articles is easier by using a DOI resolver
  • Many citation styles now prefer DOIs to indicate access.