Cross your Ts: 3 easy steps to becoming a Citation Guru

Referencing

A proper reference includes two elements: an in text citation and a full bibliographic reference.

In text citations should be introduced with a leading phrase so that your reader knows you are using someone else’s idea. They take two forms: references in text and direct quotations.

Use references in text when paraphrasing or summarizing an author’s idea in your own words. You must remain true to the original author's intent but you can inject your own style into the writing. Once again, there should be a note about the source directly after the paraphrased or summarized section, but how this is presented depends on which citation style you are using.

For a direct quotation you must use the author’s exact words and place them in quotation marks, be accurate: there is no reason for mistakes in a direct quote! These can be used to support your arguments, but should be used sparingly. There should be a note about the source directly after the quote, but how this is presented depends on which citation style you are using.

A full bibliographic reference includes the following information: Author, Title, Publication Date, Publication Information, and Publication Location. The full references for all of the sources you used for your in text citations should be compiled in an alphabetical list and placed at the end of your paper as either a reference list or bibliography. How each source type is presented in each reference will change depending on the citation style you use.

Citation styles

Each discipline tends to use a specific citation style but the standards are founded on a common principle: whenever you use a source in your work your reader should know that it is someone else's work and where to find it.

There are two main ways to do this:

  1. Author-date. This system is generally preferred by scholars in the physical, natural and social sciences. Sources are cited briefly in text by the author's last name and publication date, usually in parentheses. A complete bibliographic citation is then provided in a list of references. The most common citation styles for this system are APA and MLA.
  2. Notes and bibliography. This system is generally preferred by scholars in the humanities. It provides bibliographic information in either footnotes or endnotes and a full bibliography is presented. The most common citation styles for this system are Chicago and Turabian (though both these styles provide guidelines for the author-date system as well).

Below are reference list examples of the four citation styles mentioned here:

APA: Mintzberg, H. (2009). Managing. San Francisco: Berrett-Koeler Publishers. Quick Guide

MLA: Mintzberg, Henry. Managing. San Francisco: Berrett-Koeler Publishers, 2009. Print. Quick Guide

Chicago: Mintzberg, Henry. Managing. San Francisco: Berrett-Koeler Publishers, 2009. Quick Guide

Turabian: Mintzberg, Henry. 2009. Managing. San Francisco: Berrett-Koeler Publishers. Quick Guide