Engineering Management

The basics of how to cite properly

It is important to document every idea, statistic, quote or paraphrase that you use from somewhere else, to give credit to authors, let your reader know the basis for what you're saying, avoid plagiarism. This is called citing or referencing your sources. In science and engineering, we cite each source in two places:

  1. In-text citation: a short citation in the body of the paper at the point where your paper relies on it. If you are using or writing about a source in multiple places in your paper, you'll need to repeat your in-text citation multiple times.
  2. Complete citation: the full details at the end of the paper, in the bibliography.

Formatting citations properly for a particular style

To cite a source, you can't just paste the URL into your paper - you need to include specific information in a specific order. A citation style is a particular way of formatting and presenting references and citations The information to include depends on what kind of source you are citing - a book, journal article, news website, etc. So it's important to know what kind of source you have!

There are different styles used in science and engineering, and your professor may require a specific style, but they always want you to follow one in particular. The two most common citation styles in science and engineering are APA style (an 'author-date' style) and IEEE (a numbered style). There are other styles in particular fields (ASME ASCE) that are similar to these. The key features are summarized below.


APA style (author-date type)

  • In-text citations include the authors' surnames and the year in round brackets. (Author A, Author B & Author C, 2022)
  • Bibliography citations are ordered alphabetically by the last name of the first author listed. Generally, citations follow the format below, however the details vary by item type.

Author surname, A.B. & Author surname, J.K. &... (Year or date). Title of the item. Publication, conference, website or organisation, Details (dependent on type of item). URL or DOI.

For more help, refer to the examples further down this page, an Online guide with examples prepared by Kwantlen Polytechnic, or the Official APA website with more examples

IEEE Style (numbered type)

  • In-text citations are a number in square brackets, such as [1]. The first source referenced in your (final) paper should have the number 1, followed by 2, 3 etc. If you refer to a source multiple times in the same paper, you'll repeat the citation.
  • Bibliography citations are ordered numerically from [1] to [n].Generally, citations follow the format below, however the the details vary by item type.

    [#]    A.B. Author surname, J.K. Author surname and... , "Title of the item". Publication, conference, website or organisation, Details, Year and possibly month. URL or DOI.

For more help, refer to the examples further down this page, Guide to IEEE style by Purdue University, or the Official IEEE guide (note that the official guide is not that easy to understand)


Example of an APA style citation with key elements highlighted (authors, title, date, publication, URL)Example of an IEEE style citation with key elements highlighted


Creating citations

You can create these formatted citations

  • Manually, by typing them out and referring to a guide
  • Using a citation manager program like Zotero that helps generate citations. More details below.
  • Using a citation generation website. Zbib is a good one.
  • Using a citation provided by a journal website

But no matter how, you need to make sure the citation is correct and has the necessary info. Tools sometimes make mistakes, especially with references that aren't journal articles and conference papers.


Citing Business Material (APA)

ABI Inform/Global - article from trade publication
MacFadyen, K. (2011). A Roadmap for dissent. Mergers and Acquisitions, 46(5), 18-19.
Retrieved from
Bloomberg - Stock Price
Bloomberg L.P. (2012). Stock price for Apple, Inc. 6/14/2012. Retrieved from Bloomberg
Bloomberg - Company Financials
Bloomberg L.P. (2008). Hewlitt Packard: Return on capital, 12/31/90 to 9/30/08. Retrieved
from Bloomberg Professional.
Business Source Complete - SWOT analysis
Datamonitor. (2010, April). Zurich Financial Services SWOT Analysis. Retrieved from
Conference Board e-Library - metropolitan outlook
Arcand, A., Lefebvre, M., McIntyre, J., Sutherland, G., & Wiebe, R. (2011, February).
Montréal: Metropolitan Outlook 1, Winter 2011. Retrieved from
Marketline Advantage - industry profile
Marketline Advantage. (2010,September). Wireless telecommunication services in
Asia-Pacific. Retrieved from
Statistics Canada - household spending
Table (citations are in text and go directly underneath the table)
Note. Adapted from CANSIM Table 203-0001 - Survey of household spending (SHS),
household spending, summary-level categories, by province, territory and selected metropolitan areas, annual, by Statistics Canada, 2011, retrieved from
(If the table is copied exactly, use the term "reprinted". Use "adapted" if you have altered the table.)
Statistics Canada. (2011). Table 203-0001 - Survey of household spending (SHS),
household spending, summary-level categories, by province, territory and selected metropolitan areas, annual. Retrieved from
Economist Intelligence Unit - country profile
Economist Intelligence Unit Limited. (2008, March). Uzbekistan country report. Retrieved
Factiva - online newspaper
McGregor, G. (2009, October 26). Business graduates accept ethics with degrees;
University of Ottawa MBAs swear oath in Canadian first. The Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved from
Financial Post Databases - investor report
Bombardier Inc. Investor Report. (2011). Retrieved from
IBISWorld - industry report
Panteva, Nikoleta. (2011, August). Soybean farming in the US:11111. Retrieved from
Mergent Online annual report
PepsiCo. Inc. (2000). 2000 Annual Report. Retrieved from
Print Measurement Bureau - data
Print Measurement Bureau. (2011). Cell phones/smartphones/PDA brands
personally have. Retrieved from
Research Insight - industry survey
Milton, D. (2006, October 26). Restaurants. Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys. Retrieved
from Research Insight Version 8.4.1 [CD-ROM].

Confused about what things you need to cite?

You are required to cite any source you use, whether it's a journal article, a textbook, a video, or or an image you found on the internet.

You aren't expected to provide a citation for facts, definitions or equations that are well-known to everyone in your field. For example, in a class on machine learning, you wouldn't normally need to cite a short definition of 'supervised learning'. But if you are writing several paragraphs on the steps in a supervised learning process, you would need to cite a source for that - even if it's your course textbook!

If in doubt, it's better to be cautious and cite more.

This page from McMaster University gives more guidance on what to cite in science and engineering.