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Writing Guides and Manuals: Citing Sources

Writing Guides and Manuals resources

Why Cite?

Some Reasons Why Scholars Cite  1

  1. To persuade ("...persuasion by argument, buttressed by support from authoritative papers in the field") . 2
  2. To embody concepts or methods (rather than describing how to determine a protein, I cite the paper that tells you this, and move with my own addition to knowledge).
  3. To provide credibility (they allow the reader to check the evidence and chain of logic themselves).
  4. To give credit for ideas and show the reader where to go for a further elaboration
2. Ibid. p. 389

Note: You need to cite sources in your writing if you use someone else's ideas, data, methodologies, illustrations, etc.; it does not matter what format they are in and whether they are copyrighted or freely accessible on the Web.

What is a Citation?

So, what is a citation? Click "Start" to find out.

Learn How to Cite APA Style:



How to Cite?

If, for example, you want to cite this article in your paper to support your argument, you should:

  1. Make an in-text reference within your writing: The line between work and home seems to blur for most Gen Y workers (Trunk, 2007), ...
  2. Include complete details about the article in the references section at the end of your paper: Trunk, P. (2007). What Gen Y really wants. Time International (South Pacific Edition), (27), 57.

What about indirect sources?

For example, you read about Smith's idea (or research findings) in Nicholson's paper and you did not read Smith's article yourself. In this case, you CANNOT cite a source that you have not read, so you need to indicate that the information is obtained from a secondary source:

  1. List the source you have read (Nicholson's paper) in the reference list, and
  2. Make an in-text citation such as
    • Smith's survey (as cited in Nicholson, 2003) showed ...
    • According to Nicholson (2003), Smith's survey says ...

What about personal communications?

Personal communications may be private letters, memo, electronic communications (e.g. e-mail), personal interviews, telephone communications, etc. Because they are not considered recoverable data, so personal communications are not required in the reference list, but you have to cite personal communications within the text. Give the initials, follow by the surname of the communicator, and provide the exact date as possible.

In-text Reference = (T.W. Lau, personal communication, September 2, 2012)


Citation Styles

  • There are several common citation styles (standard formats for listing references). Style varies across disciplines. Ask your instructor which style s/he prefers.
  • In general, references of periodical articles should have these elements:
  • Author(s) - who wrote it
  • Title - what the article is called
  • Source - title of the periodical or larger work it appeared in
  • Volume & Issue numbers
  • Publication date
  • Page numbers
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