A Brief Guide to Citations:  How and Why

Clare Sammells


Why do we cite things?

1)  To strengthen claims.  Even arguments and data that are usually taken for granted can be strengthened by citing authors who have more evidence for those claims.  Authors may be cited for either their ideas or for their data.

2)  To tell readers where to find it. Your work may inspire others to research related topics – by following your bibliography, they can find sources to support their research  (Note that you should think of others’ bibliographies in the same way).  Also, who you are reading places you within an academic discourse for your readers.

3)  Direct quotations.  Direct quotations must be cited, but most cites are not quotes.  Any text taken verbatim (word for word) from another source must be both in quotes and cited (see below).

General Guidelines

Citations come in many different formats. The purpose of this document is not to explain specific styles of citations, but rather the logic behind these styles. They all follow the same basic guidelines:

1)  Consistency.  There are many styles for citation, and these vary according to discipline.  A document should use only one of these styles consistently.

2)  Who, When, and Where.  In-text citations (usually parenthetical) include:
•  name of the author (NOT the editor of the volume, where these differ),
• date of publication (both of the source you are citing, and the original date of publication, where different),
•  page numbers, where relevant (i.e., where does the reader find what defends your argument?).

3)  Complete Bibliography.  Parenthetical citations require a full bibliography at the end of your paper, to enable readers to find your references.

4)   Quotations Vs. Citations.  This is key for avoiding many potential problems with incorrect citations.
            Quotations are the exact text of other people or authors.  Any text that is verbatim (word for word) – whether drawn from an interview or a text source – must be set apart with quotes (“like this”).  Anything not in quotes is assumed to be the work of the author. If a text is taken verbatim (or near verbatim) from another source, and not in quotes, then this is plagiarism even when the source is cited. 
            Citations are used to credit ideas or data.  Most citations are not quotes.  Instead, they indicate that the ideas or data referred to in the text come from another source, and indicate what sources may be consulted for more information.  Citations are expected even when the text of the source is not quoted, or when the source is not directly discussed in your argument.


Some Examples

These examples are meant to give you a sense of how and when to cite.  They are in American Ethnologist format, but you are not obligated to follow this particular format – only the general rules above.


Books, Book Chapters, Journal Articles, and Newspaper Articles.

Example text:

Some have argued that cultural tourism is trapped in a downward spiral of inauthenticity, where the act of “gazing” destroys the object of its own interest (Boorstin 1961; Ceaser 1999; Ritzer and Liska 1997:107), but these assessments overlook the fact that authenticity itself is a construction, not a given.  Authenticity is not an analytical concept, but an emic category which is the product of historical and social factors (Handler and Linnekin 1984). 

Boorstin, Daniel J.                       (Book)
1961  The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Vintage Books.

Ceaser, Mike                              (Newspaper article)
1999  The Urus: Threatened by Tourism. Bolivian Times, September 23, 1999.

Handler, Richard, and Jocelyn Linnekin          (Journal Article)
1984  Tradition, Genuine or Spurious. Journal of American Folklore 97(385):273-290.

Ritzer, George, and Allan Liska                 (Original book chapter in edited volume)
1997  ‘McDisneyization’ and ‘Post-Tourism’: Complementary Perspectives on Contemporary Tourism. In Touring Cultures: Transformations of Travel and Theory. C. Rojek and J. Urry, eds. pp. 96-112. London and New York: Routledge.


Web Sites

Web Sites must be cited, along with the date you accessed the information. It is always wise to save a copy of web pages you intend to use for citations, as they are frequently updated, modified, or deleted.

Example text:

Other projects, such as SATAWI in San Andres de Machaca, are interested in opening slaughterhouses for camelids in the hopes that a superior product will increase consumption in La Paz (SATAWI 1999).

1999  SATAWI Homepage. http://www.softmakers.com/guest/SA/SATAWIProject/breeding.html.  Accessed on October 5, 1999.


Note that there is a difference between webpages and electronic journals. Articles from electronic journals (i.e., print journals accessed electronically) do not require citation of a URL and the date accessed, as the text they contain is assumed to remain constant. Instead, electronic journals should be cited as journals (with date, volume, number, and pages).


Previously Published Material from Edited Volumes

Example text:

Hardin advocates private property as the means to avert total environmental disaster, creating a binary opposition between social justice and survival by claiming that “Injustice is preferable to total ruin” (Hardin 1998 [1968]:46).

Hardin, Garrett. 
1998 [1968].  The Tragedy of the Commons.  In Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Kyoto, 2nd edition. K. Conca and G. Dabelko, eds.  pp. 40-47.  Boulder: Westview Press.


The original date of publication is included to show when the piece was written, to situate it historically within academic literature for our readers.  At the same time, the date of the version used is included so someone could walk into the library and find it. 


Quoting Sources within sources

If you wish to quote or cite a source mentioned by a third party, it is acceptable to cite "X, as quoted in Y" where X is the original source, and Y is the text to which you have access. However,whenever possible you should seek out the original text (online, in your library, or through inter-library loan). Sources are not infrequently misquoted, misinterpreted, or taken out of context. However, in some cases (such as archival sources, out-of-print volumes, or materials translated by the author from a language you do not speak) this may not be possible or practical.


Where do I find citation styles?

There are many resources on citation styles, including the Chicago Manual of Styles, the MLA Handbook, and the bibliographies of books and journals within your discipline. Some standard styles include the Chicago Style (and related Turabian style), MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), CBE (Council of Biology Editors), and AMA (American Medical Association). 

For examples of general style guides, see:

Robert Delaney’s Citation Style for Research Papers
      With examples of bibliographic citations in APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago, and AMA styles.

Murdoch University’s Guide to Citation Styles


For guidelines on citing electronic resources, see:

Bedford/ St. Martin’s Press Online Citation Styles

The Columbia Guide to Online Style


All examples written by the author.  The first two are from her Masters Thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago, 1999.