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Citing Your Sources: Purpose

Guide created by Helen Cawley.



  A quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, esp. in a scholarly work.
          --Oxford Dictionaries Online,
A citation has several important purposes:
  • to exhibit intellectual honesty and avoid plagiarism
  • to give credit to the author or creator of the original idea or concept
  • to allow readers to check your sources for more information
  • to demonstrate that the position in the paper has been well-researched
You should use the proper style manual or guide to form your citations. Style guides are often associated with specific academic disciplines. Your professor will tell you which one to use.
Style manuals can be found at the Reference desk or on Reserve in the library. Please see a Reference Librarian for assistance.

Information needed for a citation

When you are doing your research, record the following information for each source:

  • Author
  • Title of article, essay, or chapter
  • Complete title of book or journal
  • Page numbers
  • Publisher name and business location
  • Date of publication
  • Volume and number of journal issue

For online articles and websites, this information will be useful, too:

  • Website address
  • Website author
  • DOI if available
  • Date viewed

What and when should I cite?

"Citation Needed" sign

Image:, Wikimedia Commons, 2010

These are examples of materials that should be cited if used in your paper:

  • Print sources: books, journal articles, newspapers, pamphlets, dissertations, musical scores, archival and unpublished material
  • Electronic sources: ebooks, articles retrieved from databases, websites, blogs, email
  • Data: Government statistics, census records, surveys, economic information
  • Images: art reproductions, photographs, tables, charts, graphs, illustrations
  • Recorded material: dvds, television programs, podcasts, public speeches, radio programas, musical recordings, computer programs
  • Spoken material: interviews, personal conversations, scholarly presentations, oral histories

When do you cite? The Purdue OWL explains the differences between quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing.

Ask a librarian!

We can help with citation questions!

Style guides are located at the Research Help desk or on Reserve. Please see a Reference Librarian or ask here!

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What is a DOI?

A DOI, or digital object identifier, is unique identifier for digital objects, such as electronic journal articles.

The url or web address may change, making access and retrieval difficult, but the DOI will not. Many journal publishers are now assigning DOIs to the electronic copies of individual articles to make them easier to find, and most citation styles are starting to request their use in citations.

EBSCO articles will have the DOI, if available, underneath the abstract on the article's "Detailed Record" page. To find DOIs for other articles, try, a free DOI lookup site.