Steps for Citing

To write a proper citation we recommend following these steps, which will help you maintain accuracy and clarity in acknowledging sources.

Step 1: Choose Your Citation Style

Find out the name of the citation style you must use from your instructor, the directions for an assignment, or what you know your audience or publisher expects. OSU Libraries maintain a citation list that includes several styles. You can also search for your style at the Purdue Online Writing Lab or use Google or Bing to find your style’s stylebook/handbook.

Tip: Ask for Advice

As there are over a dozen different citation styles and different disciplines prefer different styles, always check to see if your instructor requires a particular style. Also because the rules for citation styles can change and can be extensive, it is best to refer to the official handbooks/style guides when you can.

Step 2: Create In-Text Citations

Examine how the style guide that you’ve chosen recommends you handle in-text citations and then apply those recommendations to create your in-text citation.

Step 3: Determine the Kind of Source

After creating your in-text citation, now begin creating the full bibliographic citation that will appear on the References or Bibliography page by deciding what kind of source you have to cite (book, film, journal article, webpage, etc.).

Step 4: Find an Example

Find an example for that kind of source citation in the latest stylebook or handbook for your style in print or online.

Because technology changes faster than the style guides, not every single type of electronic source you might use will be detailed in the style guides. In these cases, simply refer to the guidelines for similar sources and use your best judgment.

Step 5: Identify Citation Elements

Identify in your source the publication information (title, author, date of publication, etc.) that the example says you should include in your citation.

Movie: Finding the Information You Need: PDF and HTML Journal Articles

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Movie: Finding the Information You Need: Citing Information for Web and Online Multimedia Sources

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Step 6: Create a Bibliographic Citation

Create your bibliographic citation by arranging publication information to match the example you chose in Step 4. Pay particular attention to what is and is not capitalized and to what punctuation and spaces separate each part that the example illustrates.

Tip: Citation Software

If you like, you can use citation generator software to arrange the information needed for your citation according to the style guide you chose. Learn more later in this section.

Activity: Deciphering Citations