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Academic Skills

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Academic Skills

Common Citation Questions

  1. How do I know what kind of source I am using?
    1. How do I know if a source is scholarly or peer reviewed?
  2. Where do I find publication information?
  3. What citation style should I use?
  4. When do I need to include a citation?
  5. How do I make a Reference list, Bibliography, or Works Cited page? How do I know which one to use?
  6. How do I cite an article, book, website, or other source? What information do I need to include in a reference entry?
  7. How do I format my paper?
  8. How do I avoid plagiarism?
  9. Should I use citation generators?

How do I know what kind of source I am using?

In order to know what format your reference should take, you must first identify what kind of source you are citing. At times this can be difficult: Is it an article in a scholarly journal or an article in a popular magazine or newspaper? Is it a report published on a website or a general webpage?

To answer these questions, you need to pay close attention to where the source was originally published.

Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines, and Newspapers or News agencies

For instance, if an article was published in a print copy or on the website of Maclean’s or The New York Times, you would reference it as an article in a magazine or newspaper; however, if an article is peer reviewed, then it is almost certainly published in a scholarly journal, and you would use the appropriate citation style.

If you are unsure, look carefully at the information attached to the article.

  • Newspapers and magazines generally include full dates for their articles, including month, day, and year.
  • scholarly journals generally only have a year as their publication date but include a volume number (and sometimes an issue number) to indicate when in the year an article was published.

Webpages and Online Reports or Documents

If you download a document (often as a PDF) from a website, and the document has an author and publication date, then you would cite it as a document or report and include information to show that you accessed it online.

In contrast, if you are citing information that you found on a webpage, you would use a referencing style for a webpage or website.

How do I know if a source is scholarly or peer reviewed?

Most academic assignments require you to use scholarly or peer reviewed sources. These words indicate that a source has been independently reviewed and approved by experts in the field, a process known as peer-review.

The easiest way to determine if a source is scholarly is to use a database from Trent’s Bata Library. From the search results page, scroll to the article you would like to use, and click on the “Get it at Trent” button. This will take you to a new page. If the source is scholarly, you will see the words “Peer Reviewed” at the top of the page.

Trent’s Bata Library also provides an excellent tutorial on how to identify scholarly sources when you do not have access to the “Get it at Trent” button.


Where do I find publication information?

The location of publication information for a source will depend on the type of source it is and how you accessed the source.

Books

If you are using a book, you will find the author’s name, press, and publication date on the title and copyright pages, which are generally the first two pages of the book.

Journal Articles

If you are using a journal article, you will need information about the author, the title of the article, and the journal in which it was published, including the volume and issue number as well as the digital object identifier or permanent URL. You can often find this information within the online database from which you accessed the source. You can also find this information on the first page of most journal articles.

Webpages

When citing a webpage, you will need to find information about the author of the page/document, the website on which you found the page, the sponsor of that page, the date of publication, and the URL. Look carefully at the webpage or document you are referencing. Often it will have an author at the top or bottom of the page. If not, try to determine whether the sponsor of the entire website may also be the author or the page you are using.

For example, if you are citing information from a webpage on the Health Canada website, and no other author is listed, then you can assume that Health Canada is the author of that information.

It is often difficult to find a publication date for information you find on the web. Again, look carefully at the particular page you are using. Sometimes it will have a date at the top. Other times it will have a “last updated on” date at the bottom. Either of these dates can be used as a publication date. Some sites do not have either of these dates but have a copyright date at the very bottom of their webpages. This date can also be used as a publication date. If a webpage contains no information about date, consult the referencing style you are using for information about how to cite a source with no date.


What citation style should I use?

Each discipline follows different rules for citation. Start with Find Documentation Style by Discipline. Remember to refer to your syllabus and assignment instructions for particular course requirements for citation.

When do I need to include a citation?

  • Cite all paraphrases or summaries of ideas or information that are not your own.
  • Cite all direct quotations of two or more consecutive words. In fact, a single distinctive term taken from a source should be placed in quotation marks and cited.
  • Cite all sources that inform your work, including data, charts, films, maps, graphs, web pages, photographs, television news reports, lectures, and video/audio files.

How do I make a Reference list, Bibliography, or Works Cited list? How do I know which one to use?

Each citation style has slightly different requirements of the reference list, and they have different titles, too. See the details for the four major styles:

How do I cite an article, book, website, or other source? What information do I need to include in a reference entry?

The information in a reference entry is important; it allows the reader to retrieve the source. However, different types of sources provide different information.

It is your goal to offer a complete reference entry, so all styles require information about the author (an individual, group, or agency), the title (article, journal, book, website, video, etc.), the year of publication and other relevant retrieval information.

Find the site map for each major style to locate instructions and examples for in-text and reference entries for print and electronic sources, ranging from books, journal articles, and websites to government documents, blog posts, and video files:

How do I format my paper?

Most styles adhere to standard 1” (2.54 cm) margins, a simple font (like Times New Roman) in 12 point, double-spaced with indented paragraphs, and pagination in the upper right corner.

Formatting guidelines and sample papers are available for the four major styles: 

How do I avoid plagiarism?

Should I use citation generators?

Citation generators, like those available in Microsoft Word or in article databases such as ProQuest or Scholar’s Portal, are helpful tools; however, much like spell checkers, their capacities are limited. It is important to check any citations you download from a citation generator to ensure they follow the style’s conventions for punctuation, capitalization and to ensure the required elements are all present and in the correct order.