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All About Citations: How To and Tools

Definition of Citation

Q: What is a Citation?

A:  A citation is a type of notation found within various research projects. It helps identify what facts/information/data used in the project came from referenced sources. 

Citations help you avoid plagiarism and also allow you to properly credit other researcher's ideas/intellectual contributions, which is a pillar of scholarship.

Citations/references should be used in: Research papers, lab reports, presentations, posters, etc., and anytime you create a work that uses/references information from another source.

How To: Learn How To Cite Using A Specific Citation Style

CMS: Chicago Manual of Style

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Examples of Disciplines using CMS

  • Anthropology
  • Arts: Art History, Fine Arts, Architecture, etc.
  • History
  • Music
  • Information Science and Computer Science

* Note some disciplines may use multiple styles, check with your professor on what style to use

MLA: Modern Language Association

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Examples of Disciplines Using MLA:

  • English
  • Foreign Languages
  • Literature
  • Philosophy
  • Poetry

* Note some disciplines may use multiple styles, check with your professor on what style to use

APA: American Psychological Association

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Examples of Disciplines Using APA:

  • Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • Journalism
  • Psychology

* Note some disciplines may use multiple styles, check with your professor on what style to use

CBE: Council of Biology Editors

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

CSA: American Chemical Society

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Style Guides For Online and Social Media

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Links to resources fot multiple styles when citing social media and other online resources:

Other Styles Used By Other Disciplines: Geology, Government, Math, Physics, etc.

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Geology GSA Geological Society of America Style GSA site includes a full set of geology publication guidelines, including information on tables and figures. Citing Maps
Law/Legal The Bluebook: a uniform system of citation Also handy is this government documents guide from our colleagues at Bowdoin.  Though in Chicago style, it's helpful in describing the necessary components to the citation.
Mathematics AMS American Mathematical Society Author Handbook MRef tool will return citations in MathSciNet, BIBTEX, AMSRefs, or TeX format. 
MR Lookup searches for AMS publications and returns them with 
MR Numbers converted to linked URLs.
Physics & Astronomy AIP American Institute of Physics Style Manual This style was last updated in 1997.
APS Reviews of Modern Physics Style Guide is oriented toward publication in LATEX with references in BIBTEX.
Politics APSA Style Manual for Political Science

For topics not covered in this short guide, use Chicago Manual of Style.

APSA Style  additional guide from Trinity College


ASA American Sociology Association Quick Style Guide

ASA References Page Formatting from Purdue OWL


Citing Data

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

EXPERT TIPS: Citing Data

Many style manuals provide instructions for the citation of data, use the tabs above to find the style guide .  If the style manual you are using does not address data citations, you can follow these general rules below.

Data comes in a wide variety of formats. Examples include:

  • spreadsheets
  • statistical data
  • interview transcripts
  • sensor and instrument readings
  • gene sequences
  • software source code

* The emerging best practice is to cite data just as you would cite a research article. *

These are the citation elements you need to consider when building a data citation:

  • Author - Who is the creator of the data set?  This can be an individual, a group of individuals, or an organization.
  • Title - What name is the data set called, or what is the name of the study? 
  • Edition or Version - Is there a version or edition number associated with the data set?
  • Date -What year was the data set published?  When was the data set posted online?
  • Editor - Is there a person or team responsible for compiling or editing the data set?
  • Publisher and Publisher Location - What entity is responsible for producing and/or distributing the data set?  Also, is there a physical location associated with the publisher?  In some cases, the publisher of a data set is different than how we think of the publisher of a book.  A data set can have both a producer and a distributor.The producer is the organization that sponsored the author’s research and/or the organization that made the creation of the data set possible, such as codifying and digitizing the data.The distributor is the organization that makes the data set available for downloading and use. Some citation styles (e.g., APA) do not require listing the publisher if an electronic retrieval location is available.  However, you may consider including the most complete citation information possible and retaining publisher information even in the case of electronic resources.
  • Material Designator - What type of file is the data set?  Is it on CD-ROM or online? This may or may not be a required field depending on the style manual.  Often this information is added in explanatory brackets, e.g. [computer file].
  • Electronic Retrieval Location -What web address is the data set available at?  Is there a persistent identifier available?  If a DOI or other persistent identifier is associated with the data set it should be used in place of the URL.



Types of Information That Should Be Cited

Q: What Types of information Should Be Cited?

A: Below is a list of the types of information that should be cited/referenced. Remember, when in doubt ask your professor, librarian or writing tutor for clarification on what to cite.


  • Data: Any data/datum (qualitative or quantitative). Examples of sources that one might get data from include: census records, statistical data from studies/reports, published scientific studies, published lab reports, etc.
  • Facts: When facts are not commonly known they should be cited. (Humans are warm blooded, is an example of a commonly known fact while, Beavers are the second largest rodent in the world after the capybara, is an example of not a well known fact.)
  • Images: Diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, or other visual materials.
  • Maps and Spatial Data: Cite the use of any cartographic images or spatial data.
  • Online and Social Media: Cite sources like emails, blogs, Facebook posts, Twitter etc.
  • Paraphrases and Summaries: Paraphrasing is a restatement of another person’s thoughts or ideas in your own words. A summary is a concise statement of another person’s thoughts or ideas in your own words.
  • Quotations: Quotes from any source; print, online, spoken, etc.
  • Additional/Supplementary Information: In some cases, especially in history and natural/environmental sciences you may not be able to include all of the information/data or ideas from your research in the body of your own paper. In such cases you can insert supplementary information.

Tools: Manage and Create Citations

Citation Software: Grab Citations & Auto-Create Bibliographies   

Learn about and compare citation toolsLinks (below) to download software for various citation management tools.

These tools are the best resources for citation management.

Free to all Colby students.

If you have questions contact a subject librarian for help!

Individual Citation Generators

Generate Citations On The Fly! Warning: The citations created by Citation Generators are not always accurate. Always double-check using a style manual.

Citation Styles

Q: What is a Citation Style?

A: Every area of study has a preferred way that subject experts (professors/librarians/researchers) expect to see information cited in research works. Authors write for different purposes and different audiences, and so the citation styles reflect that, thus we continue to use different citation styles for two main reasons: disciplinary differences and tradition. 

Examples of these styles include:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) is used by Education, Psychology, and Sciences.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used by the Humanities.
  • Chicago/Turabian style is generally used by Social Science and Humanities but particularly by the History, Art and Music disciplines.

To get complete information on how to use these styles (format your references/citations) go to the section on this LibGuide called Learn How to Cite.




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