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How To Properly Reference An Essay

Term Paper: Format of Citations and References

1. Introduction

As you write your term papers, it will be important for you to document where you obtained the information cited in your report. Many of the references you use will come from published sources. Some may come from electronic sources such as the World Wide Web, Melvyl and Harvest databases available through the UC Davis library, CD references and the like, and some may come from interviews. An important component of your writing will be the effective use of reference material. This skill will serve you well in writing papers of all types, not just those required for classes.

For this class, we will be using the documentation style of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2001) modified with italics substituted for underlining. This format is very similar to that of the Modern Language Association, and these are the most commonly used styles for publishing in the social and natural sciences. The general form of citations in the body of the text is to include the author and date in parentheses (as above) and optionally include the page number(s) after the date. If the author's name was just mentioned in the text, it is not necessary to repeat it in the citation. The rules are described in more detail, with examples, in section 3.

2. Basic Guidelines

The purpose of the term paper in ECS 15 is for you to learn how to do effective research on a subject and then write it up clearly, showing where you got your information.

A research paper requires searching for information pertinent to a given subject, organizing it, and presenting it effectively in written form. Oral research reports are also useful, but this course does not cover them.

In the following sections, we will present the way that we want you to cite your references in the term paper for this course. The required format meets the accepted practices cited in Li and Crane (1993), a reference that is currently considered the best authority on citing electronic sources. This book in turn follows the basic format for the American Psychological Association (APA, 2001), which is a good format (though by no means the only acceptable one in technical publications). You may be required to use slightly different formats for other papers, such as papers submitted for publication to refereed journals, each of which typically have their own styles. Learning how to follow one such set of rules is a worthwhile exercise. You will therefore be expected to use the format set out below.

3. In-text Citation to References

When citing a reference from your reference list, please use the following conventions. Put in parentheses the author(s) last names, the year, and optionally the page number(s) separated by commas.

For one author, use the author's last name and year separated by a comma. For example: (Walters, 1994) or (Austin, 1996).

For two to five authors, use their last names separated by commas and with an ampersand "&" before the very last name in the list, then the year separated by a comma. For example: (Li & Crane, 1993) (Charniak, Riesbeck, McDermott & Meehan, 1994).

For more than five authors, use the first author's last name and "et al." For example: (Walters, et al., 1992).

For the date, use the year. If there are two references by the same author(s) for the same year, use letters after the year: (Walters, 1993b).

If there are specific page numbers for a citation, add them after the year (Walters, 1994, pp. 31-49).

If you include the author's name(s) in the text of a sentence in the paper, you may omit their names from the parentheses as follows: "Austin (1996) includes valuable references to ...." or "The examples given by Li and Crane (1993) on web addresses ...".

Do not use footnotes in this class for citations. You can use them for explanatory text, but not for references. Have the citation make it easy to find the reference in the "References" section. All references in that section should be complete enough for readers to obtain a copy for themselves.

4. Your List of References

Create a list of references, one for each item cited in the paper, in a section called "References". This section goes at the end of your paper. The references are to be alphabetized by the fist author's last name, or (if no author is listed) the organization or title. If you cite more than one paper by the same first author, sort them by year of publication, earliest year first. Do not use footnotes for citations.

Single-space the entries in your list of references. Start at the left margin for the first line of each bibliography entry. Each additional line of each entry should be indented a reasonable amount. Separate the entries with a blank line. Do not number the references. Doing so means you have to renumber all the references whenever you insert a new reference.

4.1. Author, Date, and Title

The general format for the author, title, and date in your reference list is as follows:

    Author. (date). Title. [the full reference, which follows, is discussed below]

The following explains these fields.


First author's last name, followed by the initials. If there are two authors, separate their names with "and". For three or more authors, separate all but the last author's name with commas, and use "and" before the last author's name in the list. If published by an agency with no author given, list the name of the agency. End with a period. For example:

    Walters, R.F.

    Walters, R.F. and Reed, N.E.

    Walters, R.F., Bharat, S. R. and Austin, A.A.

    Charniak, E., Riesbeck, C., McDermott, D. and Meehan, J.

    National Bureau of Standards.


Enclose the date in parentheses. Use a date sufficiently specific for the item. For example, give the year of publication for a book, the year and month of publication for a monthly magazine or journal, and the year, month, and day for a newspaper or daily periodical. End with a period. For example:


    (1992, October).

    (1995, August 30).


If the title is that of an article, use the regular font; if it is the title of a book, italicize it. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns. If there is a subtitle, it too should begin with a capital letter. End with a period. For example, an article's title would look like:

    Computer-based systems integration.

and a book's title would look like:

    The abc's of MUMPS: An introduction for novice and intermediate programmers.

4.2. Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers

The following apply to citing the name and identifying information for journals, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals in general.


When citing the name of a journal, magazine or newspaper, write the name in italics, with all words capitalized except for articles, prepositions and conjunctions.

Volume, number, and page numbers

Give the volume number in italics, followed by the issue number in parentheses (if there is an issue number), and the page number(s). For magazines, precede page numbers with "p." (if the article is on a single page) or "pp." (if the article is on multiple pages). For example:

    Communications of the ACM, 27(2), 141-195.

    Journal of Advertising Research, 32, 47-55.

    Time, 146, pp. 42-44.

Publisher and Location

Give the city and state (if in the United States), followed by a colon and the publisher name, followed by a period. For example:

    Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    London: Edward Arnold

4.3. Interviews

If you choose to include any personal interviews, reference them with the person's name, their professional title and employer, and the date, time, and place of the interview. For example:

    Albert Einstein (1935, January 5), Professor of Theoretical Physics, Princeton University, 3:00pm, Princeton, NJ.

4.4. References Found in Electronic Form

Many resource materials are available through Melvyl and Harvest, which are the electronic access points for the UC Davis library. More are on CDROM, or on the Internet. These can serve as appropriate references for research reports and term papers. It is important, however, to acknowledge the sources of these documents, even though you may never have seen "hard copy" (printed versions) of the file(s) you wish to cite. This section describes how you are to cite references that you have obtained from electronic repositories.

The basic form of your reference will be similar to printed references, but you will need to add some important additional information: the type of medium used, and the material's availability.

In general, if you wish to cite an electronic file, you should include either the term "[Online]" or the term "[CDROM]" (enclosed in square brackets) before the closing period terminating the title of the work cited. If you are citing a part of a larger work, you should give the title, followed by a comma, the word "In" followed by the larger work, and then add "[Online]" or "[CDROM]" as appropriate, followed by a period.

Citing the availability of an electronic document should give the reader enough information to know where to locate the file and, if necessary, the specific portion of the file cited. Electronic documents can come from several types of locations:

    ftp: identify the ftp server, location (path), and file name

    Internet (e.g., world wide web): give the location and file name; the URL is sufficient

    mailing lists, newsgroups: identify the server, method of access, and file name; do not cite personal email

    databases (e.g., computer database in Melvyl): identify access method

In each case, you should give enough information to let the reader know how to access the information electronically. Generally, giving the site (Internet-style server name) on which the information resides, the name of the file, and the complete path (list of directories) showing how to get to it is sufficient.For example:

    [Online]. Available: email: listserv@ncsuvm.cc.ncsu.edu Message: Get POETICS TODAY.

    [Online] Available: FTP: ftp.bio.indiana.edu, Location: /usenet/bionet/neuroscience, File: 9512.newsm.

    [CDROM]. Available: UMI File: Business Periodicals Ondisk Item 91-11501.

    [Online]. Available: http://escher.ucdavis.edu:1024/rtahomepage.html

5. Samples of Complete References

All of the examples given above may be summarized by citing a few references in the form we would like you to use. Here are some examples that would be cited in the text as (Crosley, 1988), (Essinger, 1991, May 28, pp. 97-99), (Armstrong & Keevil, 1991, p. 103), and so forth.

5.1. Printed Book

Crosley, L.M. (1988). The architects' guide to computer-aided-design. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons.

5.2. Magazine Article

Essinger, J. (1991, May 28). Just another tool of your trade. Accountancy 108, pp. 91-125.

5.3. Journal Article

Armstrong, P. and Keevil, S. (1991). Magnetic resonance imaging-2: Clinical uses. British Medical Journal 303(2), 105-109.

5.4. Interview

Computer, Christopher C. (1996, January 10) Professor, Computer Science Department, University of California - Davis, 3:00 pm, Davis, California.

5.5. World Wide Web Address

Austin, A. (1996) Annotated List of World Wide Web Technical Writing and Computer-Aided Composition Resources [Online]. Available: http://wwwcsif.cs.ucdavis.edu/~austina/cai.html.

Burke, J. (1992, January/February). Children's research and methods: What media researchers are doing, Journal of Advertising Research, 32, RC2-RC3. [CDROM]. Available: UMI File: Business Periodicals Ondisk Item: 92-11501.

5.7. FTP

Blood, T. (1995, November 30). Re: Brain implants: the Chinese made it! [Online] In Newsgroup: bionet.neuroscience, Available FTP: ftp.bio.indiana.edu, Directory: /usenet/bionet/neuroscience, File: 9512.newsm, Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 20:39:35.

Watson, L, and Dallwitz, M.J. (1990, December). Grass genera of the world-interactive identification and information retrieval. Flora Online: An Electronic Publication of TAXACOM (22). [Online]. Available FTP: huh.harvard.edu, Directory: pub/newsletters/flora.online/issue22, File:022gra11.txt.

6. References

American Psychological Association (APA) (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (Fifth Edition).Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Li, X. and Crane, N.B. (1993). Electronic style: A guide to citing electronic information. Westport, CT: Mecklermedia.

Here is a PDF version of this document.

This depends on what type of work you are writing, how you are using the borrowed material, and the expectations of your instructor.

First, you have to think about how you want to identify your sources. If your sources are very important to your ideas, you should mention the author and work in a sentence that introduces your citation. If, however, you are only citing the source to make a minor point, you may consider using parenthetical references, footnotes, or endnotes.

There are also different forms of citation for different disciplines. For example, when you cite sources in a psychology paper you would probably use a different form of citation than you might in a paper for an English class.

Finally, you should always consult your instructor to determine the form of citation appropriate for your paper. You can save a lot of time and energy simply by asking "How should I cite my sources," or "What style of citation should I use?" before you begin writing.

In the following sections, we will take you step-by-step through some general guidelines for citing sources.

Identifying Sources in the Body of Your Paper

The first time you cite a source, it is almost always a good idea to mention its author(s), title, and genre (book, article, or web page, etc.). If the source is central to your work, you may want to introduce it in a separate sentence or two, summarizing its importance and main ideas. But often you can just tag this information onto the beginning or end of a sentence. For example, the following sentence puts information about the author and work before the quotation:

Milan Kundera, in his book The Art of the Novel, suggests that “if the novel should really disappear, it will do so not because it has exhausted its powers but because it exists in a world grown alien to it.”

You may also want to describe the author(s) if they are not famous, or if you have reason to believe your reader does not know them. You should say whether they are economic analysts, artists, physicists, etc. If you do not know anything about the author, and cannot find any information, it is best to say where you found the source and why you believe it is credible and worth citing. For example,

In an essay presented at an Asian Studies conference held at Duke University, Sheldon Geron analyzes the relation of state, labor-unions, and small businesses in Japan between 1950s and 1980s.

If you have already introduced the author and work from which you are citing, and you are obviously referring to the same work, you probably don't need to mention them again. However, if you have cited other sources and then go back to one you had cited earlier, it is a good idea to mention at least the author's name again (and the work if you have referred to more than one by this author) to avoid confusion.

Quoting Material

What is Quoting?

Taking the exact words from an original source is called quoting. You should quote material when you believe the way the original author expresses an idea is the most effective means of communicating the point you want to make. If you want to borrow an idea from an author, but do not need his or her exact words, you should try paraphrasing instead of quoting.

How Often Should I Quote?

Most of the time, paraphrasing and summarizing your sources is sufficient (but remember that you still have to cite them!). If you think it’s important to quote something, an excellent rule of thumb is that for every line you quote, you should have at least two lines analyzing it.

How Do I Incorporate Quotations in My Paper?

Most of the time, you can just identify a source and quote from it, as in the first example above. Sometimes, however, you will need to modify the words or format of the quotation in order to fit in your paper. Whenever you change the original words of your source, you must indicate that you have done so. Otherwise, you would be claiming the original author used words that he or she did not use. But be careful not to change too many words! You could accidentally change the meaning of the quotation and falsely claim the author said something they did not.

For example, let's say you want to quote from the following passage in an essay called "United Shareholders of America," by Jacob Weisberg:

The citizen-investor serves his fellow citizens badly by his inclination to withdraw from the community. He tends to serve himself badly as well. He does so by focusing his pursuit of happiness on something that very seldom makes people happy in the way they expect it to.

When you quote, you generally want to be as concise as possible. Keep only the material that is strictly relevant to your own ideas. So here you would not want to quote the middle sentence, since it is repeated again in the more informative last sentence. However, just skipping it would not work -- the final sentence would not make sense without it. So, you have to change the wording a little bit. In order to do so, you will need to use some editing symbols. Your quotation might end up looking like this:

In his essay, “United Shareholders of America,” Jacob Weisberg insists that “The citizen-investor serves his fellow citizens badly by his inclination to withdraw from the community. He tends to serve himself badly... by focusing his pursuit of happiness on something that very seldom makes people happy in the way they expect it to.”


“He tends to serve himself badly...by focusing his pursuit of happiness on [money].”

The brackets around the word [money] indicate that you have substituted that word for other words the author used. To make a substitution this important, however, you had better be sure that [money] is what the final phrase meant -- if the author intentionally left it ambiguous, you would be significantly altering his meaning. That would make you guilty of fraudulent attribution. In this case, however, the paragraph following the one quoted explains that the author is referring to money, so it is okay.

As a general rule, it is okay to make minor grammatical and stylistic changes to make the quoted material fit in your paper, but it is not okay to significantly alter the structure of the material or its content.

Quoting within Quotes

When you have "embedded quotes," or quotations within quotations, you should switch from the normal quotation marks ("") to single quotation marks ('') to show the difference. For example, if an original passage by John Archer reads:

The Mountain Coyote has been described as a “wily” and “single-minded” predator by zoologist Lma Warner.

your quotation might look like this:

As John Archer explains, “The Mountain Coyote has been described as a 'wily' and 'single-minded' predator by zoologist Lma Warner.”

How Do I Include Long Quotes in My Paper?

The exact formatting requirements for long quotations differ depending on the citation style. In general, however, if you are quoting more than 3 lines of material, you should do the following:

  • change the font to one noticeably smaller (in a document that is mostly 12 point font, you should use a 10 point font, for example)
  • double indent the quotation -- that means adjusting the left and right margins so that they are about one inch smaller than the main body of your paper
  • if you have this option in your word-processor, "left-justify" the text. That means make it so that each line begins in the same place, creating a straight line on the left side of the quotation, while the right side is jagged
  • do NOT use quotation marks for the entire quotation -- the graphic changes you have made already (changing the font, double indenting, etc.) are enough to indicate that the material is quoted. For quotations within that quotation, use normal quotation marks, not single ones
  • you might want to skip 1.5 times the line-spacing you are using in the document before you begin the quotation and after it. This is optional and depends on the style preferred by your instructor

For example, a properly-formatted long quotation in a document might look like this:

Akutagawa complicates the picture of picture of himself as mere “reader on the verge of writing his own text,” by having his narrated persona actually finish authoring the work in wich he appears. In the forty-ninth segment of the text, entitled “A Stuffed Swan,” he writes:Using all of his remaining strength, he tried to write his autobiography. Yet it was not an easy task for him. This was due to his still lingering sense of pride and skepticism... After finishing “A Fool's Life,” he accidentally discovered a suffered swan in a used goods store. Although it stood with its head raised, even its yellowed wings had been eaten by insects. He thought of his entire life and felt tears and cruel laughter welling up inside. All that remained for him was madness or suicide.With this gesture Akutagawa ironizes the impossibility of truly writing the self by emphasizing the inevitable split that must occur between writing and written “self,” the Akutagawa still writing “A Fool's Life” cannot possibly be identical with the narrated persona which has finished the work.

Listing References

What's a Bibliography?

A bibliography is a list of all of the sources you have used in the process of researching your work. In general, a bibliography should include:

  • the authors' names
  • the titles of the works
  • the names and locations of the companies that published your copies of the sources
  • the dates your copies were published
  • the page numbers of your sources (if they are part of multi-source volumes)

OK, So What's an Annotated Bibliography?

An annotated bibliography is the same as a bibliography with one important difference: in an annotated bibliography, the bibliographic information is followed by a brief description of the content, quality, and usefulness of the source.

What Are Footnotes?

Footnotes are notes placed at the bottom of a page. They cite references or comment on a designated part of the text above it. For example, say you want to add an interesting comment to a sentence you have written, but the comment is not directly related to the argument of your paragraph. In this case, you could add the symbol for a footnote. Then, at the bottom of the page you could reprint the symbol and insert your comment. Here is an example:

This is an illustration of a footnote.1 The number “1” at the end of the previous sentence corresponds with the note below. See how it fits in the body of the text?

1 At the bottom of the page you can insert your comments about the sentence preceding the footnote.

When your reader comes across the footnote in the main text of your paper, he or she could look down at your comments right away, or else continue reading the paragraph and read your comments at the end. Because this makes it convenient for your reader, most citation styles require that you use either footnotes or endnotes in your paper. Some, however, allow you to make parenthetical references (author, date) in the body of your work. See our section on citation styles for more information.

Footnotes are not just for interesting comments, however. Sometimes they simply refer to relevant sources -- they let your reader know where certain material came from or where they can look for other sources on the subject. To decide whether you should cite your sources in footnotes or in the body of your paper, you should ask your instructor or see our section on citation styles.

Where Does the Little Footnote Mark Go?

Whenever possible, put the footnote at the end of a sentence, immediately following the period or whatever punctuation mark completes that sentence. Skip two spaces after the footnote before you begin the next sentence. If you must include the footnote in the middle of a sentence for the sake of clarity, or because the sentence has more than one footnote (try to avoid this!), try to put it at the end of the most relevant phrase, after a comma or other punctuation mark. Otherwise, put it right at the end of the most relevant word. If the footnote is not at the end of a sentence, skip only one space after it.

What's the Difference between Footnotes and Endnotes?

The only real difference is placement -- footnotes appear at the bottom of the relevant page, while endnotes all appear at the end of your document. If you want your reader to read your notes right away, footnotes are more likely to get your reader's attention. Endnotes, on the other hand, are less intrusive and will not interrupt the flow of your paper.

If I Cite Sources in the Footnotes (or Endnotes), How's that Different from a Bibliography?

Sometimes you may be asked to include these -- especially if you have used a parenthetical style of citation. A "works cited" page is a list of all the works from which you have borrowed material. Your reader may find this more convenient than footnotes or endnotes because he or she will not have to wade through all of the comments and other information in order to see the sources from which you drew your material. A "works consulted" page is a complement to a "works cited" page, listing all of the works you used, whether they were useful or not.

Isn't a "Works Consulted" Page the Same as a "Bibliography," Then?

Well, yes. The title is different because "works consulted" pages are meant to complement "works cited" pages, and bibliographies may list other relevant sources in addition to those mentioned in footnotes or endnotes. Choosing to title your bibliography "Works Consulted" or "Selected Bibliography" may help specify the relevance of the sources listed.

For more information on documenting sources, see Purdue University's Online Writing Lab.

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