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Citing Sources : Understanding Citations

Guide to citation styles and tools for managing and formatting citations.

Understanding Citations

Understanding citations is important:

  • It helps you to avoid plagiarizing someone else's work.
  • As a reader of citations, it will help you locate research relevant to your needs.
  • As a writer of citations, it will allow your readers to investigate your research.

This guide provides the basics of citations and how to read them.  Also included are examples of citations commonly seen within the UW Libraries catalog and databases.

Reading Citations

Citations are best understood by breaking them down to their individual parts.  The order of a citation can vary depending on the citation style you use, but the main elements are generally the same. Below are some examples of the most common types of citation and the indicators to watch for. 


Stevenson, Bryan. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2015. Print.

Author: Bryan Stevenson

Title: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Place of Publication: New York

Publisher: Speigel & Grau

Date of Publication: 2015

Format: Print

Indicators of a book citation:

  • Only one title is mentioned (e.g. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption)
  • Mentions place of publication (e.g. New York)
  • Mentions publisher's name (e.g. Speigel & Grau)

Book Chapter:

Steinbeck, John. “The Murder.” The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century. Ed. Tony Hillerman and Otto Penzler. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000. 193-203. Print.

Author: John Steinbeck

Chapter Title: The Murder

Book Title: The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century

Editors: Tony Hilllerman and Otto Penzler

Place of Publication: Boston

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Date of Publication: 2000

Page Numbers: 193-203

Format: Print

Indicators of a book chapter citation:

  • First title, the chapter or essay, is usually in quotations (e.g. "The Murder")
  • Second title, the book, is in italics (e.g. The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century)
  • Mentions place of publication (e.g. Boston)
  • Mentions publisher (e.g. Houghton Mifflin Co.)
  • Lists page numbers of chapter or essay (e.g. 193-203)

Journal Article:

Nonis, Sarath A., and Hudson, Gail I. "Performance Of College Students: Impact Of Study Time And Study Habits." Journal Of Education For Business 85.4 (2010): 229-238.

Authors: Sarath A. Nonis and Gail I. Hudson

Article Title: Performance of College Students: Impact of Study Time and Study Habits

Journal Title: Journal of Education for Business

Volume & Issue: Volume 85 Issue 4

Date of Publication: 2010

Page Numbers: 229-238

Indicators of a journal article:

  • First title, the article, is usually in quotations (e.g. "Performance of College Students: Impact of Study Time and Study Habits")
  • Second title, the journal, is in italics (e.g. Journal of Education for Business)
  • Mentions a volume and issue (e.g. displayed as 85.(5) or sometimes as 85.5)