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This is a guide in support of certain majors and departments in the College of Science: Chemistry, Geological Sciences, Mathematics & Statistics, and Physics & Astronomy. Biological Sciences, Computer Science and Kinesiology have separate guides

Avoid Plagiarism - Cite Your Sources

Citing sources:

  • Gives credit to the creators of the information that you used in your papers, presentations, and projects
  • Adds credibility to your argument or assertions
  • Helps you avoid committing plagiarism
  • Shares the sources you found with other researchers
For more information and a self-quiz about avoiding plagiarism, visit CPP's Student Conduct and Integrity website.

Which citation style or reference format should you use?

Ask your professor if s/he would like the class to follow a particular citation style or format. If your professor allows you to choose which standard style to follow, aim for consistency when following it.

Below are links to help with creating MLA and APA style citations. Please keep in mind that these are just two examples of standard reference formats and neither may be the format assigned by your professor. So please do check with your instructor.

* Refer to Electronic Sources examples/guidelines when citing articles/information found using library databases or at a web site.

* Refer to Electronic Sources examples/guidelines when citing articles/information found using library databases or at a web site.


Understanding citations

Bibliographic citations are strings of data that specify the existence of publications.  Examples:

Book Cover


Karato, Shun-ichiro.  ed.  Physics and Chemistry of the Deep Earth.  Hoboken, NJ : John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2013.

Journal Cover Article:

Mary Satterfield and Jennifer S. Brodbelt.  Enhanced Detection of Flavonoids by Metal Complexation and Electrospray Ionization Mass Spectrometry. Anal. Chem., 2000,  72(24), 5898-5906.

In the above example of an article citation, we can make out the names of the authors, the year of publication, the title of the article and the name of the journal (but it is abbreviated) . There are many different styles of bibliographic citations: the above are generic examples.

In the above example of an article citation, there are parts of the citation that may be difficult to understand: we have the puzzling numbers "72 (24) 5898-5906." If you think about the physical nature of a periodical article, you know that they tend to occupy a range of pages, and what better way to express that range of pages by using a range of numbers (such as 5898-5906)? But what about the "72 (24)"? In general, a bibliographic citation for an article goes from unit: subunit. In this case, the "unit" in question is a volume number (72) and the (24) is the issue number.

You can see that the article citation has a level of complexity not present in the book citation.  Whenever you have two titles (one for the article, and one for the journal) and a range of numbers (representing a distinct range of pages), we have a citation specifying a subunit (the article) within a larger unit (a journal), you probably have a citation to an article.1

 Also, there are some older styles of citations that are hard to understand:

                            R. Miller. ISHM J. 4, 315 (1986).

This style allows for the omission of data, and is hard to decipher.  If you have difficulty in deciphering a citation, bring it to our Research Help Desk (or email it to for help.

You can often get useful citations from the bibliographies (also called "References" or "Literature Cited") at the end of scholarly articles. You can also get them from searching in databases (see the "Articles" tab above). 

1It could also be a chapter in a book, but that is far less common.