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Understanding and Interpreting Citations

What is a Citation?

A citation is a written reference to a specific work or portion of a work (book, magazine or journal article, newspaper article, government report, etc.) by a particular author, editor, organization, etc., that identifies the document in which the work can be found.

Basic Parts of a Citation

Regardless of their format, citations generally have four main parts - author, title, source, and year of publication. The main difference between most citations (illustrated in the chart below) is the format of the source of information.

Books Articles
Source of information Place of Publication / Publisher Magazine / Journal Title
Volume / Issue Numbers Page numbers

Different Citation Formats

Citations appear in indexes in various formats. Most citations found in print and electronic indexes are for magazine or journal articles. However, some indexes include citations for government documents, newspaper articles, books, book reviews, and even chapters from books. To determine the appropriate format, all parts of a citation must be examined.

Journal Citation

Electronic Journal Index

from EBSCO Host, Academic Search Premier

Print Journal Index

When bad quarters happen to good economics. J. C. Cooper and K. Madigan. il Business Week no3589 p27-8 Ag 3 '98
from Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. 1998 edition.

The basic components of a journal citation include article title, author name, name of source, volume and issue information, date of publication, and page numbers. For journals numbered only by issues, no volume information is provided. Many electronic indexes offer full text availability.

Book Citation

from ABELL.

Citation for a Chapter in a Book

from MLA Bibliography.

Books may be either entire works by one author or a collection of works by several authors. Users can usually determine this by identifying whether the term "author" or "editor" is used in a citation. Sometimes books will be referred to as monographs. The most common components of a book citation include author(s) or editor name(s), title, publisher, place of publication, and year of publication. Frequently a citation for a book will include a list of the book's contents. A citation for an individual book chapter will list the name of the chapter as well as the name of the book in which it is included. Search the online catalog to determine whether or not the complete book is included in the Library's holdings.

Book Review

from ACM Digital Library.

Book reviews are published in journals and newspapers within one to two years after the publication of the book and can be found in the source indicated in the citation.

Newspaper Citation Examples

Electronic Newspaper Index

from EBSCO Host, Newspaper Source.

Print Newspaper Index

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development praises Japan's strong economic growth, but calls on Japan to increase its people's living standards to help Japanese consume more and reduce that nation's huge trade surplus (L), D 27, IV, 12;4
from New York Times Index, 1998 edition.

Frequently no author will be listed for a newspaper article. In order to locate the referenced article, users have to rely upon the source, title, and section, page, and column information. For example, in the citation from the New York Times Index listed above, the referenced article is located on page 12, column 4 of section IV of the December 27th edition. The previous two weeks of all newspapers currently received by Lovejoy Library are kept in the Reserve Department at the Circulation Desk.

Government Document


The Detroit Handgun Intervention Program : a court-based program for youthful handgun offenders.[1998] National Institute of Justice (U.S)
J 28.24/7: H 19.[[07 18-A-29]].

Rank: 917 Locate Libraries, [Short Record], [Full Record]

from GPO Access, Ctalog of U.S. Government Publications .

Several features of a government document citation differ from other citation formats. When using the online catalog, select the Locate Libraries function to locate an institution that receives the publication. Users can also select either the Short Record (citation only display) or Full Record (complete cataloging record) format. When an electronic edition of a document is available, a highlighted hyperlink will be provided. The Rank feature indicates relevancy of search terms based upon subject and frequency. In addition, since most government depositories organize their documents using the Superintendent of Document Classification System, a call number has also been provided.

Locating the Source

To locate journals and newspapers, search the Library's online databases and online catalog to determine whether or not a journal or newspaper is included in the Library's electronic or physical holdings. Articles from journals and newspapers not available in Lovejoy Library's collection can be ordered through Interlibrary Loan.

For books and government documents, search the online catalog to determine whether or not the materials are included in the library's holdings. Books not available in Lovejoy Library's collection can be ordered through Interlibrary Loan.

For additional information on how to locate journals and newspapers consult the Locating Journals Frequently Asked Questions Guide.

For additional assistance contact Lydia Jackson, Instruction Librarian ( or 618-650-2604) or the Information Desk (618-650-INFO).

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