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Understanding Citations

Deciphering Citations


The first half of this guide will illustrate how to interpret the parts of an MLA citation for different types of sources. This is important when you have a citation in hand (for example, from the bibliography of a journal article, from a website, or from a professor) and want to track down the original source. Identifying the key parts of a citation will help you know how to search for the source.

For example, if the item is a book or book chapter, you should search the title of the book or chapter in the Geisel Library catalog or WorldCat. Similarly, if the item is a journal article, you should search the journal's title in the Journal Finder and use the volume, issue, or year of publication to browse to the desired article. But first, you need to know how to locate these pieces of info in the citation.

Although citations look different in other styles such as APA and Turabian, the same information is generally present, but with a different order and formatting.


Books


Book Chapters

If the entire book was written by the same author(s), including the chapter being cited, there will be no book editor(s) listed in the citation.


Journal Articles

If the article is available online in a research database, you will often see the database's name and the date of retrieval in the citation, as in the example below. If the article was obtained from a print copy of a magazine or journal, the citation will end with the page numbers.


Web Sources

If the web document has no author or publication date, its citation will not include this information. The "publisher" refers to the organization, company, or other entity on whose website the article or page resides.

 

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Distinguishing Types of Sources


The second half of this guide will help you distinguish among the major kinds of sources that you will encounter in the library's research resources. It provides tips on what to look for to determine whether an item is a book, book chapter, or journal article. Once you decide what type of source you have, you will know what information you need in order to cite it properly in your paper or presentation.

Books

Is it a book?  Look for:

  • a single title
  • publisher information
  • no page numbers

A book in the Geisel Library catalog: 


A book in an EBSCO database:


Book Chapters

Is it a book chapter?  Look for:

  • both a chapter title and a book title
  • publisher information
  • page numbers

A book chapter in an EBSCO database:


Journal Articles

Is it a journal article?  Look for:

  • both an article title and a journal title
  • a volume number
  • page numbers

A journal article in an EBSCO database:

 

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