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Information Literacy Tutorial

Interpreting Citations


A citation is a reference to a source of information. A citation typically includes enough identifying information, such as the author, title, and source, for a reader to be able to locate a copy of the item.

Example:

Bolgiano, Chris. Mountain Lion: An Unnatural History of Pumas and People. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1995.

The ability to interpret citations or references to various sources of information is a fundamental research skill. In order to be able to locate an item from a bibliography at the end of an article or book or from a database printout, you need to be able to determine what type of source the item is. A partial list of types of sources would include:

  • book
  • essay or article in a book
  • journal article
  • magazine article
  • newspaper article
  • government document
  • dissertation
  • Internet document
  • speech
  • interview
  • DVD
  • sound recording

Following are examples of the most common types of sources students find in bibliographies and in databases:


Book Citation

Note: Check the Pfeiffer Library Catalog by author or title to determine whether Pfeiffer Library owns a book.


Magazine Article Citation

Note: To determine whether Pfeiffer Library owns a magazine, go to Journal Finder and type in the title of the magazine, not the title of the article.


Journal Article Citation

Note: To determine whether Pfeiffer Library owns a journal, go to Journal Finder and search for the journal title, not the title of the article.


Government Document Citation


Article/Chapter in a Book

Note: To find out whether Pfeiffer Library owns this item, look for the title of the book in the Pfeiffer Library Catalog, not the title of the article/chapter.


Internet Source Citation



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2006 Carrier Library, James Madison University. Used by permission.