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Research Foundations: Locate Citation Information

Locating Citation Information

No matter which citation style you use, the first step to crediting your sources is locating the citation information. Regardless of the information format, all citations will include a minimum of title of the work, author or authors, and date of publication. Below are examples from books, ebooks, articles from databases, and academic journal articles that illustrate where to find the identifying citation information.

Book / eBook Title Page

title page of a book with highlighted sections

title page of a book

When examining a book, the basic citation information will usually be found on the book's title page. Generally this page will identify the book's title, author(s), and publishing company. All of these components are essential to creating a citation. Here's what to look for on the title page:

Title - Full title and subtitles

Edition - books that have been revised or expanded more than once will often have an edition number

Author(s) or Editor(s) - may include one or more authors or editors of the book

Publisher - the company that published the book

Publishing City - if there are multiple cities, cite the first city listed


Book / eBook Copyright Page

copyright page of a book with highlighted sections

copyright page of a book

The page immediately following the title page is often called the copyright page. This is where you find the remaining copyright information for the book. Here is where the publication or copyright date is typically printed. Occasionally you will find a book that has been reprinted. In those cases, use the most recent copyright or publishing date, as that is the version of the book you are currently studying. The copyright page also usually identifies the publishing city, though it may also be found on the title page...or sometimes on both.

Copyright / Publication Year - if there are multiple dates, choose the most recent

Publisher - the company that published the book

Edition - books that have been revised or expanded more than once will often have an edition number

Academic Journal Article

screencapture of an academic journal article with title, author, page number, publication title, volume, issue number, and year highlighted

example academic journal article

Academic journal articles' citations differ from book sources, and thus require you to identify a few unique pieces of information.

Title - Full title and subtitles

Author(s) - may include one or more authors of the article

Page Number - cite the entire page range in which the article appears

Publication - name of the journal the article was published in

Volume / Issue Number - identifies the exact edition of the journal where the article appears

Publication Date - date formats vary; use the format the journal provides or the citation style requires

Most citation information will appear on the first page of the article; however, the location of that information will vary from journal to journal. You can find the placement of the journal name, page number, publication date, and volume and issue number located on the top or bottom of the article’s page. The publication date may be a single year (2013), a distinct month (October 2010), specific publication cycle (Fall 2007), or an exact date (June 28, 2005). The page range of the article is another cirtical piece of citation information. Some article in printed or PDF format, will have the page numbers visible. Other articles in a digital, or HTML, format may not have obvious page ranges.

Database Articles

There is no uniform approach to locating citation information based solely on the article itself. Many journals follow a relatively consistent format. Magazine and newspaper articles may only offer an article's title with the text and identify an author or source. Again, you are not likely to encounter standardization in the presentation of the article.

Some citation styles or professors require that you include the name of the database if retrieved through a library database. This can be tricky to discern if you are not familiar with the databases. Fortunately, most databases provide essential citation information for each article directly on the results pages or the article description page. Knowing this saves a lot of time and effort when reviewing articles.

screencapture of citation information listed in a database

example of citation information for a database article

Additionally, many databases will create an article's citation for you, in the citation style you choose. These computer-generated citations require careful review, as they may not be fully correct. Most databases will create citations that have the right information, in the right order. The biggest drawback to using databases created citations is in the formatting. Many will not include the correct spacing, punctuation, and capitalization for the citation style. Some articles, particularly those only available in HTML format, display just the first page number rather than the entire range. You may not be able to verify an exact page range without access to a PDF format in these instances. Always remeber to check these citations again an official style guide before including in a research project.

screencapture of a database generated citation in M L A style format

example of a database generated citation