A Guide to Citations

Whether writing a paper or providing a presentation, you will often find yourself relying on the completed work of others to synthesize information about a subject. An essential part of using these outside sources is to give their owners rightful credit in your references! Read some tips below on making citations easier. 

Someone reading an article they would reference if they were doing research on the topic
Citations can be the most dreaded section of your writing. Finish your references with ease using this guide! 
  1. Find and diversify your sources.

First, identify the sources you want to utilize. It’s often important to have a variety of sources to create a dynamic presentation about your topic of interest. Use of academic journals as well as a mix of primary and secondary sources will allow your presentation to cover a range of perspectives. 

Select your sources carefully and with purpose. You might be relying on different pieces of work for different reasons and you want to incorporate this variety in your writing. Different types of primary and secondary sources can provide diverse perspectives that will elevate the quality and reliability of your writing. You should ensure that each source you’re identifying contributes to your understanding and work in a meaningful way – whether the source plays an instrumental role in supporting your argument or providing contextual information for your subject. 

  1. List out your sources.

Keep track of the sources you’re using so that it makes creating a bibliography easier later on. It might also help to jot down a few notes about how that source assisted you and the type of information you processed from the author(s). This will make your life much more convenient later on, especially in the case where you need to include an annotated bibliography – a bibliography that demonstrates the importance of each source to the reader by inclusion of a summary or brief analysis. Also, make sure that you are keeping track of where these sources are being used throughout your work so that you can accurately and easily squeeze in the appropriate references. 

  1. Choose a citation style. 

There exist a variety of different citation styles but there can be preferred citation styles among different fields of research for various purposes. View published sources of your field to see the prevalent type of citation style used. Depending on the type of work you’re working on, more concise citation formats might be of interest while other pieces of work might require a citation format that explicitly states the authors of reference. Align yourself with the leaders of your field and gain familiarity with the styles in which you give credit to the original authors. 

  1. Refer to guides or resources. 

Peruse through online resources (such as OWL Purdue) which might have examples of the citation style you’re using. These guides will be a great way to ensure that the formats of your citations are correct and so that you can present your information in a professional manner! The Princeton University Library also often hosts workshops around citation management – there’s one coming up in just a couple weeks.

Formatting and writing citations can be a tedious process at first. However, a bibliography is the optimal way to convey to your readers 1) where certain material in your work came from 2) other sources readers can turn to in regards to the topic 3) the topic of discussion is one of academic interest. Referring to other authors will add credibility to your writing and demonstrate the necessity of giving credit where credit is due.  

— Rebecca Cho, Natural Sciences Correspondent