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Citations made easy

Making sense of citations in Chicago style

When you consult books or articles in the library, you will encounter footnotes or endnotes that provide citations to other works that may be of interest to you.   When you wish to find that other work in the library, it is necessary to understand what type of publication is being cited.   You will need to use different tools to find different types of material.

Fortunately, the citations offer important clues to tell you which kind of material is being cited.


Journal articles:  Journals are issued in numbered volumes and issues within those volumes (for example, all journal issues published from January-December are in volume 12; each monthly publication has an issue number.)  Articles in journals are noted with three important pieces of information.   The title of the article is in quotation marks, the title of the journal is in italics, and the volume and issue number are given.  The numbers following the colon are page numbers.  (You may see a citation in either of the following formats.)   To search for journal articles, type the author's name and the article title into "Articles+".

Newspaper and magazine articles:  Newspapers and popular magazines usually do not have volume and issue numbers.  Therefore, the citation only indicates the date of the newspaper.  The title of the article is in quotation marks, the title of the newspaper or magazine is in italics, and the date is given.  The numbers following the date are page numbers.  To find a newspaper article, search for the name of the newspaper in the Catalog, then follow the links.  Consult a librarian if you need help.

Books:  Scholarly books are called "monographs" when they are published as stand-alone titles (not part of a series.)  The clue that a monograph is being cited is that the title is in italics, and place of publication and the name of the publisher are given.  To find a monograph, search for the title in the Catalog.  The number after the parenthesis is a page number.

Chapters in Books:  Some books are not written by a single author, but rather are collections of chapters by various authors.  The person who collects the chapters is called the editor.  The clues that a chapter is being cited is that the chapter title is in quotes, the editor is named, and the book title is in italics.  To find a chapter, search for the title of the whole book in the Catalog.

Book in a series:  Some books are part of a larger set; for example, a cited work could be the fourth volume in a series.  The clue that a book in a series is being cited is that a volume number precedes the page number.  To find a volume of a series, search for the title of the whole series in the Catalog.



Why citation?

The citations and bibliography in any scholarly work have two purposes:

  • to acknowledge the author's debt to the work of others
  • to enable the reader to locate the sources consulted by the author

To do that, your citations and bibliography need to include complete and accurate information about your sources, arranged in a consistent way that does not confuse your reader. At this point in your research, you will all have encountered unhelpful footnotes with mysterious abbreviations, incorrect information, or other problems. 

There are many ways to arrange the information. This is called "style" and there are several common styles in use. Commonly used styles in academic writing include The Chicago Manual of Style, MLA, and APA.  Always check with your reader to find out if he/she cares about which style you use. When you write for publication, the publisher or journal editor will tell you which style they want you to use.

Why does it matter? Correct style will make things easier for your reader. And you want the reader to think about your ideas, not the messy punctuation at the bottom of the page.

Which Style Should I Use?

You can decide on a citation style in a number of ways:

1. (Easiest/Most Important): What does your department/advisor/editor want you to use?

2. What is most common for your discipline:

  • APA: psychology, education, anthropology, other social sciences
  • Chicago: history, or other disciplines citing archival sources
  • CSE: natural sciences
  • IEEE: engineering
  • MLA: literature, art/art history, philosophy, music, religions, linguistics, other humanities

    3. What style is used in most of the works you are consulting?


Where to start

An overview and summary of each style is found at Purdue OWL Research and Citation Resources

The full set of rules for each style is found in these publications:

Where to get more help

Need more help? Ask!

Automate the Process with Reference Managers

These products allow you to store your references in a database, then automatically generate citations and bibliographies.

Zotero  (see the library's Guide to using Zotero)



And there are others as well