It’s that time of year again– everyone is in full end-of-term mode, getting final papers and presentations ready. It’s also that time of year when citation questions start ramping up at the library.
We have lots of resources available online to help you with citations– the library’s APA page has a 4 page PDF with examples, as well as tutorials and Cite it Right! slides.
One of the most important things to help you with citations is a basic understanding of what it is you are looking at, so that you can find the right example to work from. Is it a journal, newspaper, or magazine article? A book? A report? Did you find it online, or read it in print? If it is a website, are you citing the whole thing, or just one page, or a report found on a website that stands alone? Once you have figured it out, you can try to find the most similar example and use that to generate your citation.
If that sounds confusing, think about your citations in this basic formula: who. (when). what. where. Those Ws are the four basic elements that are required in every citation to point your reader to your source, and give full credit to the author(s). The ‘where’ element is usually a URL if you have found your sources online.
Other helpful sites for aid in formatting citations: Purdue OWL APA guide and Research and Documentation Online both have example references, as well as sample papers if you want to see what a properly prepared paper in APA format looks like.
Some specific questions that have come up this week:
Q: How do I reference a person or company’s Facebook page or Twitter feed?
A: It depends on how you are using the information– if all you are doing is pointing out that Obama uses Facebook or Twitter, for example, you just need to include the URL in the text, not in the reference list.
If you are referencing a specific post or page because you have used information from it, then you should include the information in the reference list, as you want to point your reader to the right page or post.
However, if the post is private and not every reader has access to it, you would cite it as a personal communication.
There are examples of citing each way in the APA Style Blog, here.
Q: How do I reference a test I took online?
A: The APA Style Blog also has examples of psychological tests administered online. The important thing to note here is the use of square brackets to indicate that you are pointing the reader to a measurement instrument, as opposed to an article or webpage.
Good luck and happy citing!
At the reference desk we always get a lot of questions about citations… this time of year those questions definitely ramp up, as everyone’s getting their final papers and reports finished.
Below, a few specific questions that come up about APA style, as well as some links to guides or websites that are useful resources for APA citations.
How do you reference a web page that has no author? (answered at the APA Style website)
How do you cite an interview? (answered at the APA Style website)
Missing pieces: how to cite something without all the information? (handy table at the APA Style Blog)
APA Style FAQs from their website– good source for questions about style, references, punctuation, and formatting.
The APA Style Blog is also a great resource for questions about citations; you can use the search box or use the tag cloud to find posts about topics such as citing personal communications, tables and figures, social media, and much more.
As for library databases, there are a couple tricks you should know– you can use the cite function that is available in most databases, including OCtopus; just be careful to double check the citation with one of the guides above, as the databases do not always create citations properly. They can be a good starting point, however.
Another tip– use the permanent URL function in the databases. Don’t copy and paste the URL from the address bar if you’re in a database and find an article you like– this link may break. There will usually be a permanent link option (often on the right side of the page, or across the top– look for chain links icon) that will create a link that will not break. You can also email yourself the references for later use.
And of course you can always ask for help!