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Library Information for International Students

Library Guide for international students

What is a citation?

A citation, or reference, is the quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing of someone else's work, used as a basis for your own ideas and research. A citation also refers to the information about a source, such as title, author, date, etc., which gives credit to the original author and shows readers where to find the original work. There are two parts to a citation: the in-text citation, which goes next to the quoted material, and the reference list citation, found at the end of a paper or report. This list is also called a bibliography.

Citations should follow a standardized format from a style guide such as APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association). Article databases have generic citations that you can put into other styles; you can also find all the necessary information from the source itself.

When to cite

You need to cite anything that is not common knowledge, including when you don't use a word-for-word quote but still describe the main ideas or heart of a passage (called paraphrasing). But citing sources is more than just avoiding plagiarism. Citations give credibility to your work by showing that you've consulted other expert research, and references strengthen your work by putting it into meaningful context. You can cite other sources to establish general background information. More importantly, you can use them...

  • to support your ideas and research by building upon the citation or showing how it complements your own work
  • as a point of departure for a different point of view
  • to show conflict by using two or more citations from different sources to reveal disagreement about or contradictions within a topic, then exploring that tension with your own ideas, introducing new aspects

Citation Examples

Citation help

Finding the DOI Number

The new (6th) edition of APA asks for the DOI (Digital Object Identifier), if available, for citations for electronic journal articles. Note that a DOI does not always exist for an online article.  If the article has one, it can sometimes be found in the database entry (but not always) or is often included with the Journal Name at either the top or bottom of the first page of the article itself.

Alternatively, if you have the citation information, you can look up the DOI number in CrossRef:

1. Go to CrossRef's Free  DOI Lookup

2. Copy and paste your citation information and CrossRef will supply the DOI number, if available.

Citing a Source Using Library Search

There are currently seven citation styles to choose from when exporting your source details. These include:

  • APA (7th edition)
  • MLA (9th edition) 
  • MLA (8th edition)
  • IEEE
  • Chicago/Turabian (17th edition)
  • Harvard
  • Vancouver

To generate a source citation from your list of search results, click the three-dot icon located in the top right of each brief record from the results page after conducting a search.

Screenshot points to the three-dot menu located at the top-right corner of a record preview on the results page

Clicking the three-dot icon will reveal a number of citation style and management options pictured in the following image. 
Choose the "Citation" option, select your preferred citation style, and copy the citation generated into your reference list. 

Screenshot of citation button, located at the bottom of the record information window, which appears after clicking the three-dot menu shown in the above image

Creative Commons License
This work by The University of Victoria Libraries is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License unless otherwise indicated when material has been used from other sources.