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Citing Your Sources

Why cite your sources?

  • To give credit to authors/researchers/writers and ideas that are not your own
  • Using high quality sources helps support your argument
  • To allow readers/researchers to locate the sources you used
  • To maintain academic integrity and avoid academic dishonesty and plagarism

When in doubt, cite!

  • If you read it and use the idea or a quote, cite it
  • If it is in a research paper, cite it
  • If it is in a reflection paper, cite it
  • If you are using past research, cite it

When in doubt, cite!

Citing properly requires:

1. An in-text citation

When you use the work of another person, you must make note of this in the text. Do this by including an in-text citation which gives a brief reference and helps the reader locate the full citation that you'll include as part of your References list.

2. A list of works referenced

The last page of your paper is typically a list of resources you used/utilized/consulted.

Citation Requirements for the Biology Department

Literature Cited or References.  Literature cited in the text should be consistent by use of the name and year system.  Depending upon the construction of the sentence, the citation will appear as Smith and Jones (1960) or (Smith and Jones, 1960).  When three authors exist, name all of them in the first citation, e.g., Doe, Miller, and Wilson (1960), but subsequently use Doe et al. (1960).  When four or more authors exist, cite their paper in the form Doe et al. (1960).  When several references relate to the same point, use (Doe, 1960; Doe and Jones, 1961; Doe, Jones, and Doe 1962).  In the latter case, the earliest reference should appear first and the others in chronological order.  Only literature that is actually cited in the thesis should be placed in the Literature Cited section.

Reference Material.  The third part of the thesis should be titled Literature Cited.  This section should include only those references cited in the text.  They are to be listed alphabetically by authors.  References should contain all the data necessary to easily locate the source.  Carefully check all parts of each reference against the original.  Also, carefully check the entries against the citation in the text so they are identical as to the year and the spelling of names.  An inaccurate or incomplete reference wastes the time of the readers and librarians and reflects poorly on the scholarship of the author. 

The following are examples of literature citations, as they should appear in the Literature Cited section:

Journal Reference

Nasir, J.  2003.  New hope for treating Parkinson's disease.  Clinical Genetics 63:13-15.

Martinez, I., E.O. Elvevoll and T. Haug. 1997. RAPD typing of north-east Atlantic minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata). ICES J. of Marine Sci. 54:478-484.

Abstract Reference

Hildebrandt, A.C.  1948.  Influence of some carbon compounds on growth of plant tissue cultures in vitro.  Anat. Rec. 100:674.  (Abstr.)

Society Committee Reference

American Phytopathological Society, Committee on Standardization of Fungicidal Tests. 1943.  Definitions of fungicide terms.  Phytopathology 33:624-626.

Schwartz, R.J.  1955.  The Complete Dictionary of Abbreviations.  T.Y. Crowell Co., New York.  211 pp.

Book, Part of

Saville, B.J. and S.A. Leong.  1992.  The molecular biology of pathogenesis in Ustilago mandis, pp. 139-162. In J.K. Setlow, Genetic Engineering.  Principles and Methods.  Plenum Press, New York.

Unpublished Theses or Manuscripts

Lang, T.R.  2000.  Examination of Loss of Heterozygosity in Rat Mammary Tumors.  Unpublished Bachelor's Thesis, Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, Winona, MN.

Online Sources

For journal databases:  In essence, you are obtaining a peered reviewed journal article, but instead of from the library, you are getting it from the database.  Thus, it would be like the journal article.

Cubillos S., F. Fazzino  and L. Lima.  2002.  Medium requirements for neuritic outgrowth from goldfish retinal explants and the trophic effect of taurine.  Int J Dev Neurosci.  20:607-17.

For webpages: Make sure the webpage is a reputable source.  Wikipedia is not one.

Hill, M.  2000.  Embryology Program: Week 1 Development.  Retrieved February 12, 2003 from