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How Do I

Why is This Important?

The first step in being able to locate an item using a citation is to be able to determine what type of resource is being cited.  This guide will help you learn how to do this!

What Does a Citation Tell You?

A citation gives you information about a resource, including the following elements:

  • Who created it
    • Author(s), editor(s)
  • What it is called
    • ​Book title, article title, film title, etc,
    • Secondarily, book chapter title
  • When it was created or published
    • Year
    • Sometimes month or season
  • Where it was created or published
    • Book
      • Place of publication
      • Publisher name
    • Article published in a journal
      • Journal title in which the article was published
      • Volume, issue, and page numbers

Electronic Resources

How do you know if a citation refers to an electronic resource?  In addition to the elements included in a citation for a print resource, some or all of the following will be included:

  • Access or retrieval date
  • URL
  • DOI [Digital Object Identifier]
  • Database name or Ebook Collection


Now that you know what type of resource you are looking for, go to get the full text to learn how to find it!

What Type of Resource is It?

The most common citation examples follow.  Each appears in 2 different citation styles.  Figuring out which style is not important; pay attention to the different elements of each citation, no matter the formatting or the order in which they appear. Recognizing the important elements is the key to deciphering a citation!


  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where [Publication Info., Journal Info.]
  • Online Resource Info.
  • What [Chapter Title]

Book - Print

Barron, Lee. Tattoo Culture: Theory and Contemporary Contexts. Rowman & Littlefield International, 2017.

Barron, L. (2017). Tattoo Culture: Theory and Contemporary Contexts. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield International.

*The "where" is the place of publication and the publisher's name.

Journal Article - Print

Lack L, Lovato N, Nicic G. 2017. Circadian rhythms and insomnia. Sleep Biol Rhythms. 15(1):3-10.

Lack, Leon, Nicole Lovato, and Gorica Nicic. "Circadian Rhythms and Insomnia." Sleep Biological Rhythms, vol. 15, no. 1, January 2017, pp. 3-10.

*The "where" is the journal title and volume/issue/page numbers.

Journal Article - Online

McLeod Jr., J.D. (2017). If God got us: Kendrick Lamar, Paul Tillich, and the advent of existentialist hip-hop. Toronto Journal of Theology 33(1), 123-135. doi:10.3138/tjt.2017-0006.

McLeod Jr., James D. "If God Got Us: Kendrick Lamar, Paul Tillich, and the Advent of Existentialist Hip-Hop." Toronto Journal of Theology, vol. 33, no. 1, 2017, pp. 123-135. Academic Search Complete, Accessed 18 May 2018.

*Look for the journal title and volume/issue/page numbers.  The database, url, and accessed date tell you that the article was accessed online.

Book - Online

Hanley, T. (2014), Wonder Woman unbound: the curious history of the world's most famous heroine. Retrieved from

Hanley, Tim. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World's Most Famous Heroine. Chicago Review Press, 2014. Ebsco Academic Ebook Collection,

*Note, there is no journal title or volume/issue/page numbers, and one of the citations contains the publisher's name.  The "retrieved from" date, url, and database name indicate that this is an Ebook.

Book Chapter - Print

Shonekan, Stephanie. "Nigerian hip hop: exploring a black world hybrid." Hip Hop Africa: New African Music in a Globalizing World. Ed. Eric Charry. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2012. 147-167.

Shonekan S. 2012. Nigerian hip hop: exploring a black world hybrid. In Charry E, editor. Hip hop Africa: new African music in a globalizing world. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p.147-167.

*This citation contains 2 titles... the book title and the chapter title.  To differentiate a book chapter citation from a journal article citation, look for publisher information vs a journal title with volume/issue numbers.  Both contain page numbers, so this can be confusing! This citation contains the publisher name and location.