When presenting or referring to the work of others, whether as a direct quote or by paraphrasing, you must provide the appropriate attribution. By citing the specific document, medium, or other form of communication, you indicate who originally made the contribution AND you allow your reader to find that contribution from which s/he may make their own judgment. Failure to provide appropriate attribution is considered plagiarism.
Citations need to be both consistent, so the reader can recognize what the item is (book, journal article, film, government document, etc.), and complete, so that s/he can find it.
Citations should always include these five elements :
The person, persons or group (corporation, government agency, institution, etc.) that is responsible for the content of the work.
What the work is called.
Date of Publication
When the work was made available; depending on the physical format of the material, this could be listed as:
month and year, or
day, month and year.
Where the work comes from. For books, this would be the publisher; for journal articles, this would be the title of the journal, for government documents, the agency name, for technical reports, the corporation or agency, etc.
Any information that's needed to find the work within/from the source; this varies with format. For books the location would the city of the publisher; for journal articles it would be the volume, issue and pages; for items only published online this could be an URL or a DOI (digital object identifier).
How these elements are ordered in the citation and what punctuation, spacing, and font style (italics, bold) are used depends on the citation style you are asked to use.
Citation Style Guides
If your instructor does not specify, consider using one of these styles:
Each journal will usually have a section on its website labeled "Guide for Authors," "Information for Authors," or "Submitting an article." This is were you can usually find what citation style the journal uses and see examples of at least a book or journal article reference. Some journals no longer make this information available but instead, refer the potential author to their preferred citation management software (ex., EndNote, Mendeley, Zotero, etc.) where their journal template is available.
The following citations use the APA (American Psychological Association) style to show the components:
Shepherd, R., Frost, J. D. (1995). Failures in civil engineering: Structural, foundation, and geoenvironmental case studies. New York: American Society of Civil Engineers
This citation is for a book and contains the following information:
Authors: R. Shepherd and J.D. Frost
Title: Failures in civil engineering: structural, foundation, and geoenvironmental case studies
Date of Publication: 1995
Source: American Society of Civil Engineers
Location: New York
Plaut, R. H. (2008). Snap Loads and Torsional Oscillations of the Original Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Journal of Sound and Vibration, 309(3), 613-636. doi: 10.1016/j.jsv.2007.07.057
This citation is for a journal article and contains the following information:
Author: R.H. Plaut
Title: Snap loads and torsional oscillations of the original Tacoma Narrows Bridge
The following are the same two examples from above but this time cited in IEEE Style. Still the same information but note the differences in the order of the components, the punctuation used in between components and in some cases the different way the component is written.
R. Shepherd and J. D. Frost, Failures in civil engineering: Structural, foundation, and geoenvironmental case studies. New York, NY, USA: American Society of Civil Engineers, 1995.
R. H. Plaut, "Snap Loads and Torsional Oscillations of the Original Tacoma Narrows Bridge." J. Sound Vib., vol. 309, no. 3, pp. 613-636, Mar. 2008.