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What Is a Good Thesis Statement?
A good thesis statement is a single sentence contained in the introduction of a paper that provides the reader with some idea of what the writer is trying to convey in the body of the paper. The thesis statement is a condensed summary of the writer’s arguments about the subject.
Typically, the thesis statement answers a single question that the rest of the paper answers in greater detail. To write a good thesis statement, the writer must know beforehand just what question or statement the paper is intended to make. For many papers needing a thesis statement, the question is not necessarily one in dispute. All that is requires is supportive facts to put more weight to the accuracy of the statement.
If the paper calls for a contrast between two or more subjects then the thesis statement needs to reveal the nature of the conflict as well as the method used to cover all sides of the subject matter. This method is also used when writing a persuasive paper that attempts to convince the reader of a certain stance over others. Regardless of the nature of the paper, a thesis statement should be short and concise. However, an overly vague statement leaves the reader uncommitted to the remainder of the paper.
Instructors and tutors can be consulted for their evaluation of a working thesis statement, but there are some general criteria to be aware of. Chiefly, the thesis statement must directly address the topic or question provided. It should also invite discussion by making an argument. If the topic is the Civil War, for instance, a good thesis statement might compare or contrast the opposing forces’ divergent reasons for fighting each other, rather than simply state that their reasons were sometimes shared and sometimes different.
Making the thesis statement specific is important to focus the paper, but it should always be related back to the broader context.
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Thesis / Dissertation
Cite a thesis or dissertation (unpublished, published online, or accessed through a database). Use other forms to cite books , journal articles , reports , and conference proceedings .
- For educators
Citing a dissertation in APA style
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Published February 2, 2021. Updated August 30, 2021.
To cite a dissertation in APA, it’s helpful to know basic information including the author surname, dissertation title, university and year of publication.
The templates and examples below are based on the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 7th Edition .
If you’re trying to cite a dissertation, the Chegg Writing APA citation generator could help.
Help protect your paper against accidental plagiarism with the Chegg Writing plagiarism checker and citation generator .
Citing a dissertation published from a database in APA style
For citing a dissertation published from a database in APA, the surname of the author is used in the narrative and parenthetical citations.
In-text citation template and example:
Author Surname (Year)
(Author Surname, Year)
Full reference entry template and example:
Surname, F.M. (Year). Dissertation title [Doctoral/Master’s dissertation/thesis, University Name]. Website Name. URL
Roberts, B. F. (2019). Non-invasive beam monitoring with harmonic cavities [Doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico]. UNM Digital Repository. https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ece_etds/459
Read this APA format guide for more style basics.
Citing a dissertation published online in APA style
For citing a dissertation published online in APA, the surname of the author is used in the narrative and parenthetical citations.
Roberts, B. F. (2019). Non-invasive beam monitoring with harmonic cavities [Doctoral dissertation, University of New Mexico]. UNM Digital Repository. https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/ece_etds/459/
Citing an unpublished dissertation in APA style
For citing an unpublished dissertation in APA, the surname of the author is used in the narrative and parenthetical citations.
Surname, F.M. (Year). Dissertation title [Unpublished doctoral/master’s dissertation/thesis]. University Name.
Watkins, B. D. (2002). Investor sentiment, trading patterns and return predictability [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Ohio State University.
For more information on citing sources in APA, also read these guides on APA in-text citations and APA reference page examples .
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Copy the information below in your paper according to the Guide on the right. Use your own page numbers.
APA 7 In-text citation guide
In-text citations are required when you use someone else's ideas, theories or research in your paper.
Examples: (choose depending if author and/or date is mentioned in text)
- "The bones were very fragile" (Cole, 2019, p. 13).
- Cole (2019) found that "The bones were very fragile" (p. 33).
- In 2019, Cole found that "The bones were very fragile" (p. 33).
- The bones broke easily because they were porous (Cole, 2011).
- Cole (2011) discovered that the bones broke easily.
- In 2011, Cole found that the bones were easily broken (p. 33).
Note: APA style encourages the inclusion of page numbers for paraphrases, but it is not mandatory. Include page or paragraph numbers if it will help reader find the information.
No authors : Use the title in place of author. Shorten title if needed. Use double quotation marks for title of an article, a chapter, or a web page. Use italics for title of a periodical, a book, a brochure or a report.
- the observations found ("Arctic Voyage," 2014)
- the book Vitamin Discoveries (2013)
Two authors : Within the text use the word and . If the authors' names are within parentheses use the & symbol.
- Cole and Dough (1998) argued ...
- ...if they were left to their own devices.(Cole & Dough, 1998)
Three or more authors: Include only the last name of the first author followed by "et al."
(Wasserstein et al., 2017)
Spell out the name in full the first time and abbreviate subsequent times only if abbreviation is well known.
- First time: American Psychological Association (2020) explained...
- Second time: APA (2020) proved ...
When quoting always provide author, year and specific page citation or paragraph number for nonpaginated material.
If the quotation is less than 40 words incorporate it into the text and enclose the quotation with quotation marks. Cite the source immediately after the close of the quotation marks.
If the authors are named in the text, they do not have to be used in the citation.
In fact, "a neurosis is characterized by anxiety" (Kristen & Warb, 2012, p. 157).
"A neurosis is characterized by anxiety," according to Kristen and Warb's (2012, p. 157) longitudinal study.
If the quotation is over 40 words, you must indent the entire quotation and start the quotation on a new line. No quotation marks are required. Cite the quoted source after the final punctuation mark.
Alberta is occasionally divided into two regions, Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta. The majority of Alberta's population is located in large urban cities, mostly located in the South. Alberta is Canada's most populous province of all three Canadian Prairie provinces. Edmonton is the Capital of Alberta. (Hern, 1996, p. 22)
APA style encourages the inclusion of page numbers, but it is not mandatory. Include page or paragraph numbers if it will help reader find the information.
- (Reiton, 2003, para. 3)
If the document does not contain page numbers, include paragraph numbers.
- (Reiton, 2003, para. 3).
If neither is available omit page and paragraph numbers. Do not count paragraph numbers.
When paraphrasing from multiple sources, include all authors name in parentheses in alphabetical order.
- (Cole, 2006; Mann & Arthur, 2011; Zigmung, 2000).
APA In-Text Citation Guide
- "The bones were very fragile" (Cole, 2011, p. 13).
- Cole (2011) found that "The bones were very fragile" (p. 33).
- In 2011, Cole found that "The bones were very fragile" (p. 33).
Note: APA style encourages the inclusion of page numbers for paraphrases, but it is not mandatory. Include page or paragraph numbers if it will help reader find the information.)
Two or more authors : Within the text use the word and . If the authors' names are within parentheses use the & symbol.
Three to five authors : Include all authors' last names the first time the citation is used. If you use the same citation again within the same paragraph, use only the first last name followed by 'et al'. If you used the citation again omit the year.
- First time: Cole, Dough and Ferris (1998) explained...
- Second time: Cole et al. (1998) proved ...
- Third time: Cole et al. demonstrated...
Six or more authors: Include only the last name of the first author followed by "et al."
(Wasserstein et al., 2010)
- First time: American Psychological Association (1998) explained...
- Second time: APA (1998) proved ...
Alberta is occasionally divided into two regions, Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta. The majority of Alberta's population is located in large urban cities, mostly located in the South. Alberta is Canada's most populous Province of all three Canadian prairie provinces. Edmonton is the Capital of Alberta. (Hern, 1996, p. 22)
In-Text Citations Parenthetical Citations
In-text citations are called parenthetical references in MLA. This involves placing information about the source in parentheses after a quote or a paraphrase. The information in the parenthetical references must match the corresponding information in the list of works cited.
The purpose of parenthetical references is to indicate to readers not only what works you used, but what you used from each source and where in the source you found the material. This can be done by inserting a parenthetical reference in your text at the spot where you have used the source's ideas or words.
You should keep parenthetical references as brief and as few as clarity and accuracy permit.
- The Soviets were surrounded by enemies (Waters 119).
- Waters argues that the Soviets were surrounded by enemies (119).
Authors – Identification of source
- (Natl. Research Council 15)
- Do not use abbreviations such as ed. or trans.
- ("The evolving internet")
- (Black and Mondoux 123)
- (Eddison, Zhu, and Lalonde)
- (Becker et al. 13)
- (Becker, Lafontaine, Robins, Given, and Rush 13)
- (Feder, The Birth of a Nation 124)
Location of passage within source
- give relevant page number if available
- give volume and page number in a multivolume work
- if citing entire work omit page numbers
- (Louis par. 20)
- film, television, broadcasts cannot be cited by numbers
Placement of parenthetical reference in text
- Cole found that "The bones were very fragile" (33-34).
Alberta is occasionally divided into two regions, Northern Alberta and Southern Alberta. The majority of Alberta's population is located in large urban cities, mostly located in the South. Alberta is Canada's most populous Province of all three Canadian prairie provinces. Edmonton is the Capital of Alberta. (Herick 22)
- In Chicago style, footnotes or endnotes are used to reference pieces of work in the text.
- To cite from a source a superscript number is placed after a quote or a paraphrase.
- Citation numbers should appear in sequential order.
- Each number then corresponds to a citation, a footnote or to an endnote.
- Endnotes must appear on an endnotes page. The page should be titled Notes (centered at top). This page should appear immediately before the bibliography page.
- Footnotes must appear at the bottom of the page that they are referred to.
Example: Cole found that "The bones were very fragile" (33-34). 1
Each superscript then refers to a numbered citation in the footnotes or endnotes.
The first time the in-text reference is cited you must include, author's first name, author's last name, title, place of publication, publisher name, year and referenced pages. e.g.
1. James Smith, The first and last war , (New York, Hamilton, 2003), 2.
If the citation has already been cited it may be shortened to author's last name, shortened title, and page referenced number. e.g.
2. Smith, The first , 220-221.
If the citation has been referenced immediately prior, the note may be shortened even further to ibid with the page number. e.g.
3. Ibid., 786.
For each author-date citation in the text, there must be a corresponding entry in the reference list under the same name and date.
An author-date citation in running text or at the end of a block quotation consists of the last (family) name of the author, followed by the year of publication of the work in question. In this context, author may refer not only to one or more authors or an institution but also to one or more editors, translators, or compilers. No punctuation appears between author and date. Abbreviations such as ed. or trans. are omitted.
(Schuman and Scott 1987)
When a specific page, section, equation, or other division of the work is cited, it follows the date, preceded by a comma. When a volume as a whole is referred to, without a page number, vol. is used. For volume plus page, only a colon is needed. The n in the Fischer and Siple example below indicates "note" (see 14.164 ). The last example shows how one might cite a section of a work that contains no page or section numbers or other numerical signposts—the case for some electronic documents (see 15.8 ).
(Piaget 1980, 74)
(LaFree 2010, 413, 417–18)
(Johnson 1979, sec. 24)
Fowler and Hoyle 1965, eq. 87)
(García 1987, vol. 2)
(García 1987, 2:345)
(Barnes 1998, 2:354–55, 3:29)
(Fischer and Siple 1990, 212n3)
(Hellman 1998, under "The Battleground")
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APA Citations for a Thesis or Dissertation
Learn how to cite a dissertation and thesis in APA. Why? Because using doctoral dissertations and master’s theses is a useful way to bolster your research for your APA format school paper through current, timely topics. You can also get several examples to guide you through the rules for an APA 7 citation of a dissertation and thesis for your reference list.
How to Cite a Dissertation or Thesis in APA 7th Edition
The APA dissertation or thesis citation isn’t a one size fits all type of citation. The reason behind this is because APA offers a different format for a published and unpublished thesis or dissertation. However, you’ll need to include information like:
Author, A. A. (Year). Title of doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis (Publication number, if available) [Doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis, Institution]. Publisher, if available. URL, if available
- Italicize the title.
- Indicate that it is a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis in parenthesis after the title.
- Provide the publication number listed in the database in parentheses, if it is available.
How to Cite a Published Dissertation or Thesis in APA
To cite a published dissertation in APA 7th edition, you need to include:
Author, A. A. (Year). Title of doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis (Publication number, if available) [Doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis, Institution]. Publisher.
Published APA Dissertation Example
Gavinea, D. S. (2010). Exploration of DNA sequencing: Disassembling the Sequencing chain (Publication No. 1434728) [Doctoral dissertation, Wilmington University]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
Example of a Published Thesis APA- No Publication Number
Brown, S. (2010). Westward expansion [Master’s thesis, Univesity of Florida]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
In-Text Citation for a Published Dissertation or Thesis in APA
How to Cite a Dissertation or Thesis in APA Published Online – Not on a Database
Some published dissertations aren’t found on a database, so you include the URL along with the publisher of the dissertation.
Citing a Dissertation in APA Found Online
Kilbourn, B. (2006). The qualitative doctoral dissertation proposal [Doctoral dissertation, University of Arizona]. UA Campus Repository. https://repository.arizona.edu/handle/23015/235645
How to Cite a Thesis or Dissertation APA – Unpublished
An unpublished thesis or dissertation citation in APA is going to take a slightly different format. These do not have a publisher or a publication number. The basic format of an unpublished dissertation or thesis looks like:
Author, A. (Year). Title of the work [Unpublished doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis]. Institution.
Unpublished Dissertation Example in APA
Castle, C. (2001). Interpreters, docents and educators: Ways of knowing, ways of teaching in a history museum, an art gallery, and a nature centre [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. University of Toronto.
- The format for an unpublished dissertation or thesis at the master’s or doctoral levels can also be adapted for an undergraduate thesis.
- When the dissertation is found in an archive or database, follow the format for a published dissertation.
Information Needed for an APA Dissertation or Thesis Citation
Now that you’ve seen some basic examples, it’s time to look at where you find this information. When it comes to citing, you need to know whether it is a dissertation or thesis (it will say in the document). Secondly, you need to see if it is published or unpublished.
Where to Find APA Thesis and Dissertation Citation Information
Many graduate and postgraduate students submit their theses to subscription databases and institutional archives. Some even publish their work on their websites. Although there is a trend towards creating a portfolio rather than publishing a master’s thesis, there is still plenty of original material out there.
Some dissertation indexing and abstracting sources include Dissertations and Theses Global and ProQuest Dissertations . Usually, you have access to paid databases through your school and/or public library.
Difference Between a Published and Unpublished Dissertation
Knowing whether a dissertation or thesis is published or unpublished is a bit ticky. However, an unpublished dissertation or thesis is typically only available in your school library. In comparison, published dissertations offer more venues for access like databases and archives. Additionally, a published dissertation might also provide an indicator that it is in a published form.
Primary and Secondary Sources in a Thesis and Dissertation
Teachers prefer you to use as many primary sources as possible when creating a thesis or dissertation in APA format. Even so, it’s a good idea to incorporate secondary sources into your research. They guide you to authoritative sources . So, take the time to look through the reference list, works cited, or bibliography of secondary sources to find additional resources for your paper.
Vary Your APA Citations
Using a variety of sources makes the research process more enjoyable. Rather than just looking for accessible online sources, finding primary sources in doctoral and master’s theses shows off your research skills. Go further and read the abstracts of these sources to search for relevant sources quickly.
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FAQ APA Citations for a Thesis or Dissertation
How do you cite a dissertation in apa format.
To cite a dissertation in APA format, you need to know if it is published or unpublished. For a published dissertation in APA, you include the author, year, title, publication number, dissertation and university, and publisher. For an unpublished dissertation in APA, you include the author, year, title, unpublished dissertation, and university.
Can I cite a dissertation?
Yes, you can cite a dissertation in your APA research paper. Using dissertations and theses in your paper is encouraged because they offer recent information on timely topics.
How do you cite a dissertation in APA 7?
To cite a dissertation in APA, you need to include the author, year, title, publication number, thesis or dissertation, university, publisher, and URL. Depending on whether you use a published or unpublished dissertation, the order of the location information in your citation varies. Author, A. A. (Year). Doctoral dissertation or master's thesis title (Publication number) [Doctoral dissertation or master's thesis, Institution]. Publisher. URL
How do you cite a dissertation in APA 6th edition?
In the 6th edition of APA for a dissertation citation, you would include the UMI number rather than the publication number. Additionally, doctoral dissertation is in parenthesis rather than brackets. An example of an APA 6 citation looks like: Author, A. (Year). Title (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from database name. (UMI number)
How do you cite an unpublished paper?
To cite an unpublished master's thesis or doctoral dissertation in APA 7, you need to include the author, year, title, unpublished dissertation in brackets, and institution. This will look like: Author, B. B. (Year). Work title [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Institution.
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Reference Guide | How to reference a dissertation
Harvard referencing a dissertation or thesis is extremely easy when you follow the guide below. Firstly you need to collect the following information from the dissertation.
- Author(s) - First and last names. Sometimes there can be more than one author.
- Title of dissertation - Full title of the dissertation.
- Place of University - The place/location of the university where the dissertation was submitted, eg London.
- Name of university - Full name of the University where the dissertation was submitted.
- Level - Level of the degree, eg B.A. Thesis.
- Year of publication - Year the dissertation was submitted.
Building the reference
Once you have found the above information from your thesis or dissertation, you can begin to assemble your reference in the following format (hover over for more information).
Author surname , Author initial ., Year of publication . Title of dissertation . Level . Place of University : Name of university .
Foster , A ., 2005 . Can media provoke violence among people? . B.A. Thesis . Belfast : University of Ulster .
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Let’s be honest: no one really cites sources by hand anymore. And why should they, when there is an army of tools waiting to do that for you!
Citations are absolutely necessary to make your research credible and establish you as the expert in the field. For this reason alone, they need to be perfect. Whatever citation style you’re using ( MLA , APA , Chicago , or others), you need to ensure that your citations stick to the format. And what better way to ensure accuracy in your references than an MLA or APA citation generator!
All the best citation generators keep a directory of books and sources. All you need to do is enter the name or DOI of your reference material, and the tool shows you a list of titles, complete with various editions. From these, you can select your source and generate the citation.
In cases where you can’t find your source material in the online directory, you can choose the option to manually generate the citation. The citation generator then gives you a simple form consisting of the book title, date of publishing, names of publisher and author, etc. Once that is filled, the tool generates your MLA, APA, or Chicago citation.
Yes, it’s that easy. But which is the best citation generator in 2023? Here’s our list of the top ten citation generators:
1. Citation Machine
Citation Machine is extremely simple to use for those pursuing research, especially students. It has an impressive variety of citation styles , making it the most flexible citation tool. As an added bonus, it is also great for citing audio and films.
The tool has a paid version, but upgrading to it might prove useless if the only thing you’re looking for is citations. With the free version of this citation generator, you can:
- Add your references (including bibliography) directly to your paper
- Cite 57 different types of resources, including films and podcasts
- Use the ‘auto-fill tool’ for resources by simply searching for the title of the resource
- Create citations in Chicago, MLA, APA, and more than 7,000 other styles
Citation Machine’s paid version offers all the features in its free version. At $9.95 a month , however, you can:
- Check up to 30 papers for plagiarism on a monthly basis
In another paid plan, Citation Machine charges about $19.95 per month. In this plan, you get the features of the existing plans with two additional benefits:
- You can work on unlimited papers every month
- You get video solutions to your problems and Q/A sessions with experts
BibMe is direct and to the point. It is one of the most functional citation generators, with features similar to Citation Machine. The free version helps you:
- Create citations in four styles: MLA, APA, Chicago, and Turabian
- Add citations and a bibliography directly to your paper
- Perform easy searches for your source, both print and digital, by author name, title, or ISBN
- Receive up to 20 suggestions on improving your essay. This includes style, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure
BibMe’s paid version comes at $9.95 per month , after a free trial of three days. Of course, the premium plan isn’t absolutely essential to anyone looking only for citations. It offers you:
- Checks for missing citations and plagiarism
- Unlimited suggestions to help improve your paper
3. Cite This For Me
Cite This For Me has a simple and easy to use layout. The tool focuses on Harvard, MLA, and APA styles of formatting, but also supports many other citation styles. Like any good citation generator, its auto cite feature also helps you search for your source material with ease.
It is a bit heavy on the ads, but also features a blog and citation guides for the most prominent styles. Its free version helps you:
- Easily create citations using Harvard, MLA, and APA styles for over 30 types of resources
- Search for sources easily by title, author, or ISBN
- Download a finished bibliography and share it with your friends
You can set up a premium account at $10 per month . Along with an ad-free experience, you get the following features:
- A plagiarism check on your essay or paper
- The option to save your work as you progress
- The option to work on several bibliographies at once and download them in the Word document format
We recommend working with the free version, since the paid version doesn’t add much to the existing plan. You might as well perform a plagiarism check on specialized checkers, or approach an academic editing service for it!
Openmedia is more than just a citation generator. It helps you create an automated Works Cited page as well as in-text citations. It also allows you to take notes on the spot and store them, so you can retrieve them later. Needless to say, it also lets you copy formatted citations and add them to your paper directly.
The best feature of Opendemia, however, is that it allows you to record and store your citations. Not just for the length of the paper, but throughout your entire research tenure. By the time your college or tenure ends, you get an entire library of handy resources!
Openmedia’s free version has the following features:
- Citation generation for MLA, APA, and Chicago styles
- The option to upload images and cite them
- Assorting all your notes and citations according to each project
- The feature to add PDF versions of your sources to your document
- Accessing your attached PDFs on any device
- Highlighting the exact location of an excerpt or quote from a cited source
- An add comments section where you can note down why a source is useful
- Flagging the sources you have used so they automatically appear in your Works Cited page
The paid version for Openmedia is a mere $10 per year , which is quite affordable. At that rate, it allows you to:
- Have an uninterrupted, ad-free experience
- Create more than one shared folder
- Cite more than 15 sources per project
We don’t recommend paid plans often, but this one is definitely worth the price! Its incredibly organized layout is geared towards reducing students’ stress. It makes citations relaxing, and if that isn’t impressive, we don’t know what is.
Zotero is completely free to use. It is available both as a browser extension and as an add-on for Word. No more rifling through webpages to generate and list down your citations!
Like Openmedia, Zotero is also a research assistant. Aside from being a good citation generator, it also performs a number of other tasks. It senses research on the web that you can use and helps organize your materials and projects.
Here are the benefits of using Zotero (free version):
- Over 100,000 citation styles (according to their website)
- Tag your sources with keywords and create collections to organize your work
- Create citations in a Word or Google document directly
- Co-write a paper with ease
- Generate a bibliography with multiple people
Zotero is a free platform and there is no paid version that offers you extra features. However, if you’re a heavy researcher, you can purchase a storage capacity of more than 2GB for $20 per year .
Citefast is a basic but efficient referencing tool. It is a completely free citation generator and has no paid version. But if you want to retain your citations for longer than four days, you’ll have to create a free account.
Here’s what you get with Citefast:
- Generate citations quickly in APA, MLA, and Chicago styles
- Find your sources quickly for automatic citations
- You can cite 18 different types of source materials
- Comprehensive list of citation pointers for APA, MLA and Chicago styles
- Export your citations easily
Paperpile operates as a Chrome extension. It is a completely free reference management platform for the web. It’s available in various formats, including versions for iOS, Android, and Word.
This free citation generator helps you:
- Collate your references using the web extension
- Cite using the Chicago, MLA, APA, and many more styles
- Organize all your material in Google Drive
- Avail your PDF collection across devices
- Generate citations in Google Docs
While EasyBib is a popular tool among students, it still ranks lower in our list of the top ten citation generators. This is because the free version of this tool is quite limiting and only generates citations in the MLA style.
Nevertheless, it is an efficient and widely used citation generator. EasyBib’s free version allows you to:
- Cite using the MLA style
- Use the auto-cite tool to search for sources through title, ISBN, and author name
- Cite over 50 types of sources, both digital and print
- Save your citations
- Check your paper for up to five grammar mistakes
EasyBib Plus is $9.95 per month after a free trial. With this plan, you can:
- Create citations using APA, Chicago, and over 7000 other styles
- Create in-text citations and footnotes
- Check your paper for unlimited grammar errors
- Check your paper for plagiarism
- Get expert help on up to 30 papers per month
With an extra upgrade of $19.95 per month , you can also avail:
- Expert help on unlimited papers
- Textbook solutions and Q&A with a subject expert
- Practice problems with video solutions for technical subjects
- An instant math solver
Suffice to say, this is an impressive list of services. If you need these and can afford them, the price seems to be worth the services. But most people can do with a simple citation and avail other services elsewhere at better prices.
OttoBib is basic, no-nonsense, and to the point: all the features of a good citation generator! It is completely free, and is also available as a chrome extension. All you need to do is enter the ISBN of your book and it will generate the citation automatically.
While the tool doesn’t offer a variety of sources and reference styles, it is still widely used due to its simple interface. This is precisely why it has found a place in our list of the top ten citation generators in 2023! With OttoBib, you can:
- Search any book by its ISBN
- Generate citations in MLA, APA, or Chicaco style
Aside from generating citations, Citelighter also helps you find sources, highlight important pages and quotes, and create notes. It is also available as an extension for Google Docs.
With its free version, you get:
- Web content capturing tools
- Outlining tools for your paper
- Citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles
- A Google Docs integration
At $15 per year , the paid plan offers many benefits, but most of them are geared toward writing rather than citing. Here are a few of them:
- Unlimited access to academic articles
- Collection of video-based lessons for students
- Writing templates
Why should you always double-check your references?
Despite being very advanced, even the best citation generators are machines . What you need is a human expert to review your paper and ensure that the formatting is done correctly. Even something as little as a mistake in the citation style can bring your grades down!
An academic editor will check for machine errors and ensure that your essay, paper, or thesis is flawless. Here’s a list of the top 10 thesis editing and proofreading services . Best of luck!
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Free APA citation generator
Cite websites, books, articles, ...
APA citation basics
Apa in-text citations, apa reference list.
- Citation examples
- Helpful resources
The ultimate guide to citing in APA
APA is one of the most popular citation styles, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences, but also in many other fields. APA stands for American Psychological Association . APA citation style was developed by social and behavioral scientists to standardize scientific writing and is currently in its 7th edition.
If you are not sure which citation style to use in your paper, ask your instructor. There are many different citation styles and using the style your instructor or institution has established correctly can have a positive impact on your grade.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th edition) is the basis of this guide. It contains guidelines on paper structure and content, writing and formatting, and crediting sources in APA. This guide focuses on crediting sources and aims at answering all of your questions about citing in APA.
The APA citation rules stretch more than 50 pages in the official APA publication manual, and yes, they are complex. We have created the BibGuru citation builder to help you focus on the content of your work instead of worrying about how to get your reference list done correctly.
For general tips and tricks on writing your papers in APA, or to learn how to format your APA title page and abstract page , visit our blog . Or just use our free APA format citation generator to automatically create accurate APA citations with only a few clicks.
I want to cite a ...
The APA guide recommends that you cite any works or individuals whose ideas, theories, or research have directly influenced your work. This means that you should cite only works you have read and ideas you have incorporated into your writing. If possible cite primary sources, and secondary sources sparingly.
A primary source reports original content; a secondary source refers to content first reported in another source.
APA citation style uses in-text citations and a reference list. Both can be created with just a click with BibGuru's APA citation generator .
For in-text references, APA uses the author-date citation system. This system allows readers to find the sources cited both within the text and in the reference list, where each source is listed alphabetically. Each work cited in the text must appear in the reference list, and each work in the reference list must be cited in the text.
To insert a citation in the text, include the author's last name and year of publication. For a direct quotation , include the page number or specific location of the phrase or sentence in the original work.
In-text references have two formats: parenthetical and narrative . In parenthetical citations , the author's name and publication date appear in parentheses. When a parenthetical citation is at the end of a sentence, place the period or other end punctuation after the closing parentheses. Here is an example:
EXAMPLE Parenthetical citation
In the production process nowadays, skilled labor and computerized machines are used (Rode, 2012).
In narrative citations, the name and publication date is incorporated into the text as part of the sentence. The author appears in running text and the date appears in parentheses immediately after the author's name:
EXAMPLE Narrative citation (with parenthesis)
Rode (2012) claims that productive activities have been part of human civilization since ancient times.
In some cases, author and date might both appear in the narrative. In this case, no parentheses are needed:
EXAMPLE Narrative citation (without parenthesis)
In 2012, Rode wrote about the productive activities...
If you cite multiple works parenthetically, place the citations in alphabetical order, separating them with semicolons, like in this example:
EXAMPLE Multiple parenthetical citations
(Adams et al., 2019; Shumway & Shulman, 2015; Westinghouse, 2017)
If multiple sources are cited within a sentence, they can appear in any order:
EXAMPLE Multiple sources in a sentence
Suliman (2018), Gutiérrez (2012, 2017), and Medina and Reyes (2019) examined...
If you cite a work with more than one author or editor, additional rules apply:
- If a work has two authors, cite both names every time the reference occurs in the text.
- When citing a work with 3-5 authors, cite all authors the first time the reference occurs. After the first time, you only need to include the last name of the first author, followed by "et al."
- When citing 6 or more authors, use the first author's last name followed by "et al." for all citations.
According to the 7th edition of the APA Manual , if you are citing 3 or more authors, you only need to list the first author, followed by "et al." Click here to learn more about the difference between APA 6th and 7th editions.
The BibGuru free APA 7 citation generator has incorporated all the new APA 7th edition rules, so you don’t have to worry about the differences between the versions.
Basic in-text citation styles
When quoting directly, always provide the author, year, and page number of the quotation in the in-text citation. When citing a single page, use the abbreviation "p." (e.g., p. 26, p. S44, p. e283); for multiple pages, use the abbreviation "pp." and separate the page range with an en dash (e.g., pp. 34-36). If pages are discontinuous, use a comma between the page numbers (e.g., pp. 65, 72).
Here are two examples of direct quotations:
EXAMPLE Direct quotation
"For both parties to gain from trade, the price at which they trade must lie between the two opportunity costs" (Mankiw, 2015, p. 54).
EXAMPLE Direct quotation (narrative)
In his book, Bonnett asks "What is the difference between being white and being Western?" (2004, p. 14).
However, APA strongly recommends paraphrasing whenever possible instead of using a direct quotation. A paraphrase restates another's idea (or your own previously published idea) in your own words.
How to use Bibguru for APA citations
The reference list at the end of your paper provides the information that a reader would need to identify and find each source that you have used. An accurate reference list helps to establish the credibility of your work and of yourself as the author. You should only include works that you have used in the research for, and preparation of, your paper.
A reference list generally has four elements: author, date, title, and source. Each of these elements answers a question:
When formatting the author part , follow these guidelines:
- Invert all individual author's names, providing the last name first, followed by a comma and the initials: Author, A. A.
- Use a comma to separate an author's initials from additional author names, even when there are only two authors. Use an ampersand (&) before the final author's name: Author, A. A., & Author, B. B.
- For up to 20 authors, provide last names and initials. Use an ampersand before the final author's name.
- For 21 and more authors, include the first 19 names, insert an ellipsis (...), and then add the final author's name.
- People who contributed substantially in roles other than the author can also be credited - an example would be an editor abbreviated as "(Ed.)"
APA 7th edition allows you to include up to 20 authors' names in an individual reference.
By using an APA 7 citation generator like BibGuru you can be on the safe side with the specific rules of the new version.
When formatting the title part , follow these guidelines:
- For works that are part of a greater whole (e.g. journal articles, edited book chapters), do not italicize the title or use quotation marks, and capitalize it using sentence cases.
- For works that stand alone (e.g. books, reports, websites), italicize the title, and capitalize it using sentence cases.
- Finish the title element with a period, unless it ends with a question mark or exclamation point. In that case, use that punctuation mark.
The source either has one or two parts, depending on the reference category. A source from a printed book without a DOI has one part: the book's publisher. A source from a journal article with a DOI has two parts; the periodical information (journal title, volume number, issue number, and page range or article number) and the DOI.
The publication place of printed sources is no longer required in APA 7th edition. Visit our post on the differences between APA 6th and 7th edition to learn more.
The DOI or URL is the final component of the reference list entry in the APA style. A DOI, or digital object identifier , is a unique alphanumeric string that identifies content and provides a persistent link to its location on the internet. Include a DOI for all works that have a DOI, regardless of whether you used the online version or the print version. If an online work has both a DOI and a URL, include only the DOI, but if the source only has a URL, include the URL.
You no longer need to include "retrieved from" prior to listing a URL, according to APA 7th edition.
How to format the reference list in APA:
- Begin the reference list on a new page after the text.
- Name it "References", and center the section label in bold at the top of the page.
- Order the reference list alphabetically by author (last name of the first author followed by the initials of the author's given name(s)).
- Alphabetize entries by authors who have the same given name and last name with suffixes indicating birth order chronologically, oldest first.
- Double-space the entire list (both within and between entries).
- Apply a hanging indent of 0.5 in. to each entry. This means that the first line of the reference is flush left and subsequent lines are indented 0.5 in. from the left margin.
An example of an APA reference page made with BibGuru's APA citation generator .
- Books and Reference Works
- Journals and Periodicals
- Webpages and Websites
- Dissertations and Theses
Books and Reference Works includes authored books , edited books , translated books , anthologies, religious works, classical works, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and diagnostic manuals. This template shows you how to cite them.
EXAMPLE Authored book with a DOI
See, M. (2012). Greenhouse gas emissions: Global business aspects . Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-56908-1
Parenthetical citation: (See, 2012)
Narrative citation: See (2012)
EXAMPLE Authored book without a DOI, from most academic research databases or print version
Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.
Parenthetical citation: (Hattie, 2008)
Narrative citation: Hattie (2008)
EXAMPLE Edited book with a DOI, with multiple authors
Raab, M., Lobinger, B., Hoffmann, S. O., Pizzera, A., & Laborde, S. (Eds.). (2015). Performance psychology: Perception, action, cognition, and emotion. Academic Press. https://doi.org/10.1016/c2014-0-03104-8
Parenthetical citation: (Raab et al., 2015)
Narrative citation: Raab et al. (2015)
EXAMPLE Dictionary, thesaurus, or encyclopedia
Zalta, E. N. (Ed.). (2019). The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Summer 2019 ed.). Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2019/
Parenthetical citation: (Zalta, 2019)
Narrative citation: Zalta (2019)
EXAMPLE Book in another language
When a book is in a different language than your paper, include a translation of the book title in square brackets:
Meifert Matthias, T. (Ed.). (2010). Strategische personalentwicklung [Strategic HR Development]. Springer.
Periodicals are generally published on a continuous basis and include journals , magazines , newspapers , newsletters, and even blog posts. This template shows you how to cite them.
EXAMPLE Journal article with a DOI
Warren, R., Price, J., Graham, E., Forstenhaeusler, N., & VanDerWal, J. (2018). The projected effect on insects, vertebrates, and plants of limiting global warming to 1.5°C rather than 2°C. Science (New York, N.Y.), 360 (6390), 791–795. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aar3646
Parenthetical citation: (Warren et al., 2018)
Narrative citation: Warren et al. (2018)
EXAMPLE Journal article with a DOI, 21 or more authors
Lindblad-Toh, K., Garber, M., Zuk, O., Lin, M. F., Parker, B. J., Washietl, S., Kheradpour, P., Ernst, J., Jordan, G., Mauceli, E., Ward, L. D., Lowe, C. B., Holloway, A. K., Clamp, M., Gnerre, S., Alföldi, J., Beal, K., Chang, J., Clawson, H., … Kellis, M. (2011). A high-resolution map of human evolutionary constraint using 29 mammals. Nature, 478 (7370), 476–482. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature10530
Parenthetical citation: (Lindblad-Toh et al., 2011)
Narrative citation: Lindblad-Toh et al. (2011)
EXAMPLE Magazine article version
Bruenig, E. (2021, June 9). America’s dangerous obsession with innocence. Atlantic Monthly (Boston, Mass.: 1993) . https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/06/innocence-project-death-row/619132/
Parenthetical citation: (Bruenig, 2021)
Narrative citation: Bruenig (2021)
Darwish, F. (2014). How being a cat person can dramatically enhance your psychological health. Psych Daily, 6 (4), 4-5. https://www-psychdaily-com/the-pets-cats-report/emotional-health/
Parenthetical citation: (Darwish, 2014)
Narrative citation: Darwish (2014)
If you cite a source from a website and no other reference category fits and the work has no parent or overarching publication (e.g. journal or blog), use this template for your reference.
EXAMPLE Webpage on a news website
France-Presse, A. (2021, June 10). Child labour worldwide increases for first time in 20 years. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jun/10/child-labour-worldwide-increases-for-first-time-in-20-years
Parenthetical citation: (France-Presse, 2021)
Narrative citation: France-Presse (2021)
EXAMPLE University website
Hamido, K. A., & Essam, J. A. (n.d.). Use of artificial intelligence in forensic analyses . Cairo Medical School. http://www.med.cairo.edu/AANLIB/
Parenthetical citation: (Hamido & Essam, n.d.)
Narrative citation: Hamido and Essam (n.d.)
EXAMPLE Blog post
Priyadarshini, S. (n.d.). How outreach blends my worlds as a scientist and mom. Indigenus. http://blogs.nature.com/indigenus/2021/05/how-outreach-blends-my-worlds-as-a-scientist-and-mom.html
Parenthetical citation: (Priyadarshini, n.d.)
Narrative citation: Priyadarshini (n.d.)
EXAMPLE Website with no author
Neuroscience. (n.d.). Wikipedia . Retrieved June 6, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/Neuroscience
Parenthetical citation: ("Neuroscience", n.d.)
Narrative citation: "Neuroscience" (n.d.)
EXAMPLE Government website
Egyptian Center for Nuclear Energy. (n.d.). Becoming a research volunteer . https://www.ECNE.gov/cne/sites/default/files/ohrp/research/ brochures/3panelfinal.pdf
Parenthetical citation: (Egyptian Center for Nuclear Energy, n.d.)
Narrative citation: Egyptian Center for Nuclear Energy (n.d.)
EXAMPLE Entry in an online reference work
Sameer, G. (2005). Behaviorism. In E. N. Rashed (Ed.), The encyclopedia of psychology (Fall 2014 ed.). http://pyche.com/entries/behaviorism
Parenthetical citation: (Sameer, 2005)
Narrative citation: Sameer (2005)
References for dissertations and theses are divided by whether they are unpublished or published. Unpublished works must be retrieved directly from the university in print form. Published works are available from a database, a university archive, or a personal website. This is how you cite them:
Unpublished works (only available at the college or univeristy in print):
EXAMPLE Unpublished dissertation or thesis
Eid, H. (2017). The anti-cancer effect of scorpion venom (Unpublished master’s thesis). Modern Sciences and Arts University.
Parenthetical citation: (Eid, 2017)
Narrative citation: Eid (2017)
EXAMPLE Published dissertation or thesis from a database
Mccarthy, M. D. (2014). The relationship between sleep deprivation and student performance (Order No. 3682837) [Doctoral dissertation, University of Florida]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.
Parenthetical citation: (Mccarthy, 2014)
Narrative citation: Mccarthy (2014)
EXAMPLE Published dissertation or thesis from a database-no publication number
Brown, S. (2010). Impacts of jellyfish invasion in the red sea [Master’s thesis, American University in Cairo]. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database.
Parenthetical citation: (Brown, 2010)
Narrative citation: Brown (2010)
EXAMPLE Published dissertation or thesis from an online platform
Anthony, H. (2014). Link between childhood trauma and alcoholism (Doctoral dissertation). FloridaLink. Retrieved from https://etd.floridalink.edu/handle/10919/82854
Parenthetical citation: (Anthony, 2014)
Narrative citation: Anthony (2014)
EXAMPLE Dissertation or thesis in print
Hawk, E. J. (2017). Using artificial intelligence to prioritize covid-19 vaccine delivery (Master's thesis). Cairo University.
Parenthetical citation: (Hawk, 2017)
Narrative citation: Hawk (2017)
EXAMPLE TED Talk
Azab, A. (2012, June). Why are people so rude? [Video]. TED Conferences. https://www.ted.com/talks/why_are_people_so_rude
Parenthetical citation: (Azab, 2012)
Narrative citation: Azab (2012)
EXAMPLE YouTube video
Bomer, M. (2013, June 13). Does it puree? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97KJhK-9yvc
Parenthetical citation: (Bomer, 2013)
Narrative citation: Bomer (2013)
Abdelaal, D. R (Host). (2017–2018). What should you be doing in your twenties? [Audio podcast]. The millennial. https://themillenial.com/
Parenthetical citation: (Abdelaal, 2017–2018)
Narrative citation: Abdelaal (2017–2018)
Hassan, A. (1908). The Nile River [Photograph]. Time. http://100photos.time.com/photos/asad-hassan-the-nile-river
Parenthetical citation: (Hassan, 1908)
Narrative citation: Hassan (1908)
EXAMPLE Facebook post
The girl project. (2020, January 10). Signs you have poor boundaries [Image attached] [Photo]. Facebook.
Parenthetical citation: (The girl project, 2020)
Narrative citation: The girl project (2020)
While all the specific rules of the APA citation style might sound very complicated, you don't need to worry about getting them wrong with BibGuru. Use our APA 7 citation maker to create the fastest and most accurate APA citations possible.
Ditch the frustrations for stress-free citations
Helpful resources, from our blog.
More Bibguru APA guides
University Guides on APA styles
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)
- Williams College
- Florida State University Libraries
- New York University Libraries
- University of Washington Libraries
- Penn State University Libraries
- University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
- University of Texas at Arlington Libraries
- Bowling Green State University Libraries
- University of Missouri Libraries
- Boston College Libraries
- Hamilton College Writing Center
- Bellevue University Writing Center
- Hudson Valley Community College Library
- University of South Carolina Libraries
- University at Buffalo iLab
- University of Portland Library
- Duquesne University Library
- Columbia College Library (Vancouver, BC, CA)
- Simon Fraser University Library (BC, CA)
APA is the referencing style of the American Psychological Association. The principles of the APA style can be found in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association . The style is commonly used in psychology, education, and the social sciences.
In APA style, you need to cite your source in-text with the author's last name and year of publication in brackets, and then give a full reference in the alphabetic reference list. Our APA citation guides show you how to cite different sources in APA, taking into consideration all the rules set out in their Publication Manual .
In general, all parts of an APA-styled paper should be double-spaced, including the abstract, text, titles, notes, and reference list. There are some exceptions, however, which you can read all about here .
When you cite a source for the first time in a paragraph as part of a sentence, give the citation of your author's name and year. The second and subsequent time you use that source in a sentence, you do not need to include the year anymore.
In the fall of 2019, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued the 7th edition of their publication manual. Some of the major changes in APA 7th are:
- Book references now omit the publisher location.
- Journal articles should always include an issue number.
- You can add up to 20 authors in a reference list instead of only 7.
- Websites’ URL s omit the “Retrieved from” or "Accessed from" phrase.
You can read more about the changes in the latest version in our blog post .
Citation guides, alternative to.
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Generate formatted bibliographies, citations, and works cited automatically
What is mybib.
MyBib is a free bibliography and citation generator that makes accurate citations for you to copy straight into your academic assignments and papers.
If you're a student, academic, or teacher, and you're tired of the other bibliography and citation tools out there, then you're going to love MyBib. MyBib creates accurate citations automatically for books, journals, websites, and videos just by searching for a title or identifier (such as a URL or ISBN).
Plus, we're using the same citation formatting engine as professional-grade reference managers such as Zotero and Mendeley, so you can be sure our bibliographies are perfectly accurate in over 9,000 styles -- including APA 6 & 7, Chicago, Harvard, and MLA 7 & 8.
Purdue Online Writing Lab College of Liberal Arts
Using Citation Generators Responsibly
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This page describes how citation generator apps work to show what’s happening when a writer uses one. Then, it offers a few “best practices” for using citation generators. See also our similar article on "paper checker" apps.
The citation generator is a relatively recent addition to the writer’s toolbox, but one that has already altered the practice of writing immensely. Gone are the days of painstakingly documenting every individual source by hand. Citation generators allow writers to generate citations in a fraction of the time this work once took. Some even allow writers to construct entire bibliographies on the fly that can be imported into projects with a few clicks.
Citation generators are, clearly, powerful tools. However, because citation generators have the potential to change the writing task so drastically, it’s important for writers to educate themselves about them. Used wisely, citation generators remove much of the tedium from the writing task so that writers can focus on the things that matter most—their ideas. Used unwisely, however, they can introduce systematic errors that the writer isn’t even aware of.
Thus, writers should remember that citation generators cannot (and should not) do their thinking for them. The rest of this guide provides information that can help you keep this simple principle in mind as you work.
How Do Citation Generators Work?
Citation generators are programs that turn information about a source into a citation that the writer can use in a project. Though many different citation generators exist, most follow this general process:
The generator receives information about a source. Usually, this comes from the user: he or she types the source’s author, title, publication date, and so on.
The generator processes this information according to settings the user has specified (e.g., the citation style and the medium). This usually means putting the pieces of information received in Step 1 into the correct order and applying the correct formatting.
The generator produces a citation (or set of citations) that the user can use. This usually takes the form of text that a user can copy and paste into a project.
The diagram below illustrates this pattern.
Citation generators can be very sophisticated. Some offer additional features not described above. For instance, some generators can automatically locate sources in online databases and fill out entire citations with just a little bit of starting information—the source’s title, for instance. Other citation generators can automatically fix spelling or capitalization errors that the user makes when inputting the source’s information.
What’s important to realize, however, is that citation generators rely on the user’s input and follow set patterns . Citation generators cannot exercise any judgment of their own. They do not “understand” the task of citation in the way that humans do. They can only follow instructions given to them by their users and their programmers.
Thus, writers who use citation generators as if they were definitive authorities (rather than powerful tools) can expose themselves to problems. They may give citation generators inaccurate information (and thus receive incorrect citations) under the incorrect assumption that the generator can “sort out” any errors. They may use citations in ways that don’t make sense because they assume that as long as they have received the “correct” citation from the generator, any usage of this citation is valid. They may simply not think to double-check the citations they receive, and thus miss the occasional errors that even well-designed citation generators can make.
In short, relying entirely on citation generators rather than on one’s judgment as a writer can lead to errors. Below are a set of suggestions that can help you use citation generators wisely.
How Can I Use Citation Generators Wisely?
Make sure the information you input is correct..
No citation generator is perfectly insulated against user error. If you give a citation generator incorrect information, it will probably give you an inaccurate citation. Check your input information carefully as you enter it to ensure the accuracy of the final product.
Enacting this advice means doing some very obvious things. You should, for instance, check to make sure you’ve spelled the author’s name correctly (especially if it’s a name you haven’t encountered before). You should be aware, however, that subtler things like capitalization and punctuation can also matter. For instance, here is an MLA8 citation for a poem by E. E. Cummings:
Cummings, E. E. “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” Complete Poems: 1904-1962, edited by George J. Firmage, 1st ed, Liveright, 2016.
Note that, in this example, the unconventional lowercase title of the poem is maintained. You would want to ensure that a spellchecker (or the citation generator itself) has not incorrectly “fixed” the capitalization in the title before inputting that information.
Work from the copy of the source you have available, rather than from secondary information about the source (like a web page selling the source on an online store). It’s easy to miss minor details like edition number and editors’ names in the latter case.
Make sure you designate the correct medium, version, and/or edition for each source.
Citation generators can’t judge whether the information they receive about a source “makes sense.” They can’t tell, for instance, if you’re accidentally citing an academic journal article as a magazine article (and thus likely leaving out important information like volume number). They also can’t tell if the paperback and hardcover releases of the book you’re citing use different page numbers. Thus, to avoid unnecessary confusion for your readers, it’s always wise to double-check that you’ve indicated precisely the source you’re using (and not a source that’s “close, but no cigar”).
This advice is especially important if you’re using a citation generator that automatically searches for information about your source online. In this case, it’s crucial to make sure the generator has grabbed the correct edition, version (e.g., paperback vs. hardcover), etc. These minor differences can affect the page numbers and publication dates of sources, which means that getting this information wrong can lead to inaccurate citations.
Don’t forget that edited collections usually have at least one editor who needs to be credited in the citation in addition to the author of the piece you’re using. Keep this in mind if you’re citing a small work that appears in a bigger collection.
If you can’t figure out precisely what medium your source should be categorized as, consult the general formatting rules for the citation style you’re using. Usually, you will be able to assemble a usable citation simply by putting as much information as you have into the generic pattern your style specifies. Here are the links to the OWL's "Overview and Workshop" pages for each of the major citation styles:
MLA Overview and Workshop
APA Overview and Workshop
Chicago Overview and Workshop
Make sure to use reputable, accurate sources.
Citation generators work with the sources you give them. They can’t evaluate whether those sources are good or not. This means that it’s possible to use a citation generator to assemble a bibliography that’s technically flawless, but nevertheless useless. To avoid this, be sure to evaluate whether each source you use is accurate, reputable, and unbiased. Below are some questions to consider for each source. There is not necessarily a single "correct" answer to each of these questions (e.g., some emotionally-charged sources nevertheless contain true information, and some commercially-sponsored sources are truthful regardless of the source of their funding). However, considering these sorts of questions as you pick sources can help you make smarter choices.
Is your source peer-reviewed?
Is your source primary (i.e., does it come directly from the person providing the information, or is it mediated by someone else’s opinions and commentary)? If it is a secondary source, does it seem like the author is referencing primary sources when possible?
Does the source come from an organization with a vested interest in having an unbiased, authoritative reputation?
Does the source reference clear, unambiguous evidence? Is this evidence well-documented (for instance, in a bibliography)?
Does the source acknowledge a range of viewpoints even as it makes its own argument?
Does the source use emotionally-charged language or make broad generalizations?
Does the source come from a lone individual, particularly an individual without a reputation for careful, objective, or well-reasoned claims (or a motivation to preserve that reputation)?
Is the source commercially sponsored? Does the sponsor have a vested interest in the audience’s perception of the source’s topic?
For more help, consult the OWL's “ Evaluating Sources: Overview ” resource.
Double-check the citation you receive against a reference.
After you’ve finished inputting information and you’ve received a citation, resist the urge to copy and paste the citation into your document without first doing a quick check for accuracy. In the event that the citation generator has made an error (a rare but real possibility), you will be glad that you took an extra few seconds to verify its accuracy.
Pay particular attention to the way the generator has handled capitalization and formatting.
Note, for instance, that there are different rules for capitalizing titles in MLA and APA styles.
Note also that different styles handle numbering differently. Some, for instance, require page ranges to include all numbers in the start and end pages (e.g., 267-268), while others allow redundant numbers to be omitted (e.g., 267-8).
If you couldn’t find certain pieces of information (e.g., publication date) for your source, check to ensure that the information has been left out rather than being rendered as a generic placeholder (e.g., “[DATE]”).
Here, again, are the links to the OWL's "Overview and Workshop" pages for each of the major citation styles:
MLA Overview and Workshop
APA Overview and Workshop
Chicago Overview and Workshop
Make sure you cite each source in the text in a way that makes sense.
Remember that bibliographies are not the end of the story when it comes to citations. Citations must also be used in the text to indicate when information is being borrowed from a source. The good news is that many modern citation generators can automatically generate in-text citations once you’ve provided bibliographic information. The bad news, however, is that the correct usage of in-text citations is much more context-dependent than it is for bibliographic entries. This means that, when you use an in-text citation you’ve generated from a citation generator, you should check that you’re using it logically, rather than simply copying and pasting.
Here is an example. Suppose that you would like to cite a chapter by the author Jane Smith in a paper you’re writing about the history of pies. You input the source’s bibliographic information into the citation generator, you indicate that you’re using APA style, and you get the following in-text citation:
(Smith, 2015, pp. 122-128)
Now, you want to use this citation in the text, so you copy and paste it into a sentence where you’re borrowing from Smith’s source:
According to Smith, the world’s first pies were developed by the ancient Egyptians (Smith, 2015, pp. 122-128), while later innovations were spearheaded by the Macedonians (Smith, 2015, pp. 122-128).
The uncritical copying and pasting you’ve just done has led you to make a few mistakes in your citation. When you provide the author’s name in a signal phrase (like “According to Smith…”), you usually should not provide it again in the parenthetical. You also should not provide a source’s date multiple times in the same sentence. Finally, you should not provide vague page ranges when it’s possible to pinpoint precisely where you found the information you’re borrowing. The citation generator cannot judge the context of the sentence you’re using the citation in, so it can’t tell you to do any of these things. A much more sensible approach would look like this:
According to Smith (2015), the world’s first pies were developed by the ancient Egyptians (p. 123), while later innovations were spearheaded by the Macedonians (p. 127).
Note also that if you are using multiple sources by the same author, you may need to make special indications in the text. The citation generator may not tell you this. Here are links to OWL resources that can help you cite multiple sources by the same author:
MLA Works Cited: Books
APA Reference List: Author/Authors
In sum, when using citation generators, remember that they can do much of your work for you, but they cannot (and should not) do any of your thinking for you.
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