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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Citing: Referring to your sources

Referring to your sources

If you use the texts, ideas, research data, pictures or any form of information published by somebody else, you must always refer to the source (the original publication), no matter where it originates from. For example your source may be an article from a scholarly journal, a thesis, a conference proceeding or a publication on the internet.

How to make a reference. Citation styles

​Citation rules state how literature references must be included in the text itself (in-text citations), in footnotes or endnotes and in the reading list (reference list, bibliography). The rules are often laid down in a so-called citation style.

What your reference looks like depends on the citation style you have chosen or which style is mandatory for you to use (see the page Citation styles).

Ask your lecturer or inquire of your study programme which style you must use or which style is the most appropriate to your situation. You can also search for a specific citation style yourself, for instance the style of a particular journal.

Using sources

Elements of a reference

A reference to a journal article usually contains:
Author(s), title of the article, title of the journal, year of publication, volume and/or issue and pages.

A reference to a book usually contains:

Author(s), title of the book, year of publication, (sometimes) place of publication and the name of the publisher.

 A reference to an article/chapter in an edited volume (every chapter written by another author, book itself edited by one or more persons) contains both data on the specific chapter and on the book as a whole. The details of the specific chapter are stated first:
Author(s) of the chapter, year of publication, title of the chapter, the word "in" followed by the details of the book as a whole (including editors) and finally the page numbers of the chapter.

A reference to an online publication will, in addition to the information mentioned above, contain a reference to the location where the source can be found, for instance a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or a DOI (Digital Object Identifier).

Tips on citing

  • Whether you use a formal set of citation rules (citation style) or not, always keep in mind:
    • Completeness:  give all information needed to be able to retrace the source in your reading list (for the version/edition you used)
    • Unambiguity and consistency: refer to the same kind of sources in a consequent manner
  • Keep to the citation style recommended by your teacher or supervisor
  • If you are managing a lot of citations: use a reference management tool such as RefWorks, Endnote, Zotero, Papers or Mendeley. These tools will save you a lot of time
  • You do not have to cite sources in the case of your own (original) ideas and generally known facts such as: water consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom
  • Of course you always check a citation or a quote from another publication before including it in your own text

Reference management

Reference management or literature management is systematically collecting, saving and arranging concrete sources and/or bibliographical data (references) of sources, usually to be (re)used at a later stage.

There are many ways to save and arrange literature and references:

  • Saving a paper copy
  • Saving downloads of full text publications
  • Creating bookmarks in your browser
  • Making lists in Word or Excel for instance
  • Using specific programmes/tools such as RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley and many others

Reference management tools

​​Major uses of tools such as Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks en EndNote are:

  • Collecting and saving the bibliographical data of your sources
  • Consulting your sources; by means of a saved PDF, or by clicking on the links to an external full text
  • Referring to sources in your own texts (in various styles)
  • Creating reading lists (in various styles)

Useful help functions: 

  • Deduplication
  • Arranging in folders
  • Labelling by means of tags
  • Sharing with others

Want to find out more? Read the LibGuide Reference management


Citation styles