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Citation Help--APA, MLA , SBL, AMS, ACS, and CSE Styles: How are accurate citations created?

This guide explains what citations are and why they're necessary, providing tools and examples for citing sources properly in APA, MLA, SBL, and AMS styles. It also provides access to resources explaining plagiarism and how to avoid it.

How Do I Create Citations?

  • When possible, use citation-generating tools, such as the following:  
    1. Tools within databases to create citations in various styles (which you can then print, email to yourself, or save), or
    2. Web-based citation builders that allow you to plug in the information required for a citation and then generate citations in various styles.

However,  be aware of pitfalls in using automatically-generated citations from databases and from the web (see the box to the right  for examples of faulty citations from databases).  

See our Citation Tools and Guides web page for various citation-building tools, or click on the "APA Style Resources" and "MLA Style Resources" tabs in this LibGuide.

  • Build your own citations manually using the APA and MLA manuals (see the APA Style Resources and MLA Style Resources tabs for more help in creating citations in those respective styles).  

See our Citation Tools and Guides web page for various guides and tips to building your own citations or click on the "APA Style Resources" and "MLA Style Resources" tabs in this LibGuide.

 

TIP:  Remember that ultimately, your instructor (if you are submitting an assignment) or your editor (if you are submitting a manuscript for publication) is the final authority on how you cite your sources.

Some professors require some deviation from the standard style for various reasons (for example, some professors may require that you include the persistent URL of an article when it may not be required in the manual for the style you're being asked to use, in order to make it easier to locate the article).

Citation Builders are NOT Infallible—YOU are Responsible for your Own Citations!

Citation builders are helpful tools, but sometimes they don’t get it completely right. 

Sometimes generated citations contain errors in punctuation, capitalization, and other things, even though the order of the elements of the citation may be correct (and useful for helping you get your citation 80-90% correct).  

See the following examples  below of faulty citations for the very same article, in both APA and MLA styles, that were generated by two different companies providing our databases--EBSCO and ProQuest.  These and other errors may also occur with other citation builders as well, such as Easybib and other web-based citation builders.  So be aware that you must check every citation generated through a citation builder to make sure it’s accurate.

Examples of a Faulty Citation-Builder Generated Citation for a Journal vs. Correct Citation in APA Style

FAULTY EBSCO-database citation builder citation:  

  • Poyrazli, S., & Lopez, M. (2007). An Exploratory Study of Perceived Discrimination and Homesickness: A           Comparison of International Students and American StudentsJournal Of Psychology,141(3), 263-280.

CORRECT APA Style Citation:  

  • Poyrazli, S., & Lopez, M. (2007). An exploratory study of perceived discrimination and homesickness: A comparison of international students and American studentsJournal of Psychology, 141(3), 263-280.

Notice the differences in red in the capitalization of the article title in the two versions; APA Style requires that the article title capitalize only the first word in the title and sub-title, unless that word is a proper noun (such as "American" in the sub-title, which should be capitalized for that reason only).

Examples of a Faulty Citation-Builder Generated Citation for a Journal Article vs. Correct Citation in MLA Style 

FAULTY ProQuest-database citation builder citation:

  • Poyrazli, Senel, and Damian Lopez Marcos. "An Exploratory Study of Perceived Discrimination and Homesickness: A Comparison of International Students and American Students." The Journal of psychology, vol. 141, no. 3, 2007., pp. 263-80. 

CORRECT MLA Style Citation:

  • Poyrazli, Senel, and Damian Lopez Marcos. "An Exploratory Study of Perceived Discrimination and Homesickness: A Comparison of International Students and American Students." The Journal of Psychology, vol. 141, no. 3, 2007, pp. 263-80. ProQuest Research Library, ezproxy2.barton.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/ezproxy2.barton.edu/docview/213830702?accountid=8499  

Notice the differences in red in both in the capitalization of  the word "Psychology" and the italicizing of the journal title  in the two versions; MLA Style requires that all words except for articles in the journal title be capitalized (therefore, Psychology should be capitalized), and also that the journal title must appear in italicized (slanted) print.  In addition, the name of the database from which this article was retrieved, ProQuest Research Library in this example, must be included and italicized as well in MLA Style.  Also, there should not be a period followed by a comma after the year of publication (2007 in this case), only a comma.  In addition, the document URL (the location) should be included when available (this is true only if it is a "stable URL,"  or a "Permalink" or "share" URL.  Even better, use a doi (digital object identifier) number when available.

 

Examples of a Faulty Citation-Builder Generated Citation for an E-book vs. Correct Citation in MLA Style 

FAULTY  ProQuest ebrary citation builder citation:

  • Holden, Stacy E. Documentary History of Modern Iraq. Gainesville, US: University Press of Florida, 2012. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 17 August 2016.
    • This entire citation is incorrect for many reasons:  First, it's in MLA's 7th ed. style rather than the newest 8th ed., and therefore some of the information included is no longer required; and second, for that information which is included, some of it is in the wrong format.  The database will eventually catch up and use the 8th ed. in its generated citations, but you must also always double-check the automatically generated citation!

       CORRECT MLA Style Citation:

  • Holden, Stacy E., editorDocumentary History of Modern Iraq. UP of Florida, 2012. ProQuest ebrary, site.ebrary.com.ezproxy2.barton.edu/lib/bartoncollege/reader.action?ppg=4&docID=10590929&tm=1471447808100

Notice the differences in red: The term editor was left out in the incorrect citation.  Both the title of the book (Documentary History...) and the title of the e-book database (ProQuest ebrary) should be italicized in MLA style.  The place of publication is now optional, and the publisher of a university press is abbreviated using UP for University Press.  The format ("web" in this case) is no longer used, and if there is a stable URL for the resource, it should be included without the "http://".  The date of access is now also optional, so if it's important to include, you may do so, but it's no longer required.