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Resources for Students in Online and Off-Campus Programs: Citing & Organizing Sources

Why Cite?

The detailed rules of citation styles can seem arbitrary. It is helpful to remember that the point of citation is to become part of the scholarly conversation: this cycle of creation, dissemination, evaluation, critique, and exchange of ideas is an essential aspect of scholarship. Citation helps your reader to locate the materials you have used, and allows you to properly credit other researchers' ideas in your work.

You may be asked to use a specific citation style. Some disciplines have their own style. Part of developing mastery in your discipline will be becoming versed in the style you are expected to use.

Failure to acknowledge sources of information properly may constitute plagiarism. For an explicit definition of plagiarism, see the Boston University Academic Conduct Code.

In a Hurry?

We understand. This tool lets you quickly create your whole bibliography or format a citation for a single source.

General Citation Guidance

Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) 
Highly regarded as the go-to source for citation examples and explanation.

Citing Sources Within Your Paper (Duke University) 
Well organized guidance on citing in the body of your text.

Video Tutorial: Citation - A (Very) Brief Introduction

A helpful overview of citation, by librarians from North Carolina State University.

Video Tutorial: Schools of Citation

Duke University's Dr. Denise Comer discusses why there are different citation styles.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 
The website at offers some interactive tutorials and help with citing electronic sources. The 6th edition is the most recent, published in 2010.

APA Formatting and Style Guide at Purdue OWL

Book Cover: Chicago Manual of Style The Chicago Manual of Style by University of Chicago Staff (Editor)

Scientific Style and Format: The CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and Publishers by Council of Science Editors
"Now in its eighth edition, the indispensable reference for authors, editors, publishers, students, and translators in all areas of science and related fields has been fully revised by the Council of Science Editors to reflect today’s best practices in scientific publishing."

BU Research Guide: Citing Your Sources: CSE (Council of Science Editors) Style
Council of Science Editors: Scientific Style and Format Citation Quick Guide

Citing Medicine: the NLM style guide for authors, editors, and publishers

The official style manual for the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and suggested when citing documents from the associated databases MedLine and PubMed. The online edition supercedes the print edition as the most up to date.

Manage Your Citations

Citation Managers (aka Bibliographic Managers) are tools you can use to:

  • Save your references 
  • Organize those references
  • Format works cited lists 
  • Add in-text citations to the body of a document
  • Share references with others
  • Collaborate

For an overview of these tools, including how to select and use the best one for your needs, see the BU Libraries Research Guide:
Create Bibliographies.

What's in a Citation?

All citation styles include the basic elements necessary to identify your sources. The order they go in and the level of detail you need may vary by citation style and the type of material you are citing.

  • author
  • title
  • date of publication
  • page numbers
  • volume and issue numbers (for journal articles)
  • doi (Digital Object Identifier)