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How do I: Read a citation

Citation Elements

Most resources share common elements that are included in citations.  When you locate a useful resource that you do not have immediate access to, you will need to understand what you are looking at in order to search for a copy in the library catalog, or to request it through interlibrary loan.

These elements include (but are not limited to):

1. Author

2. Date of publication

3. Title of entire work

Other elements may be present depending on the type of source:

4. Place of publication

5. Volume and issue information

6. Page numbers

7. Chapter or article title

8. DOI

9. Database name

10. URL

Bibliography Example

You will frequently find items cited in bibliographies, particularly in reference tools such as encyclopedias, or in the works cited or bibliography sections of scholarly books.  It should be noted that item #3, the journal title, is abbreviated.  This is a common practice to conserve space, but the full title of the journal should be used when searching, requesting, or citing this item.  (Finding a list of abbreviations in the original source is one way, or a quick Google search indicates the journal title is Advances in Enzymology and Related Areas of Molecular Biology.)

Screenshot of a citation indicating which portions identify the author, title, source, etc.

Database example

When searching a database, you will probably come across a resource that is not available in the full text.  Instead you will see a screen full of data, similar to this one.  Match the numbers to the citation elements to understand what information is being provided.

Screenshot of an abstract and citation