Welcome to the George Mason University Libraries tutorial on reading a citation. Citations are often found from bibliographies of other sources. The first step to being able to locate an item from a citation is to be able to determine what material type that citation references. Books, book chapters and journal articles are the most common types of references. Let's look at these examples.
How to Read a Citation
Imagine you have found citations in the bibliography of a source you are working with or in online literature search results. How will you locate the article or book?
First, determine what kind of source is represented by the citation you have found. In this example, the publication name is the Journal of Policy History , so this is a journal article. Some journal titles will not include the word "journal" in their name, so another way you can tell that this is a journal is that the citation includes a volume and issue number (in this case 21 is the volume number, 1 is the issue number.) and 3-37 denotes the page numbers.
Consider this citation and determine what kind of source it is. This citation represents a chapter in a book. You can tell this because there is no volume or issue number included and the publisher "Princeton University Press" and the place of publication, "Princeton" is included. Also notice that the book chapter title is in quotes followed by" in"and the title of the book.
Consider this citation and determine what kind of source it is. This citation represents a book You can tell this because there is no volume or issue number included and the publisher "Allyn" and the place of publication, "Boston" is included.
See below for tutorials for finding the full text of an article from a citation, or finding a book from a citation
Additional Questions and Help
If you have trouble or questions about the reading a citation, ask a librarian.
Reading Citationsby Tina M. Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.