1 What Is a Citation?

What is a citation? 

You may think of referencing as something specific only to academic discourse, but we actually use references informally in our daily lives all the time. You are doing this to let the other person know from where you got this information.

Everyday referencing examples

Bubble reading: "I just read that Levi was the top goalie in the World Junior. Awesome, eh?" and bubble reading: "Ravi said there is a new Ranveer Singh movie. Want to watch it?"

In academic discourse, we are doing a similar type of referencing, but it happens in a more formal and prescribed way through a process called citation. In a citation, you will give very specific key information.

Academic referencing examples 

In text citation example: Levi is one of the few goalies who was recruited from outside Canada's major junior league. Superscript 1. Corresponding footnote reading: 1. Donna Spencer, "Devon Levi an Outlier among Canadian Junior Hockey Team Goaltenders," CBC, December 2020, https://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/devon-levi-an-outlier-canada-world-juniors-hockey-1.5856330. Second in-text example reading: Gupta gave a low rating to the movie Simmba, but praised Ranvier Singha's performance. Superscript 2. Corresponding footnote entry reading: 2. Shubhra Gupta, "Simmba Movie Review: Been There, Done That," The Indian Express, December 29, 2018, https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/movie-review/simmba-movie-review-rating-ranveer-singh-sara-ali-khan-5513419/.


These are footnote citations where information is given in full the first time, then shortened in subsequent footnotes (usually to author, title and page number only).

Footnotes generally also have an entry in the bibliography at the end of your writeup. There, the full information for all sources used is given, arranged in alphabetical order, so the reader can find the source.

Bibliography for the Gupta and Spencer footnotes. First entry reads: Gupta, Shubhra. "Simmba Movie Review: Been There, Done That." The Indian Express. December 29, 2018. https://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/movie-review/simmba-movie-review-rating-ranveer-singh-sara-ali-khan-5513419/. Second entry reads: Spencer, Donna. "Devon Levi an Outlier among Canadian Junior Hockey Team Goaltenders." CBC. December 20. https://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/devon-levi-an-outlier-canada-world-juniors-hockey-1.5856330.


Key Takeaways

A citation:

  • is a reference to a source of information
  • gives specific key information about the source, so the reader can find it
  • gives full information about the source in the footnote the first time it is cited, then only shortened information, usually consisting of author, title and page number for subsequent citations of the same source
  • gives full information about all sources used in an alphabetical bibliography at the end



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