There are certain things no one tells you (usually) when you are a university student. You are just expected to know them. When you learn them, suddenly it is as if you are part of an inner circle of respected peers who accept you… but you are not really sure how you got there. The devil is in the details. What sets rookies apart from experts is deep knowledge of details and sublties that others overlook or gloss over. Knowing the difference between a citation and a reference is one of those subtle details that moves you from the category of “novice researcher” to “respected researcher”.
It’s one of those things that you don’t really need to know — until you really want to be taken seriously among a group of experts. It’s akin to car buffs who know the difference between a supercharger and a turbocharger. Unless you are a “gear head” you don’t need to know. But if you want to be taken seriously in that social circle, you might be shunned if you didn’t know.
Regardless of your field, one key element that sets the experts apart from everyone else is their understanding of details in various elements of our work.
For students and scholars, once of these subtleties is knowing the difference between a citation and a reference:
A specific source that you mention in the body of your paper. The format of the citation may change depending on the style you use (e.g. MLA and APA) and the way that you weave the citation into your writing, but the basic elements of the citation that you need to include are:
- Name of the author(s)
- Year of publication
- Page number or page range
If you quote a source directly you must include the exact page number in your citation or it is incomplete.
This is a list of the the sources you have cited. The references come at the end of your paper. In APA style, this is not a list of “works consulted”. Every source that is listed in your references also needs to be cited in the body of your paper.
Every source listed in your references should be accessible by others who read your work. Think of it as a trail of breadcrumbs that you leave for readers to show them where they can go to find the original source material for themselves.
In APA style, not all work that is cited necessarily goes into the references. For example, personal communications get cited in the body of your paper, to show the reader that you have a source for your information. But if the reader can not track that source as a primary document (because, for example, the information is contained within a private e-mail between you and someone else), then it does not go into the reference list.
Alert! It is not very common that sources are cited but not referenced. Use sources such as personal communications sparingly, if at all. The more credible sources you have in your references, the better quality your work will be perceived as having.
In general, there should be an exact match between the sources you cite in the body of your paper and those that appear in your references.
The actual books, articles and other materials you consult are called your sources of information. You need to know how to cite and reference all your sources correctly.
Now you know one of the subtle differences of of terms used in scholarship that sets apart the experts from the rookies. When you use the terms correctly, those who know will quietly nod their head and accept you a member of the scholarly community.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.
This entry was posted on Friday, October 18th, 2013 at 9:17 am and is filed under education, research. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Knowing the proper term for your paper’s list of citations can be confusing. Do I call it a works cited page? Should it actually be called a bibliography? How is it different from a reference list? In this article, we explain what these three terms mean and how they are different or related to one another.
To begin, each citation style has its own way of naming the list of sources you used in your paper. Here we break down the differences in these list types, so that you can better understand which option works best for your work.
A “Works Cited” list is an alphabetical list of works cited, or sources you specifically called out while composing your paper. All works that you have quoted or paraphrased should be included. Works Cited is generally used when citing sources using MLA format (Modern Language Association) style, and sources should be listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.
Example Works Cited entry:
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford UP, 2007.
References or “Reference List”
A “Reference List” is very similar to a Works Cited list, and is a term used when citing sources using APA format (American Psychological Association) style. The page should be titled “References,” and is arranged alphabetically by author last name.
Example References entry:
Middlekauff, R. (2007). The glorious cause: The American Revolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Bibliographies, on the other hand, differ greatly from Works Cited and References lists. In Works Cited and References, you only list items you have actually referred to and cited in your paper. A Bibliography, meanwhile, lists all the material you have consulted in preparing your essay, whether you have actually referred to and cited the work or not. This includes all sources that you have used in order to do any research. Bibliographies are often used in Chicago and Turabian citation styles. They usually contain a long reference that has a corresponding footnote within the body of the paper.
Example Bibliography entry:
Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.