Citation Conversations

Participate in a campus discussion about citation rules and formats. We welcome input from students and faculty.

Students have expressed confusion and frustration about creating “correct” citations. Directions given to students in class are not always consistent with what is stated in the most up-to-date version of the particular style guidelines; nor are all faculty within a discipline telling students the same thing.

Citation ConversationsInformation about citations in 2009, including where on the library website to get the most up-to-date official versions of various styles, are provided in this article. Please go to the comment box at the end of the post to share your thoughts on the matter!

How do I correctly cite an article that I read full text online?

Answers to this question vary from instructor to instructor.

This year, both MLA and APA have changed their guidelines. The most up-to-date information the library has access to is Research and Documentation Online, by Diana Hacker.

An example of a recent change: MLA, which until Summer 2009 required the URL of the publisher for fulltext articles (found online), now only requires that the name of the database and the word “Web” be used to indicate that an article was found online rather than in paper (or microform).

Johnson, Kirk. “The Mountain Lions of Michigan.” Endangered Species Update 19.2 (2002): 27-31. Expanded Academic Index. Web. 26 Nov. 2008.

Note: The URL of an article (or a database) is not the same as the name of the database. In general, including the name of the database is cleaner looking than including the URL. In the sample above, Expanded Academic Index is the name of the database.

Students Confused by the Wide Range of Citation Styles They are Expected to Know

From what librarians have heard, the instructions given in class varies from instructor to instructor. For instance, the Chicago Manual of Style currently includes the URL of the source database (for an online article) as a required element in their citation guidelines. Some faculty are asking students to omit this information.

The fact that two different versions of the most recent Hacker manual (print) are roaming about hasn’t helped matters. Also, the most recent APA manual in print includes some errors in the sample paper section.


Although some faculty say they do not care where the students find the article, whether electronically or in print, saying they just want the “basics” – author, article title, journal title, pages, date, etc. – these directions are not consistent with the citation manuals or with what students are asked to do in other classes.

For now, directing students to Research and Documentation Online, thefirst choice on the Citing Sources link from the library hopepage, is the most consistent advice.

Colleague and student friends, please share your thoughts on the matter in the Comments box! (note: comments are moderated to prevent spam)

— KJ and PA —

Join the Conversation


  1. I am probably one of the people who has been telling students that they need to include the complete print citation (with page numbers, etc.) for journal articles, even if they access it online, and that they don’t need to include any information about the database they used or the url. I note also that the scholarly journals, at least the ones that I use, do not include any of that information in their literature cited sections either. While the style manuals may have changed their suggestions recently, I belive that it is the journals themselves that set policy on their own literature citation style – not the style manuals. That is why, after all, there are more citation formats out there among the journals than the few style formats represented by APA, Chicago, etc. While this may create confusion among some of us, including our students, most of us are probably telling them to write as for a particular journal. When I’m preparing a manuscript for a journal, I NEVER consult a style manual – rather I consult the “Instructions to Authors” for that journal and the literature cited sections of recent issues.

  2. I don’t understand how the picture at the beginning of the article relates to the content in any way.

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