Why cite your sources?
Citations fulfill several functions:
- They give proper credit to the work others have done.
- They allow readers of your work to find the sources you've used.
- They show that you are familiar with the scientific literature in the area you're writing about.
Basic elements of journal article citations:
- Author name(s): the names of the authors of the article
- Publication year: the year the article was published
- Article title (e.g., "Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere")
- Journal title: the name of the journal in which the article was published (e.g., Nature, Ecology, or Journal of Arid Enviroments)
- Volume number: journals are often divided into volumes that indicate that they have been published in a specific time period (e.g., if the volume numbers change annually, "volume 17" would indicate that the issues in that volume were published in the journal's 17th year of publication). Volume numbers for different journals can change after different time periods: annually, semiannually, quarterly, or even monthly.
- Issue number (omitted for many citation styles in the sciences): Each volume is often subdivided into specific groupings of articles that are published at regular intervals (e.g., if the journal is published monthly, issue 1 may include the articles published in January, issue 2 the articles published in February, etc.).
- Page numbers (for articles published both in print and online) or article number (for online-only articles)
- For articles published online: URL or DOI (omitted for some citation styles)
What is a DOI?
Find an article using a DOI:
Try this example:
Freeman LA, Kleypas JA, Miller AJ. 2013. Coral reef habitat response to climate change scenarios. PLoS ONE 8: e82404. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0082404
Click on the "Find an article using a DOI" link above, copy and paste the DOI into the "Resolve a DOI" box, and click "Go." (Don't include "doi:") Were you able to access this article?
There are hundreds of different citation styles. Here is the same citation formatted in four different scientific citation styles. Note the differences in the number of authors listed and in the order, format and punctuation of the elements of the citation:
The journal Nature:
Barnosky, A. D. et al. Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere. Nature 486, 52-58 (2012).
The journal Science:
A. D. Barnosky et al., Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere. Nature. 486, 52-58 (2012).
Council of Science Editors, 8th edition:
Barnosky AD, Hadly EA, Bascompte J, Berlow EL, Brown JH, Fortelius M, Getz WM, Harte J, Hastings A, Marquet PA, et al. 2012. Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere. Nature 486(7401):52-8.
The journal BioScience:
Barnosky AD, et al. 2012. Approaching a state shift in Earth's biosphere. Nature 486: 52-58.