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How to Read Citations: Examples

This guide will help you identify elements to distinguish one kind of citation from another (a book from a journal article, for example). The citations below are in the APA style, but the elements you should look out for (authors, editors, publication information...) will be present in some form in most common citation styles.

Journal articles

chrecker, E. (2003). The Free speech movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s. Pacific Historical Review. 72 (4)  669-670.

The animation above shows an article cited in the APA format (view non-animated version). 

To distinguish an article from other kinds of sources, look for:

  • A journal title in addition to an article title
  • Numbers for volume and/or issue, and sometime issue dates or seasons (e.g. Spring 2014).
  • Page numbers
  • No place of publication or publisher name is listed

Citations for articles accessed online often list the article's stable URL at the end of the citation:

  • Retrieved from


Goines, D. L. (1993). The Free speech movement: Coming of  age in the 1960's. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

The animation above shows a book cited in the APA format (view non-animated version). 

To distinguish a book from other kinds of sources, look for:

  • Place of publication (e.g. Berkeley, CA)
  • Publisher name (e.g. Ten Speed Press)
  • No dates, other than a year, are usually included

Book chapters

Hayles, N.K. (2014). Print Is Flat, Code Is Deep: The Importance of Media-Specific Analysis. In M. Kinder, T. McPherson, &, N.K. Hayles (Eds.), Transmedia Frictions: The Digital, the Arts, and the Humanities (pp. 20-33). Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

The animation above shows a single chapter from a book cited in the APA format (view non-animated version). 

To distinguish a book chapter from other kinds of sources, look for:

  • Chapter/essay title and book title
  • Author and editor name(s)
  • Page numbers for the chapter
  • Publisher name and place of publication

Other sources


Schultz, S. (2005, December 28). Calls made to strengthen state energy policies. The Country Today, pp. 1A, 2A.

Look for:

  • Date for a specific day
  • Newspaper title in addition to article title
  • Page numbers that reflect newspaper sections (often a number and letter, e.g. 1A)

Government documents

National Institute of Mental Health. (1990). Clinical training in serious mental illness (DHHS Publication No. ADM 90-1679). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Look for:

  • Government agencies listed as authors (e.g. National Institute of Mental Health)
  • Publishers that begin with federal or state names (e.g. U.S..., or California State...)
  • Publication identifiers that don't follow volume/issue format (e.g. ADM 90-1679)


Engelshcall, R. S. (1997). Module mod_rewrite: URL Rewriting Engine. In Apache HTTP Server version 1.3 documentation (Apache modules). Retrieved from

Look for:

  • Full URL at the end of the citation
  • An article and website title
  • Websites may often lack author names or specific publication dates
  • Tip: Go to the URL listed to confirm the kind of source. URLs may also be listed for journal articles retrieved from online databases, for example.

Example citations for the sources in this box are taken from the Purdue OWL guide.