The Fundamentals of Journal Citation
Citation Research Writing

The Fundamentals of Journal Citation

Kanu Priya
Kanu Priya

While conducting academic research, you need to be wary of three things. Upholding intellectual honesty, avoiding plagiarism, and crediting your sources. You do all of these through citations.

A citation is nothing but letting your readers know where you got your idea from. It needs to be credible and verifiable as incorrect citations can come under scrutiny. Citations are traditionally used to describe where you have taken the lead rather than reflect your thoughts and opinions. Also, it enables your readers to understand the origin of your information and draw their own conclusions.

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Citations are important

Giving proper credits to sources should seem like a no-brainer. Still, there is no shortage of research papers with missing appropriate citations. This can be intentional or accidental. In either cases, however, it makes the author seem dishonest.

Below are some of the crucial reasons why you should always cite the information you use in your academic writing:

1. Citations hone your research skills

Since a citation can come from any credible source, you have to properly attribute it. You do this by providing all the information about the origin. The author’s name, the resource, and the exact point from where you have taken inspiration a source. Attention to details and patterns hold true for exemplary research.

Becoming detail-oriented in one aspect automatically implants positive habits while writing your research. The ability to interpret trends and patterns is considered a vital skill in scientific analysis

2. Citations construct your eminence as a scholar

Showing off scholarship in the form of a well-cited article is the cherry on the cake of your academic integrity. In fact, the amount of documentation you attach to your research and arguments is one of the factors that determine how credible you are among your scientific peers.

3. Citing practices polish your writing proficiency

Direct attribution is a strong foundation for an elegant paper. The more you engage the reader, the more you convey what’s important. Moreover, when you cite specific sources for various facts, you eliminate room for a rebuttal as your readers can check your source in case of any doubt. Furthermore, by quoting, you can easily use active language and avoid raising red flags in the form of passive voice.

4. Citations validate your research

Over the course of its publishing, a journal article gets reviewed and edited several times. Once you assign all the information and cite your sources, the paper is more likely to have a positive review and the least criticism. Unfortunately, when it comes to evaluating a journal, the harshest critics are for not having cited all required references.

What is a citation style?

A citation style guide is the template for writing your references in a certain manner before you submit your paper to a journal. It dictates what information is necessary for the citation and in what order you ought to put it.

An all too common problem with research papers is that some researchers tend to go into too much detail when referencing their sources, while others take a minimal approach. Style guides overcome these inconsistencies and make sure that every article has a similar layout.

Since most disciplines have their own citation styles, it’s important to know which one you should adhere to before submitting your paper. Which is exactly what this blog aims to do.

The Most Common Citation Styles

The choice of citation style will be driven by the field in which you're writing, and for most assignments, your instructor will suggest a style to you.

However, as you advance through your academic career, you may find more flexibility in choosing a style that works for you. It's always safe to consult with your instructor and colleagues as to what style is appropriate.

There are three crucial citation styles used in academic writing:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Chicago, which further assists two classes: Notes and Bibliography, and Author-Date

Apart from these, particular domains use specific style guides like:

  • IEEE
  • AMA
  • Bluebook
  • CSE

Which Citation Style Should you Choose?

Selecting a citation style can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the one your discipline has assigned. The best way to go about this is to ask your professors. But to make it easier for you, here’s a list of the citation styles, which domain they are employed in, and the reason behind it.

1. MLA

The MLA style uses additional in-text citations and a ‘Works Cited’ list to link sources after a paper.


Art History, Philosophy,  English, Religion, Language, Linguistics, Music


The humanities highlight authorship and explain primary sources in a historical context. The author's name is the first information preceding the title and publication information at the ‘Works Cited’ list at the very end of the work.

2. APA

The APA style uses additional in-text citations and a ‘References’ list to link sources at the end of the paper.


Education, Engineering, and Social Sciences


These disciplines focus on the date of creation or publication to keep a check on currency and relevance. The date is listed after the author's name in the "References" list.

3. Chicago

Notes and Bibliography

Chicago Notes and Bibliography uses footnotes and endnotes to link the text to sources


History or the Humanities


Similarly to the MLA style, Notes and Bibliography is used to highlight the date and the source. It is accompanied with a bibliography page.


Chicago author-date uses parenthetical in-text citations and references or works cited list at the end, just like the APA style.


Physical, Natural, or Social Sciences


Author-Date is focused on highlighting the time period of the source. It is usually accompanied by a reference or works cited page. 

How to Cite in Various Formats

Following the correct pattern for journal citation is a prerequisite. Not doing so can lead to article rejection. Thus, any academic work including, dissertations, thesis, and academic papers, needs to be cited using appropriate citation styles.

Citing academic papers is done to counteract plagiarism. In addition, these citing formats are used to recognise related literary pieces and to mention references used. Therefore, you should study various citing styles and research papers well before producing essays or other academic articles. However citing research papers across multiple formats is effortless with SciSpace Discover.

You just have to click the 'Cite' button on an article page, and you will be provided with preloaded citation text in multiple styles so you can copy-paste it into your document.          

MLA Style Format

APA Style Format

Chicago Style Format

Do We Need Different Citation Formats?

As frustrating as it can be for researchers to follow to individual citation styles, having different formats is a necessity dictated by the needs of the field. Style guides have been developed over time to address what’s considered important in a domain.

For example, disciplines using the MLA style are more concerned with who the reference is. So, the author’s name and the work are given more importance than the dates.

On the other hand, the APA style gives preference to the when, since, to get a better context of social sciences, it’s important to know the evolution of the subject.

All style guides, including Bluebook, Chicago, AMA, etc., thus make it easier for the reader to track what’s essential better.

Leveraging Citation Databases Gives You An Edge

Citation databases are collections of references to items like books, articles, and thesis. These references can be used as evidence that an idea has been initially published by someone else. Similar to all domains of study, citation analysis requires a specific way to record information. You can hunt for articles on the topic of your choice, read and cite them in your work.

Some leading and popular databases are listed below:

  1. Web of science - One of the most trusted databases, web of science has Contains citation data from more than 10,000 of the most cited, peer-reviewed journals. As stated in Clarivate, over 12 million gold and green versioned articles, as well as bronze free-to-read articles, are available from 5,000 fully open access, hybrid and subscription journals. The Web of Science is a fusion of several databases, including Science Citation Index, Arts & Humanities Citation Index, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Conference Proceedings Citation Index.
  2. Scopus - It is a multidisciplinary database, Containing about 21,500 scientific journals from more than 5000 publishers. It also includes about 4200 Open Access journals, 7.2 million conference publications, 360 trade journals, and 113,000 books. Scopus covers journals over the range of science, technology, medicine, social sciences, and arts and humanities.
  3. Google Scholar - It is a freely accessible database that searches for required data on the web. It lets you specifically search for scholarly works like peer-reviewed papers. Discover scholarly work from universities, publishers, and preprint repositories.
  4. PubMed - Providing free access to biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books since 1950. It covers more than 11 million bibliographic citations and abstracts from nearly 4,500 journals in the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, allied health, health care systems, and pre-clinical sciences.
  5. ScienceDirect - It is a Science(Multidisciplinary) database published by Elsevier. Madison Libraries stated that this subset includes more than 1000 journals and thousands of ebooks in a wide range of subject areas. It lets you search for ebooks and subscribed titles from the records with ease.
  6. ABI/Inform - Updated daily, this business-related database offers thousands of academic papers, proper journals, industry profiles, and leading newspapers like WSJ and The Financial Times. Topics like finance and accounting are extensively covered, and others, including real estate, management, and marketing, are also taken care of.
  7. Academic Search - First Established by EBSCO in 1997, Academic Search includes more than 8,500 full-text periodicals, including more than 7,300 peer-reviewed journals. In addition, Academic Complete offers indexing and abstracts for more than 10,100 journals and a total of more than 10,600 publications, including reports and conference proceedings, among others. The PDF back-file content coverage is from 1887.
  8. JSTOR - Available in various languages like English, French, Dutch, German, and more, its main focus is in the fields of architecture, anthropology, biological sciences, botany, ecology, mathematics, language, education, finance, folklore, history, film, literature, economics, music, sociology, political science, demography, religion, philosophy, and statistics.
  9. Nexis Uni - It provides access to over 17,000 print and online journals, including sources related to law, business; radio, television broadcasting; regional and international newspapers, newswires; legal sources for state and federal cases, including U.S. Supreme Court decisions since 1790; and relevant data on over 75 million executives and 80 million U.S. and international corporations.
  10. PsycINFO - It is a psychology-based database from the American Psychological Association (APA) that accommodates over three million citations and summaries of journals, books, reports, and dissertations, all in the area of psychology, behavioural science, and mental health.

Citation Count

The amount of papers you publish plays a vital role in your career. "Publish early and often" can be heard multiple times in academic writing. Your effort has a significant impact on the progress you make in your research.

Expanding your citation count also positively impacts your career. The funding agencies often look at an excellent healthy combination of the number of papers published and the number of citations used when making business decisions.

But before you go,


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  3. What You Need To Know About Scopus
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  5. The myth around academic publishing every researcher should know