Citations: A Vocabulary List

Ever get confused by citation jargon? Know what MLA format stands for? Need help understanding the differences between a primary source and a secondary source? Our list of terms and definitions below can help!

Abstract: A summary of a source’s content written by the author. It is usually brief, consisting of only a few hundred words. Abstracts can be for individual pieces of a source, such as book chapters, or for the source as a whole.

Annotated Bibliography: A list of citations to books, articles, documents, etc. Instead of a simple works cited page or reference list where each source is simply displayed in a citation, however, each source citation is followed by a brief descriptive and evaluative paragraph. This paragraph is known as the “annotation,” and is usually only about 100-150 words long.

APA Format: Abbreviation for American Psychological Association. APA citation style is commonly used for scientific papers and courses. The APA handbook is currently in its 6th edition.

Bibliography: A list of sources used and referenced in order to write a paper. Typically, entries in a bibliography are listed in alphabetical order by author last name. They list not only sources that were directly quoted in the paper, but also list any other sources that were consulted in the research and writing process. This is the name of the list of citations found in Chicago and Turabian style.

Chicago Style: The Chicago Manual of Style is a citation style commonly used in history and humanities courses. It is currently in its 17th edition, and is published by the University of Chicago Press. Chicago has two main types of citation formatting: Author-Date and Footnote-Bibliography. Always ask your instructor if you are unsure of which type to use.

Citation: An explicit, written-out reference to a source used in a paper or project. Including citations in your work is very important, as they provide evidence of your argument, give credit to the right people, and prevent plagiarism. Citations can be done in a variety of ways and follow many different formats. Always consult with your instructor on which citation format you should use for your paper.

Database: A type of website or service that serves as a collection for information, usually organized in a way that is conducive to research. Databases can contain journal articles, music, even digital photographs. Be sure to give credit to any database you use in your research when making citations.

Endnotes: Endnotes are located at the end of a complete document, or sometimes at the end of a chapter or section. They provide additional information on points raised in the text, and work in conjunction with references in a bibliography.

Footnotes: Footnotes are a form of citations that are located at the bottom of the page where the reference to the cited source was made. They are often found in Chicago and Turabian citation styles, but can be found in others. They are usually numbered, and contain information regarding the sources publisher, author, publication date, etc.

Hanging Indent: A paper formatting device often used in reference lists and bibliographies. With a hanging indent, the second and all the following lines of a paragraph are indented more than the first. See your citation style manual or consult with your teacher for specific formatting information.

In-text Citation: Citations made within sentences or paragraphs of a paper, usually directly following a reference to a source. The in-text citation usually contains information such as the author’s name, page numbers, or dates. This depends on which citation style you are using. This information is generally contained in parenthesis, and is listed before the sentence’s ending punctuation.

MLA Format: Abbreviation for Modern Language Association. MLA citation style is generally used in English and humanities courses, and the handbook is currently in its 8th edition.

Paraphrasing: The act of expressing the meaning or ideas from a source by using different words. This is generally done to make an idea clearer to the reader, or to summarize a point made in the source. When paraphrasing a source in your paper, be sure to still include a citation for that source in your bibliography.

Parenthetical Citation: see In-text Citation.

Plagiarism: The act of taking the work of someone else and either passing it off as your own, or failing to include references to the proper sources. Plagiarism can lead to failing grades, and sometimes even suspension or expulsion. The easiest way to avoid plagiarism in your paper is to make accurate citations whenever you use information from an outside source.

Primary Source: A source that provides first-hand evidence of an event or point in time. Primary sources can include letters, historical documents, eyewitness accounts, experiment results, art, or video and audio recordings.

Reference List: see Bibliography. This is the name of the list of citations found in APA style.

Secondary Source: Any source containing information about an event, time period, or object that was written or created after that event, period, etc. Generally, they contain information on primary sources. Textbooks, journal articles, and newspaper articles are common secondary sources.

Turabian: Named for its original author Kate Turabian, this is a citation style that is an abbreviated version of Chicago Style. The full name of the publication is the Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. It was designed for students and scholars, and is currently in its 8th edition.

Works Cited: see Bibliography. This is the name of the list of citations found in MLA style.