Faculty of Arts


How Citations Work


One purpose of documenting sources is to give credit to the appropriate people for their work and ideas. This is why you quotations and paraphrases of the ideas of others are always cited. But academics also use documentation for an additional reason. They want to provide their readers with the ability to retrace their research steps. You probably know that scientists check their work and the work of other scientists by replicating experiments, to see if they come out the same way when performed a second time. Historians use documentation for similar reasons. You include documentation so that your reader can go back and look at the same sources that you consulted.

Your reader can then decide whether she or he would come to the same conclusion you did. This is the way that academics check up on one another's work.

Although somethings change depending on the citation style used the basics for citations are always the same. A specific fact, quotation, or Idea within the text will have a citation attached to it, most often a number or a roman numeral (called a note).

The citation usually looks like so:

The second idea2,

but sometimes parenthetical citations are used, such as:

The third idea (Miller 25),.

Either way the note points the reader to where the author got their information in the first place. Historical papers exclusively use notes, rather then the paratheses system for citations, so the rest of this article will focus on the finer aspects of that practice.

The initial note number will correspond to either a footnote or an end note which has the information necessary to figure out where the  information in question actually came from in the first place. The only real difference between a footnote and end note is that the former is at the bottom of the page of where the original note was found, and the latter is either at the end of a chapter or at the end of a book.

Generally foot/endnotes includes the publication data of where the source in question was found (city of publication, publisher, date of printing etc), and the page number where the specific information cited came from.

Subsequent foot/endnotes that utilize a source which has already been cited (I.E. when the same book is cited twice) generally omit any publication data, and only specify a shortened title, authors name, and page number.

At the end of any book or article there will be a list of "Works Cited". This is an alphabetized list of sources that have been cited elsewhere in the work. It contains the same information as footnotes or end notes do but the formatting is slightly different. Anything that the author read but did not cite is NOT to included in the list of "Works Cited", this is why it is not called a bibliography.

This above information is common to all academic genres that use note style citation, but the particulars of how this is done (I.E. the formatting of notes) varies depending on which citation style is used. A "citation style" is just a standardized way of formatting citations. Usually citation styles correspond to a particular institution or book such as the American Anthropological Association, or Chicago Style Guide.

What Documentation Scheme to Use

In North America the format most widely employed by historians for note citations and bibliographies is patterned on The Chicago Manual of Style Documentation in history essays at Thompson Rivers University should always conform to this style.

Other articles in the handbook will cover the basics of Chicago style in more depth and give examples.