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What are citations?

A citation is a reference to an item that gives enough information in order for you to identify it and to be able to find it again.

Generally, citations include four elements:

  1. Author
  2. Title
  3. Source
  4. Date 

The source information is the clue to figuring out what kind of resource the citation points to:

  • For a book, the source information will be a place of publication and a publisher.
  • For an article, the source information will be the journal title, the volume and issue numbers and the page numbers.
  • For a website, the source information will be the URL (which normally begins http://).

Other types of publications (audio/visual materials, government documents, dissertations, etc.) will generally include the basic four elements, but will also include enough information in order for the person reading the citation to identify both the type of information source, as well as how to find the information again.


"Broadly, a citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source (not always the original source).

A prime purpose of a citation is intellectual honesty: to attribute prior or unoriginal work and ideas to the correct sources, and to allow the reader to determine independently whether the referenced material supports the author's argument in the claimed way."

-- Citation. (n.d.). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved August 16, 2011, from

Scientific Citation Style

APA style is generally acceptable for most STEM disciplines but always check with your publisher or professor. The Chicago Manual of Style is also popular with STEM publishers.

Citing an Article for Physics Papers

You need to us a citation style appropriate for a Physics journal for your citations.  Even though you are retrieving the article from a website, you still need to include the author, date, article title, journal, volume/issue, and page numbers of the article.  When applicable you should also include the DOI and/or website.

This tutorial ( will help you understand the purpose of citations and the information that is needed in a citation.

Both American Physics Society (APS) and the American Institute of Physics (AIP) use the AIP handbook which can be downloaded from here.  The information on referencing is on page 8 & 9.  Please note that this guide has not been updated since the 1990s and probably does not adequately address issues such a website or DOI numbers.

The Institute of Physics (IOP) has it's own style guide which you can access here.  There are also guidelines for Word here and for LaTeX here.  For your paper, you are requested to use the Harvard or alphabetical style rather than the Vancouver or numerical style.

Citation Management

You can use the following Citation Managers to help collect resources and cite your papers properly.


For more information on citation management

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