Skip to Main Content

Identifying Parts of a Citation

This guide will help students to determine what identifying information should go on citation pages for most citation styles. Template courtesy of Nash Community College. This page illustrates how to interpret the parts of an MLA citation for different

Citing or documenting the sources used in your research serves three purposes:

  1. It gives proper credit to the authors of the words or ideas that you incorporated into your paper.
  2. It allows those who are reading your work to locate your sources, in order to learn more about the ideas that you include in your paper.
  3. Citing your sources consistently and accurately helps you avoid committing plagiarism in your writing.


If you cite a source in your bibliography simply like this:

it does technically indicate where you found it, and someone might be able to find it again. But:

  • What if the URL breaks?
  • What if your reader doesn't have access to Geisel Library's databases? (This is the URL to the PDF view of a journal article in the database ProQuest Science Journals.)

A good citation makes it easy for the reader to figure out the who, what, when, and where of the source. In MLA style, a citation also often indicates how it was accessed.

Within MLA style, the format of the citation also tells you "what"--that this source is a journal article that you accessed through an online database.