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Basic Referencing (Making Citations): How to Cite

How to Cite?

If, for example, you want to cite this article in your paper to support your argument, you should:

  1. Make an in-text reference within your writing:
    .. Smart clothing technologies may include printed sensors able to monitor a wearer’s well-being or detect dangerous chemicals in the environment (Excell, 2013), ...

  2. Include complete details about the article in the references section at the end of your paper:
    Excell, J. (2013, April 8). Smart dressing. Retrieved from

What about indirect sources?

For example, you read about Smith's idea (or research findings) in Nicholson's paper and you did not read Smith's article yourself. In this case, you CANNOT cite a source that you have not read, so you need to indicate that the information is obtained from a secondary source:

  1. List the source you have read (Nicholson's paper) in the reference list, and
  2. Make an in-text citation such as
    • Smith's survey (as cited in Nicholson, 2003) showed ...
    • According to Nicholson (2003), Smith's survey says ...


What about personal communications?

Personal communications may be private letters, memo, electronic communications (e.g. e-mail), personal interviews, telephone communications, etc. Because they are not considered recoverable data, so personal communications are not required in the reference list, but you have to cite personal communications within the text. Give the initials, follow by the surname (family name, last name, 姓) of the communicator, and provide the exact date as possible.

In-text Reference = (T.W. Lau, personal communication, September 2, 2012)

See A Guide to Good Referencing Skills for more tips on how to paraphrase and summarize sources.

Citation Styles

  • There are several common citation styles (standard formats for listing references). Style varies across disciplines. Ask your instructor which style s/he prefers.
  • In general, references of periodical articles should have these elements:
    • Author(s) - who wrote it
    • Title - what the article is called
    • Source - title of the periodical or larger work it appeared in
    • Volume & Issue numbers
    • Publication date
    • Page numbers
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