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How to Cite an Article: A Comprehensive Guide

Cite An Article
“Cite an article is not just a formality; it’s a way to give credit to the ideas that have shaped your own.” – Unknown

Citing an article correctly is an integral part of academic and professional writing. It not only gives credit to the original source but also allows readers to trace your references for further exploration. Whether you’re a student writing a research paper, a journalist reporting a news story, or a scholar contributing to academic discourse, understanding how to cite an article accurately is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the steps of how to cite an article effectively, providing explanations and examples for each point.

  1. Identify the Citation Style

Before you begin cite an article, it’s crucial to determine which citation style to use. Common styles include APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, Harvard, and more. Your institution, professor, or publication will often specify the style to follow.

  1. Gather Necessary Information

To cite an article accurately, you must gather all the necessary information. Typically, this includes:

  • Author(s) or contributor(s)
  • Publication date
  • Article title
  • Title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper (italicized or underlined)
  • Volume and issue number (for journals)
  • Page numbers
  • DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or URL (for online articles)

Collecting this information upfront will make the citation process smoother.

  1. Format Your Citation

Each citation style has specific guidelines for formatting. You need to structure your citation according to the chosen style, following the order and formatting for elements like author names, publication dates, titles, and page numbers.

  1. In-Text Citations

In academic writing, it’s common to include in-text citations to indicate where you’ve used information from the article. These citations should align with the format of your reference list or bibliography. In APA, for example, you include the author’s last name and the publication year in parentheses (Smith, 2020), while in MLA, you use the author’s last name and page number (Smith 45).

  1. Variations in Citing Online Articles

When citing online articles, specific guidelines related to URLs, DOIs, and access dates may apply. Some styles prefer DOIs when available because they provide a stable link to the source. Ensure you know and follow the rules for online citations, as they can vary between citation styles.

  1. Punctuation and Italics/Quotation Marks

Correct punctuation and formatting are essential. For instance, in APA and Chicago styles, article titles are typically in sentence case and italicized (e.g., Journal of Education). In MLA, titles are in title case and enclosed in quotation marks (“Journal of Education”).

  1. Consistency is Key

Maintain consistency in your citations throughout your paper or bibliography. Use the same citation style and format for all your citations. Consistency helps maintain clarity and professionalism in your writing.

  1. Cite Special Cases

Be aware that there are variations when citing special cases, such as editorials, letters to the editor, articles in anthologies, or articles from databases. Consult your style guide for specific instructions on these situations.

  1. Online Database Citations

If you’re citing an article from an online database (e.g., PubMed, JSTOR), adhere to the guidelines for citing articles from that source. This often includes specifying the database’s name, the stable URL, or DOI.

  1. Check Citation Generators

Consider using citation generators or management software like EndNote, Zotero, or Citation Machine. These tools can assist in creating accurate citations efficiently, saving you time and minimizing errors.

  1. Proofread and Verify

After creating your citations, proofread them for accuracy. Double-check author names, publication dates, titles, and all other details. Errors in citations can undermine your work’s credibility.

  1. Seek Guidance

If you’re uncertain about how to cite a specific type of article or source, don’t hesitate to seek guidance. Consult a reliable style guide, ask your instructor or librarian, or utilize online resources provided by universities or citation style organizations. It’s better to seek clarification and ensure your citations are correct.

In-Text Citations


In-text citations are an essential part of academic writing, providing readers with a clear link between your ideas and the sources you’ve consulted. They serve as signposts, guiding your readers to the full citation in your bibliography or references page. In addition to indicating where you obtained specific information, in-text citations also help you avoid plagiarism by attributing ideas to their rightful creators.

Different citation styles have specific rules for in-text citations. For instance, in APA style, you include the author’s last name and the publication year in parentheses (Smith, 2020), while in MLA style, you use the author’s last name and page number (Smith 45). Familiarizing yourself with these rules is crucial for seamless integration of citations into your text.

Consistency Matters


Consistency in citation style and formatting is paramount. Mixing different citation styles or formats within the same document can confuse readers and detract from the professionalism of your work. Before you start writing, decide on your citation style and stick with it throughout your document. Be meticulous in applying the chosen style to all aspects of your citations, including punctuation, italics, and abbreviations.

Citing Special Cases


Citing articles often involves more than straightforward journal articles. Special cases can include:

  • Editorials: If you’re citing an editorial, provide the author’s name (if available), the title of the editorial in quotation marks, the name of the publication, the publication date, and the page number.
  • Letters to the Editor: Treat letters to the editor similarly to editorials, citing the author’s name, the title of the letter in quotation marks, the publication name, the publication date, and the page number.
  • Articles in Anthologies: When citing an article within an anthology or edited book, include the author’s name, the article title in quotation marks, the book’s editor(s), the title of the book in italics, the publisher, the publication year, and the page numbers.

Understanding how to cite these special cases is vital for accurately representing the sources you use in your work.

Citation Generators and Management Tools


While learning how to manually create citations is essential, you can also take advantage of citation generators and management tools. These tools streamline the process of generating citations according to your chosen style, saving you time and reducing the risk of errors. Examples include:

  • Zotero: A free, open-source tool that helps you collect, organize, and cite research materials.
  • EndNote: A commercial reference management software that offers advanced features for organizing and citing sources.
  • Citation Machine: An online tool that generates citations in various styles based on the information you input.

These tools can be particularly helpful when you have a large number of sources to cite. Incorporating these additional insights into your citation practices will enhance your ability to create accurate, consistent, and professionally formatted citations in your academic and professional writing. By mastering the art of citation, you contribute to the scholarly conversation with clarity, integrity, and precision.



In conclusion, mastering the art of citing articles is fundamental for all writers and researchers. Accurate and consistent citations not only demonstrate your respect for intellectual property but also enhance the credibility of your work. By following these 12 steps and adhering to the rules of your chosen citation style, you can navigate the complexities of citation with confidence, whether you’re writing an academic paper, a journalistic piece, or any other form of scholarly communication.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why is citing articles important?

Cite an article is essential for several reasons. It gives proper credit to the original authors and sources, acknowledging their intellectual contributions. It allows readers to verify the information you’ve used and locate the source for further reading. Proper citation also helps you avoid plagiarism, which is a serious academic and ethical offense

How do I pick the appropriate citation format?

The choice of citation style depends on your institution’s guidelines or the requirements of the publication you are writing for. Different fields of study and types of writing (e.g., scientific research, humanities essays, journalism) often have preferred citation styles. Consult your instructor, publication guidelines, or style manuals (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago) to determine which style to use.

What information is required to cite an article?

When citing an article, you typically need the author(s), publication date, article title, journal/magazine/newspaper name, volume and issue number (for journals), page numbers, and, for online articles, a DOI (Digital Object Identifier) or URL. The specific information required may vary depending on the citation style you are using.

How do I cite an article with no page numbers?

When online articles lack page numbers, some citation styles, like APA and MLA, suggest using other identifiers, such as paragraph numbers (if available), section headings, or using the term “n.p.” (no page) in place of page numbers. Always refer to the specific guidelines of your chosen citation style for handling such cases.

Do I need to cite an article from online databases differently?

Yes, citing articles from online databases may require additional information, such as the name of the database and a stable URL or DOI. Many citation styles have specific rules for citing online sources, so consult your style manual or guidelines for the correct format. Additionally, make sure to follow any database-specific citation guidelines provided by the platform you are using (e.g., PubMed, JSTOR).

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