How to cite an academic journal

How to cite an academic journal – a short guide

Writing any kind of scholarly work – an essay, dissertation, article, textbook or monograph – various sources of information are used: journal articles, books, and others. Certainly, it is fully legitimate to incorporate your readings into your writing as long as the source is properly specified. All relevant data like the author, title, page number, year of publication, publisher, etc. must be precisely listed. This is called a reference or citation.

For scholarly writings, various reference styles are used. The most common ones are, perhaps, the APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, Turabian, Vancouver and ACM styles. In this paper, we survey these styles in some detail.

Why and how to cite an academic journal and what other sources are to be cited?

It is an essential part of research integrity to refer precisely to the origin of any information taken from other authors; that is, to avoid plagiarism. Moreover, reference to the existing literature is also crucial for relating your work to the research performed by others. It makes your text compelling and helps to orientate the scientific community which is expected to be interested in your findings. References should always be as precise as possible so that they easily lead the readers to the source of the information they need.

References are not only needed in case of literal quotes. It would be best if you referred to the source of any information taken from others’ work. This should include methods of study, various data (e.g. results of measurements), experimental settings, definitions, and so on. The sources can be published works like scholarly articles, monographs, or textbooks, as well as oral communication like seminar or conference talks or even private discussions. You should only use a source that is trusted in origin. On the other hand, it is not necessary to refer if you describe your own research results, observations, experimental results, or analysis, if it has not been published yet elsewhere. Re-using your own, but already published results must be documented with references too, so as to avoid unethical self-plagiarism. In case of facts that can be found at many places and are probably widely known, it is not mandatory though considerate to provide an easily accessible reference for the readers’ convenience.

Reference styles

In every scientific text, each reference should appear at least at two different places: within the text and at the end of the text in the bibliography. (A third occurrence is possible in footnotes or endnotes, see below.) The point of an intertextual reference is that, in an abridged form, immediately guides the reader where the quote or thought is coming from. This encoded information is then resolved by a detailed reference in the bibliography (and perhaps in notes), listing all relevant data of the source.

Thus, in every style, the reference is made in two places at least - in the text, in the bibliography, and possibly in endnotes or footnotes. The difference between the various styles are the ways in which in-text citations are encoded, and in which these codes are resolved as detailed references.


Whatever style you apply, you should always compile a list of references at the end of the document. In this bibliography, you should give full references for all in-text references used throughout. The bibliography usually starts on a new page. Its items may be numbered or not, they can be ordered alphabetically or in the order of their appearance in the text.

Different rules apply to the various types of documents – books, study volumes, journals, volumes and issues, special issues, internet resources – what data to list and in what order.

For a book, for instance, the author’s surname, initials, publication year, the book’s title, its editor, publisher’s location, and name are the most important data to be listed. The particular style determines what to italicise, where to apply parentheses or quotation marks. For example, in the APA style (introduced in a bit more detail below) a book citation takes the following form.

Darwin, C.R. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life (1st ed.) London, England: John Murray

Citing a journal article, the author’s surname, initials, publication year, the article’s title, the journal’s title, volume, and issue numbers, page numbers, Digital Object Identifier (abbreviated as DOI) and URL are usually expected to be listed. For example, again the APA style, a citation of a journal article should look like this.

Einstein, A. (1905). Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper. Annalen der Physik (ser. 4), 17, 891–921. Retrieved from

An online journal article is cited in essentially the same way.

Should you cite a website, list the website’s name, the year when it was published, the title of the page adding the term [online]. Finally, add “Available at” and the URL together with the date when you accessed it.

In case you need to cite sources different from the above, for example unpublished research papers, consult the chosen journal’s style guide.

The author-date styles

In all author-date styles – as the name indicates – an in-text citation consists of the author’s name and the year of publication (together with exact page numbers whenever it makes sense; e.g. in the case of a literal citation, when also quotation marks must be used). These data are usually given in parentheses – e.g. (Einstein, 1905) or (Einstein, 1905, p.893). Up-to at most five authors, all names should be listed. If there are more than five authors, then the name of the first author is followed by “et al.”. If there are multiple references to works of the same author in the same year, then they should be distinguished by additional labels like (Einstein, 1905a) and (Einstein, 1905b). There is no essential difference between in-text references to books, journal articles, online documents, or other formats when using an author-date reference style. Exceptions are electronic documents, as you cannot provide a page number. In this case, you should indicate the paragraph number and use the abbreviation para.

In the bibliography of most author-date styles, the references are listed in alphabetical order by the surname of the first author.

Examples of author-date styles

The Harvard reference style is one of the most used styles in scholarly works.

The APAcitation (American Psychological Association) is a form of reference that is typically used in the social sciences. These areas are anthropology, archaeology, communication and business studies, education, geography, history, political studies, psychology and sociology.

The MLA (Modern Language Association of America) reference style is mainly used for artistic and literary writings. Some clever tools – so-called MLA citation generators – may help you to create MLA style references, including MLA in-text citations.

The author-date form of the Chicago style is often used in the sciences and social sciences.

The author-date form of the Turabian style is common in physical, natural, and social sciences.

Notes & Bibliography styles

The characteristic feature of all Notes & Bibliography styles is that within the text references are encoded by numbers (with or without parentheses). These codes are then resolved in any of footnotes and endnotes, depending on the publisher’s preference. A bibliography section is provided at the end of the work in these styles too.

The bibliography at the end of the text looks pretty much the same as in the author-date styles; the precise format depends on the chosen style.

In the footnotes or endnotes, the serial number is followed by the author's name, the title and point of the cited work, followed by the place of publication in brackets, the publisher, the date of publication, followed by the page number where the reference occurs. As in the bibliography, the syntaxis depends on the actual style. For example, in the Chicago style, books and journal articles are quoted in the following respective forms.

  1. Charles Robert Darwin, On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life (London: John Murray, 1859), 17.
  2. Albert Einstein, “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper.” Annalen der Physik (ser. 4), 17 (1905): 21.

Examples of Notes & Bibliography styles

Chicago style has a Notes & Bibliography variant (popular in humanities —including literature, history, and the arts). It uses footnotes or endnotes (as the publisher demands) in addition to the bibliography organised in alphabetical order.

Turabian style (particularly prevalent in the fields of history and economics) is very similar to Chicago. It also uses footnotes and endnotes as well as an alphabetically ordered bibliography.

Numbered styles

As a hybrid solution, in-text references can be encoded by numbers (typically in square brackets) which only link to the numbered references in the bibliography (there are no footnotes or endnotes). For example, in the Vancouver style, the bibliography items for books and journal articles, respectively, have the following structure.

  1. Darwin CR. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. 1st ed. London: John Murray; 1859.
  2. Einstein A. Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper. Annalen der Physik (ser. 4). 1905;17:891–921.

Examples of numbered styles

The Vancouver style is mainly used in medical articles. In this style, the bibliography items are listed in the order in which they occur in the text.

The ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) is the dominant style e.g. in mathematics and computer science. In this style, the bibliography is alphabetically ordered.

AKJournals provides academic papers with all significant citation styles

At AKJournals, we publish domestic and international academic journals in a wide range of fields like arts and humanities, business and economics, biology, social science and law, and so on. Since all these branches of science have their own preferred reference style, you can meet many different styles in our journals. Before preparing your manuscript, please consult the style guide of the journal where you plan to submit your work to. You can find the list of AKJournals’ style guides on our web page.