Citing – Part III: How Do I Cite?

Your sources are collected and verified, and you are ready to start writing and citing! It can be overwhelming trying to figure out how to actually cite your sources. You might be asking yourself: What is the best way to reference within a text? How does this relate to a reference list? Is there a certain style I should follow? What information do I need in the citation?

Are there different styles of citations? Yes! There is a plethora of different style guides, many of which have been tailored to a specific subset of a specific field. However, if you are publishing a book through a non-academic press, it is unlikely you will need anything that specialized. Instead, you will most likely be using The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS or CMoS), the style guide for the publishing world. This is not to say you cannot use another style guide (for example, APA if you are doing a more exclusively scientific piece), but the most common and clean style is CMS.

What is the best way to reference within a text? For CMS, there are two ways to cite in text: notation or Author/Date. Notations are either footnotes or endnotes. Footnotes go at the bottom of each page and endnotes go at the end of the chapter or book. The notation itself will be a superscripted numeral (arabic numerals for footnotes and lowercase roman numerals for endnotes) to signal to the reader that this section of the work has either a source and/or additional comment that can be found either at the bottom of the page or end of the chapter/book. For example: “All editors enjoy reading, but not all enjoy writing.”1 Notations are recommended for most types of books and create the cleanest looking text.

However, Author/Date references are also allowed by CMS. Author/Date are what we call “in-text” citations, meaning that the pertinent reference material is listed in parentheses and the full citation is collected in the reference section at the end of the text. For each reference, the reader must be able to easily find the author(s) name(s) and the year of publication. For example: “All editors enjoy reading” (Fowler, 2014). As you can see, the reference comes directly after the citable material with the author’s name and year of publication in parentheses. It is also advisable to use the author’s name in the sentence for a more varied sentence structure. For example: Fowler argues that “all editors enjoy reading” (2014). In this example, since I already mentioned the author’s name in the citable material, only the year is contained in parentheses.

When do I need a bibliography? First, a bibliography is a listing of all or the major sources you have used in your text listed in alphabetical order. The styling of a bibliographic entry and a notation entry are slightly different but contain the same content (the big point: bibliographies use periods and notes uses commas to separate information). To learn more about proper citation styling, there are numerous sources throughout the Internet; for a great start, check out the Purdue OWL’s fantastic and free online database for those details (they have citation info for Chicago, MLA, and APA).

So, do you need one? This is a hard question, because there are many options that are dependent on what your book is doing and what you want your reader to take away. If you are using Author/Date citations, then you absolutely, 100% have to have a bibliography, since that is where all the citation information will be placed. It will need to be a full list of every source listed. With notations, it is based on preference. I generally recommend with notations to use a “Select Bibliography.” This means pulling out the key sources that are must reads if a reader wants more information. These are the sources you use often and will help give a deeper or more specific understanding of the content you are working on or around.

The final advice I will give with citations is to do the research! After you have pulled your sources, figured out where to place them and how you want to cite them; it is important to either speak with your editor or draw on resources like CMS or Purdue OWL to learn the necessary skills to properly cite your sources. As I wrote in a previous post, citations are the best way for your readers to take the knowledge they learned from your book and expand it further. Citations are the entry into this new space of knowledge, so take the time to make them comprehensible and effective!


1 Daren Fowler, “Does editing making you a writer?” BookLogix, blog (August 7, 2014),