A bibliographic citation is a reference that points towards a specific source of information. Citations can refer to a wide variety of published or unpublished works, such as books, journal articles, dissertations, and films. A complete citation provides all the pieces of information that you need to track down a source that has been referenced in a paper or been assigned as part of your class readings.
It is important to be able to recognize what citations look like for various types of information sources (e.g. books or journal articles), because you need to use different strategies to locate different kinds of materials. You can identify common types of citations by the information elements that they contain. While some elements are common to most citations (such as the author/creator of the work and the date of publication), other elements provide clues about the kind of information source that is being cited.
Each type of citation can be formatted in different ways, depending on which citation style is being used. The examples below in this guide show both MLA and APA citation styles.