How to Cite Sources in Scientific Writing

In-Text Citations

There are typically not footnotes or endnotes in scientific writing as there are in humanities and the social sciences.  Instead, all citations occur in the text inparenthetical format, with the author(s) and date of publication.  Use the following as an example:


Parsons (1996) found that naked mole rats dig six times faster in desert soils than dung beetles do.




Naked mole rats dig six times faster in desert soils than dung beetles do (Parsons 1996).


It's that simple!  Be sure to list any sources you cite in the text in the Literature Cited section, and only those that you cite.


As a rule of thumb, if there is more than one author of a source, simply use the first author's last name, followed by et al. (e.g. [Parsons et al. 1996]).  This is Latin for "and others".  The complete list of authors will appear in the full citation at the end of your paper.


Your Literature Cited should appear in alphabetical order by first author, and by year if there are multiple sources by the same author(s).  Underline journal and book titles, but not the titles of individual articles in journals or edited (multi-authored) books.  Use the following as examples for citing various kinds of sources (with thanks to M. Weis):


Literature Cited Entries

Citing Journal/Newspaer Articles

Ahlberg, P.E. 1990.  Glimpsing the hidden majority.  Nature 344:23.


Briggs, D.E.G., A.J. Kear, D.M. Martell, and P.R. Welby. 1993.  Phosphotization of soft tissue in experiments and fossils.  Journal of the Geological Society 150: 1035-8.


Williams, M. 1997.  Teaching the net.  Seattle Times, January 5th, p. C1.


Citing Books

Gould, S.J. 1989.  Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History.  NewYork.  W.W. Norton.

Citing Chapters in Edited Volumes

Behrensmeyer, A. 1994.  Taphonomy and the fossil record.  In M. Slatkin (ed.).

Exploring Evolutionary Biology to OQY. pp. 55-63.  Sunderland, Mass: Sinauer Associates, Inc.


Dzik, J. 1986.  Chordate affinities of the conodonts.  In A. Hoffman and M. H. Nitecki (eds.), Problematic Fossil Taxa, pp. 240-54.  New York: Oxford University Press.


Citing Sites on the Internet

The complete web address should be presented so that anyone else could easily visit the same website. Attempt to include the following elements (not all elements appear on all Web pages):


1.      author(s) (last name, first initial)

2.      date created

3.      title of the page

4.      title of the complete web site (if different from the page)

5.      URL (full web address)

6.      the date accessed.


The formatted citation would look like this:


Author's last name, First initial. (date created or updated). Title of the page. Title of the complete site. [Online]. Available: http://full.web.address. [Date accessed]. for example


Hammett, P. (1997). Evaluating web resources. Ruben Salazar Library, Sonoma State University. [Online]. Available: [1997, March 29].

Citing a Lecture

Greengrove, C.  Lecture UW-Tacoma, 8 January 1997, TLS490sc.

Citing a Video

New horizons in esthetic dentistry (videocassette].  Wood, R. M., editor.  Visualeyes Productions, producer. [Chicago] : Chicago Dental Society, 1989.


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