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Citing Your Sources

A general guide to citations and styles commonly used at USNA.

Why Cite?

Short, practical answer: Expect an "F" if you don't cite your sources.

The Writing Center offers a more in-depth explanation of what citations are and why they're important to your classroom success.

Which Style?

Different professors require different formats or "styles" for the citations you provide in your assignments. The tabs in the left column link to pages explaining the commonly used styles at USNA.

How do you know which style to use? Here are some suggestions (Hint: Don’t wait until the night before the paper is due to figure this out):

  1. Check your syllabus. Professors often list their preferred styles there.
  2. Ask your professor what style you should use.
  3. A trusted classmate may have already asked and knows what style to use.
  4. As a last resort, check the style tabs on the left. The pages provide which academic fields tend to use the style.


Once you’ve figured out which style you need to use for your paper, you’ll need to consult the appropriate style guide to find out how they want you to format citations of different media (e.g. books, journal articles, conference proceedings). The tabs on the left will take you to pages focusing on the most commonly used styles at USNA. Those pages will tell you where to find print editions of the style guide, online editions of the style guide, if available, and links to other useful online citation guides. The pages also contain examples of citation formats for basic sources, but be aware, most citations get a little more complicated than the examples.

Citation Generators and Managers

One bit of good news when it comes to dealing with citations is that there are many online resources that can help you format and manage citations for your papers. Just remember that when using these, it’s still your responsibility to double check the information and format to ensure they're accurate.

First, when you find articles and other material in online databases, such as Academic Search Premier, you may also find an icon or link that will generate a citation in the style you choose. Outside of these databases are citation generators, such as, that allow you to select a style, look up your source by title or DOI, and create a bibliography page for your paper.

Second, online services, such as Zotero and EndNote , offer more robust citation management. You need to create accounts for these services, but once you do, you can extract citations from online catalog and database records, have them formatted in your chosen style, share them with others, and generate a bibliography which you can append to your paper. We offer a “How To” guide on using Endnote for more information.

Digital Object Identifier

Some styles, especially those used in scientific fields, now include a Digital Object Identifier or DOI in their citation formats. DOIs are individual numbers assigned to publications that will remain constant even the URL you use to access them change over time.

Does the publication you're citing have a DOI that you need to include in your citation? You can find out on one of these sites


Adam Minakowski's picture
Adam Minakowski
Nimitz Library
Reference Dept. #207

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