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Citing Your Sources

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

Four-step citation process

This guide used to provide examples of citations in different styles, but there are better resources for that. Instead, here are the main things to know and resources available for creating and formatting your citations.

1. Choose a style

Most professors have a specific format or "style" they want students to use, usually reflecting the style preferred by that academic discipline. Your syllabus probably states which style you should use. If not, ask your professor. As a last resort, here are the most common styles used at USNA with their associated disciplines.

2. Autogenerate citations

Many resources will help you format your citations automatically.

First, many of our online databases will provide citations of the resources you find there, if you know where to look.

Second, online 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.

Third, 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.

3. Identify what you're citing

This can be the most difficult step, especially with online sources (should a journal article found on a website follow a journal article format or a website format?). Most style guides list different types of information sources and provide examples of how to cite them. You need to review the list and pick the one that most closely matches the source you're using.

Just keep in mind your citation is identifying what your source is and where you found it to make it as easy as possible for your professor to find it as well if needed. It’s better to err on the side of providing too much information as opposed to not enough.

4. Doublecheck your citations

If you've used a citation generator to format your citations, it's now time to check them against the appropriate style guide. If you skipped that step or the generators did not help, you're already using the style guide.

If you need more help, Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) has long been a popular and reliable resource for research and citation guidance.

Ultimately, you're responsible for having the citations correct, not the citation generator, so it's a good idea to doublecheck the formatting it provided.


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