A comprehensive guide to source types in reference management software

In this comprehensive guide, we explore the different source types that you can cite using a reference manager. We define each source type and list the kinds of information that you need for each citation.

It’s important to note that each citation style (APA, MLA, etc.) has its own specific rules. You’ll encounter different formatting depending on which citation style you use.

Journal articles

Journal articles are published in journals, periodicals that are published on a regular basis—often online, but also in print. You’ll typically find journal articles in academic databases, via Google Scholar, or in open-access repositories.

There are two primary types of journal articles: 1) those that present new research findings or theoretical perspectives and 2) those that offer an in-depth review of existing research, such as literature reviews or systematic reviews.

The kinds of information that you need for a journal article citation include:

  • Author(s) name(s)
  • Publication year
  • Article title
  • Journal name
  • Volume number
  • Issue number (if applicable)
  • Page range
  • DOI (Digital Object Identifier)


Scholarly books typically fall into two categories: monographs and edited volumes. Monographs are single-authored books, while edited volumes include chapters written by different authors. Conference proceedings can also be published as books.

To cite a monograph, you’ll need:

  • Author(s) or Editor(s) name(s)
  • Publication year
  • Book title
  • Publisher
  • Edition (if applicable)
  • Volume or chapter number (if applicable)

To cite an edited collection, you’ll need:

  • Editor(s) name(s)
  • Publication year
  • Book title
  • Publisher

Book chapters

A book chapter is a single chapter of an edited collection with a distinct author and page range.

To cite a book chapter, you’ll need:

  • Chapter author(s) name(s)
  • Chapter title
  • Book title
  • Editor(s) name(s)
  • Publication year
  • Publisher
  • Page range

Conference papers

Conference papers include both published and unpublished papers that are delivered at an academic conference. Published conference papers may be:

  1. Papers published as part of the conference's official proceedings.
  2. Short summaries of research presented at the conference.

To cite a conference paper, you’ll typically need:

  • Author(s) name(s)
  • Publication year
  • Paper title
  • Conference name
  • Date and location of the conference
  • Page range (if applicable)

News articles

News articles are published in newspapers. To cite a news article, you should include:

  • Author(s) name(s)
  • Publication date
  • Article title
  • Newspaper/magazine name
  • Page number (if applicable)
  • DOI or URL (if accessed online)


A website contains multiple webpages. These may feature:

  1. Articles published on websites or online platforms.
  2. Informative or opinion pieces published on blogs.
  3. Web-based materials released as standalone publications.

To cite a webpage, you should include:

  • Author(s) name(s) (if available)
  • Publication date (if available)
  • Web page title
  • Website name
  • URL

Thesis or dissertation

Theses and dissertations refer to research work submitted for a master's or doctoral degree. These can be either unpublished or published, depending on the field and institution.

To cite a thesis or dissertation, you’ll need:

  • Author's name
  • Year completed
  • Thesis/dissertation title
  • Academic institution
  • Degree type (e.g., Master's thesis, Ph.D. dissertation)
  • Publication number (if applicable)


Artwork may include paintings, photographs, or other visual materials. Most artwork citations will have the following information:

  • Artist's name
  • Year of creation
  • Title of the artwork
  • Medium (e.g., painting, photograph)
  • Repository or location (if applicable)

Audio recording

An audio recording could be a track on a musical album or an archival recording from a repository.

To cite an audio recording, include the following information:

  • Creator(s) or Artist(s) name(s)
  • Publication date or Release date
  • Title of the audio recording
  • Type of audio recording
  • Album or Collection title (if applicable)
  • Publisher or Distributor (if applicable)
  • Medium or Format


A bill is a legislative document from a governmental body such as a senate or parliament. To cite a bill, you will include:

  • Bill title
  • Bill number
  • Legislative body
  • Session or Congress number (if applicable)
  • Publication date or introduction date
  • Source or citation

Book review

Book reviews are often found in scholarly journals, newspapers, or magazines. The information you need to cite a book review includes:

  • Reviewer(s) name(s)
  • Publication date
  • Title of the book review
  • Title of the book being reviewed:
  • Author(s) of the book
  • Publication information of the book
  • Source or publication details for the book under review
  • Page range (if applicable)
  • DOI or URL (if accessed online)


Television, radio, and podcast programs are considered broadcasts. To cite these, you’ll need the following info:

  • Title of the broadcast
  • Broadcast date
  • Broadcasting network or channel
  • Type of broadcast
  • Program description (if applicable)
  • Location of broadcast (if applicable)

To cite podcasts, you’ll need to include additional information like the name(s) of the host(s).


A case is a record of a legal case and its outcome. To cite a case, you should include:

  • Case name
  • Court name
  • Publication year
  • Volume number (for legal reporters)
  • Page number (for legal reporters)

Computer program

Computer programs can range from simple scripts and applications to complex software systems and operating systems.

To cite a computer program, include the following data:

  • Program title
  • Version number (if applicable)
  • Publication date or release date
  • Software developer(s) or company
  • Programming language
  • Operating system compatibility
  • Medium or format
  • Publisher or distributor
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)

Data set

A dataset is a structured collection of data that represents information on a specific topic or research area. It can be organized in various formats, such as spreadsheets, databases, CSV files, JSON files, or other structured data formats.

To cite a data set, include:

  • Title of the dataset
  • Publication date or release date
  • Data creator(s) or author(s)
  • Data repository or archive
  • Version number (if applicable)
  • URL or DOI
  • Data format

Encyclopedia article

An encyclopedia article is a written entry found in an encyclopedia, which provides information on a specific topic in a concise and informative manner.

To cite an encyclopedia article, use the following information:

  • Article title
  • Author(s) of the article (if available)
  • Publication date
  • Encyclopedia title
  • Edition (if applicable)
  • Editor(s) (if applicable)
  • Volume and page range (if applicable)
  • Publisher
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


A figure is a visual representation or illustration used to present data, information, or concepts in a visual format. Figures can include graphs, charts, photographs, diagrams, maps, and other visual elements.

To cite a figure, you should include:

  • Figure number
  • Figure title (if available)
  • Description or caption
  • Source of the figure (if applicable)
  • Copyright or permissions information (if applicable)
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


A grant is a financial award or funding provided by an organization, government agency, foundation, or institution to support a specific project, research, or initiative.

To cite a grant, you should include:

  • Grant title
  • Granting agency or organization
  • Grant number (if applicable)
  • Grant amount
  • Principal investigator(s) (if applicable)
  • Project title (if applicable)
  • Project duration


Interviews may be one-to-one or group interviews. To cite an interview, include the following information:

  • Interviewee(s) name(s)
  • Interviewer(s) name(s)
  • Interview date
  • Interview title or description
  • Format (e.g., audio, transcript)
  • Location or source (if applicable)


A letter is a form of personal communication that is typically published in either a printed collection or in a digital repository.

To cite a letter, you’ll need:

  • Author's name
  • Recipient's name
  • Date of the letter
  • Title or subject of the letter (if available)
  • Letter format or type
  • Location or source
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)

Manual or documentation

A manual or documentation, in the context of information technology and software, refers to written materials or guides that provide instructions, explanations, and reference information about a software application, hardware device, or system.

To cite a manual, you’ll need the following information:

  • Title of the manual or documentation
  • Version number (if applicable)
  • Publication date or revision date
  • Author(s) or organization
  • Medium or format
  • Publisher or distributor (if applicable)
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


A map is a visual representation of a physical place. To cite a map, include the following elements:

  • Map title
  • Map creator or cartographer
  • Publication date
  • Map scale (if available)
  • Map projection (if available)
  • Map edition (if applicable)
  • Map series (if applicable)
  • Map location or source
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)

Musical score

A musical score is a written or printed representation of a piece of music, typically notated on sheet music, that provides instructions for performers on how to play or sing the music.

To cite a musical score, you’ll need:

  • Composer's name
  • Title of the composition
  • Arranger or editor (if applicable)
  • Publication date
  • Score type or edition (if applicable)
  • Publisher
  • Medium or format
  • Location or source
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


Patents include both:

  1. Utility patents, which grant exclusive rights to inventors for new and useful inventions.
  2. Design patents, which protect the unique appearance of a product.

To cite a patent, use the following data:

  • Inventor(s) name(s)
  • Publication date
  • Patent title
  • Patent number
  • Patent issuing authority (e.g., US Patent and Trademark Office)


A periodical is a multi-section work that is published on a regular basis, such as a scholarly journal or magazine. To cite an article from a periodical, you’ll generally need:

  • Author(s) of the article (if applicable)
  • Publication date
  • Article title
  • Periodical title
  • Volume and issue number (if applicable)
  • Page range
  • DOI (if available)

Personal communication

Personal communication includes emails and other forms of informal correspondence. To cite an item of personal communication, you should include:

  • Name of the person with whom the communication took place
  • Communication type
  • Date of communication
  • Context or description


A preprint is a version of a scholarly or scientific paper that is made publicly available before it has undergone the full peer-review process.

To cite a preprint, include the following elements:

  • Author(s) of the preprint
  • Publication date
  • Title of the preprint
  • Preprint server or platform
  • Version or DOI (if applicable)
  • URL


A presentation refers to the oral delivery of research or information. Presentations can be formal (invited lectures or conference presentations) or informal (classroom presentations).

To cite a presentation, you’ll typically need:

  • Presenter's name
  • Presentation title
  • Event or conference name (if applicable)
  • Date of the presentation
  • Location (if applicable)
  • Type of presentation (if applicable)
  • URL or DOI (if available)


Reports may be produced by a government, business, or scientific agency. Governmental reports include:

  1. Official reports: published documents providing information on government activities.
  2. Policy papers: documents outlining government policies and proposals.

To cite a government report, include the following data:

  • Government agency or department name
  • Publication date
  • Document title
  • Document number or identifier (if applicable)
  • DOI or URL (if accessed online)

To cite other types of reports, include:

  • Author(s) name(s)
  • Publication year
  • Report title
  • Report number (if applicable)
  • Publisher or organization
  • DOI or URL (if accessed online)

Social media post

Social media posts include Facebook posts, Instagram posts, tweets from Twitter, and other communications from social media platforms.

To cite a social media post, include:

  • Author's username or screen name
  • Publication date
  • Post or tweet content
  • Social media platform name
  • URL (if the post is publicly accessible)


A standard, in the context of academic or technical writing, refers to a documented specification or guideline that establishes criteria, procedures, or requirements for a specific industry, product, process, or practice.

To cite a standard, you will typically need the following elements:

  • Standard number
  • Standard title
  • Standard issuing organization
  • Publication date
  • Edition or version (if applicable)
  • Location or source
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


A statute is a formal written law enacted by a legislative body, such as a government or parliament. Statutes are also known as acts, laws, or legislation.

To cite a statute, you’ll include:

  • Statute title
  • Statute abbreviation (if applicable)
  • Statute volume and chapter or section number
  • Jurisdiction or country
  • Year of enactment
  • Publication source (if applicable)
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


A treaty is a formal and legally binding agreement or contract between two or more sovereign states or international organizations.

To cite a treaty, you will typically need the following elements:

  • Treaty title
  • Treaty abbreviation (if applicable)
  • Treaty parties
  • Date of treaty
  • Official source or publication
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)

Unpublished item

Miscellaneous unpublished items may include materials or transcripts from instructional presentations or workshops, talks, lectures, or personal notes. How you cite an unpublished item depends on its format.

The following data provides a general sense of what to include in a citation of an unpublished work:

  • Author(s) or creator(s)
  • Title of the item
  • Publication date or date of creation
  • Description or type of item
  • Location or source
  • URL or DOI (if accessed online)


A video may be an online video or a recorded film. To cite an online video, you should include:

  • Title of the video
  • Video creator or uploader
  • Publication date
  • Video platform or website
  • URL

To cite a physical video, include these elements:

  • Title of the video
  • Director(s) or creator(s)
  • Publication date
  • Format
  • Distributor or publisher

Create references automatically - Paperpile

You can use a reference manager like Paperpile to automatically create references in text and bibliographies for you:

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