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Contemporary Canadian Govt. & Politics: A Research Guide: Citing Sources

Citing Sources Used


Citing, documenting, or acknowledging the sources you use in your research is a key part of any credible research paper or scholarly project. There are a variety of ways to do this, with the most common being in-text parenthetical references, footnotes or endnotes, and a bibliography, works cited or reference list. Recommended style guides are listed below.

Why Cite Sources?

  1. To give credit where credit is due; it is morally the right thing to do.
  2. To make your research more credible; it allows others to test and verify your conclusions.
  3. To strengthen your arguments; basing your work on well-respected sources or excellent previous research obviously carries more weight than relying on unsubstantiated opinion pieces or shoddy research.
  4. To save time; when you build on previous research you can cite it instead of having to repeat all the details.
  5. To make clear the value or uniqueness of your work; if you have a fresh new idea or analysis, you can demonstrate this by contrasting it with the existing knowledge.
  6. It is a legal offence NOT to acknowledge your sources; it is called "plagiarism": stealing other people's ideas or words, and is punishable by law and serious academic sanctions.

How to Cite Sources:
There are dozens of different formats, styles, or standards for citing sources in academic research papers, with each discipline having favoured formats. There is much common ground however, since the goal of each citation style is to make it easy for your readers to identify the sources you used. You may need to supplement a general guide with more specialized ones that provide extra details and examples for electronic, government or legal sources, but you should do so in keeping with the general principles of the main style guide you are following.

TIP: Find out which citation style is required or preferred by your teacher or professor, or the publication for which you are writing. If none is specified, the following are recommended and widely used in political science, historical or Canadian studies research:

General Guides:
The two most commonly used citation styles in North American academic writing are the MLA style (Modern Language Association) used in the humanities (history, literature & arts), and the APA style (American Psychological Association) used in the sciences and social sciences. Both formats are used in political science. The humanities style (usually with notes and bibliography) can accommodate a wider variety of materials cited. The sciences style (author-date system, usually using parenthetical references and a reference list) is more concise. The Chicago Manual of Style provides instruction for both humanities and science styles, with some conventions that differ. The American Political Science Association's style manual is based on The Chicago Manual of Style. Most of these manuals also provide guidance on other aspects of academic writing. Whichever style you use, it is important to be consistent within your paper and to provide accurate and adequate information so that your reader can easily identify the sources cited.

MLA Handbook. 9th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2021. 284 p.

Widely used in the humanities. The MLA Handbook is geared to high school and undergraduate university students.

MLA Style Center. Modern Language Association of America.

Provides additional support such as instructions for formatting paper, grammar quizzes, sample research papers, FAQ, and opportunity to ask questions.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. 7th ed. Washington, D.C.: APA, 2019. 428 p.

Widely used in the sciences and social sciences.

APA Style Website

Has additional support including guides, tutorials, sample papers, and a style blog with answers to frequently asked questions.

Style Manual for Political Science. Washington, D.C.: APSA, 2018; updated July 2020. 74 p.

This is the style guide published by the American Political Science Association (APSA) for writers submitting articles to their journals. It is based on the Chicago Manual of Style.

Chicago Manual of Style. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. 1146 p.

Covers humanities and sciences formats; some conventions differ from MLA and APA styles. The website includes examples of the notes and bibliography style and author-date style for several types of sources. tutorials, guides, blog, FAQs, etc.

Writing With Sources: A Guide for Students. 2nd ed. By Gordon Harvey. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2017. 128 p.

Written by a former professor of the Expository Writing Program, Harvard University, this is an excellent, short, but very helpful manual which explains clearly the conventions of citing sources in the text of a paper, endnoting, footnoting, and other methods of citing common to all styles. It is intended for university level students.

Government Sources:

Brief Guide to Citing Canadian Government Documents and Statistics. Queen's University Library.

Includes examples for print and electronic sources.

Citing Canadian Government Documents -- APA Style, MLA Style, and Chicago Style. By Simon Fraser University Library.

Brief guides that give examples for citing a variety of government sources following the general guidelines of the three citation styles.

The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Social Science and Business Research. By Debora Cheney. 3rd ed. Bethesda, MD: LexisNexis; Congressional Information Service, 2002. 222 p.

This work is considered the most comprehensive guide to citing government information at all levels of government and in all formats, including electronic. Most examples are for U.S. government documents but Canadian, international, and NGO official publications are also covered.

How to Cite Statistics Canada Products. Statistics Canada. Cat. no. 12-591-X.

Legal Sources:

Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation. (aka "McGill Guide) 9th ed. Scarborough, ON: Thomson Reuters Canada, 2018.

Prepared by members of the McGill Law Journal, this bilingual guide is widely used by judges, academics, and Canadian law journals.

Legal Citation. By the Queen's University Library.

A brief guide with examples of the most commonly used legal citations, based on the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation.

Legal Citation Guide. By the University of British Columbia Library.

A brief guide to citing legal sources based on Chicago style.

Primary Sources:

Archival Citations: Suggestions for the Citation of Documents at the Public Archives of Canada. Ed. by Terry Cook. Ottawa: Public Archives Canada, 1983. 28,30 p. in English and French. Brief guide: Citing LAC Material.

Written by archivists from what is now called the Library and Archives Canada, this brief guide provides the important aspects to include in citing archival materials such as maps, film, television and sound recordings, data files, paintings, drawings and prints, photographs, private manuscripts and government records.

Citing Archival Records. Archives of Ontario. Customer Service Guide 107. 2009. Updated Oct. 2020. 4 p.

This brief guide gives the elements needed and citation examples for footnotes/endnotes and bibliographic entries for a variety of archival sources such as information from private fonds, government records series on microfilm, photos, maps, architectural records, films, recordings, art, etc.

Citing Primary Sources. U.S. Library of Congress.   (Select Chicago Style  or  MLA Style for examples.) 

Provides brief instruction and examples for citing digitized primary sources such as films, maps, photographs, cartoons, newspapers, sound recordings, etc., in MLA and Chicago styles.