How to Read a Database Citation

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Welcome to this Information and Library Services tutorial. This tutorial takes about 3 minutes to review. In it, you will learn how to read a database citation for an article; the elements of a database citation; and the helpful information the citation provides.

When you perform a search in a library database, you will retrieve a list of brief article citations. Each citation contains important information that can help you determine the usefulness of the article for your research. Let's look at the elements of a citation and learn what each one means.

Here is a brief article citation from a library database.

  • The article title can help you judge the article's relevance to your research. In many databases, the article title is also a link; click on it to get more detailed information about the article, including an abstract or summary.
  • The author's name is given.
  • The title of the journal in which the article was published.
  • The date of the article: by looking at the date, you can quickly see how current the information in the article is.
  • The volume, issue, and page numbers of the article: these can be important elements when you cite the article in the paper you are writing.
  • The length of the article: a seventeen-page article will provide more in-depth analysis than a one- or two-page article.
  • The DOI number, or Digital Object Identifier, a unique identifying number for the article.
  • A link to the full text of the article, so that you can read the article in its entirety.
  • This article contains cited references to seventy-five other sources. The presence of cited references is one indication that this article is scholarly.

Taken as a whole, a brief database citation provides a wealth of information about an article, helping you judge the article's usefulness for your research.

If you have any questions about library research, please visit our Web site and use the Ask a Librarians options to contact us.