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Biology Information Literacy

Citing Your Sources

Once you find articles you want to use in your research or assignments, you must know how to cite them. Citing your sources properly will allow your readers to find those sources to read for themselves, and also gives credit to those who came up with the ideas or information that you're using in your own work. This also prevents you from committing plagiarism, which is knowingly or unknowingly claiming someone else's work or ideas as your own. Plagiarism can be cause for failing the assignment, failing the class, or even expulsion from the University, so you want to be sure you cite every source you used and every piece of information you didn't create yourself.

To cite scholarly articles, you'll need to know who wrote the article, what the article's title is, what year it was published, the name of the journal or other publication that published it, which journal volume and/or issue number the article appeared in, what page numbers the article may be found on, and if available, the article's digital object identifier, or DOI. You can find all of this information from the PDF of the full text of an article, or from the article's record page in a database. Once you have all of the information, write it out according to whatever citation style you have been asked to use. In biology this may mean copying the style of a specific journal, or using a standard style such as APA or CSE.

See below for a diagram of the different pieces of a citation, and using an example citation style.

Pieces of a Citation

This is a sample citation with all the pieces labeled. Please note the difference between an article title (the title of the document you're reading) and a journal title (the publication in which the article is published). Whatever specific citation style you're using (the below example is Council of Science Editors (CSE) style), be sure to be consistent.


CSE Citation Style

One citation style used in biology is the Council of Science Editors, or CSE style. The CSE Name-Year method is as follows:

Author AA, Author BB, Author CC. Year. Article title: only capitalize the first word and proper nouns. Journal Title. VolumeNumber(IssueNumber):Page-Page.

In this style you list up to 10 author names. If an article has more than 10 authors, you add et al. after the 10th person. Note that some journals do not have issue numbers or page numbers, or a DOI. If this information is missing, just leave it off the citation and write it as completely as you can. Finally, you abbreviate the journal title in the citation. To find the official abbreviation for a journal title, you can look it up in Google.

Below is an example of the information from a scholarly article and how to arrange it in CSE style.

  • Author Names: Tiantian Zhang, Pengli Bu, Joey Zeng, Ales Vancura
  • Article title: Increased heme synthesis in yeast induces a metabolic switch from fermentation to respiration even under conditions of glucose repression
  • Year: 2017
  • Journal Title: Journal of Biological Chemistry (abbreviation: J Biol Chem)
  • Volume Number: 292
  • Issue Number: 41
  • Pages: 16942-16954


Zhang T, Bu P, Zeng J, Vancura A. 2017. Increased heme synthesis in yeast induces a metabolic switch from fermentation to respiration even under conditions of glucose repression. J Biol Chem. 292(41):16942-16954.

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