Citing Sources

1. Why do we need this?

Ethics, the need to produce compelling arguments, and sometimes issues of copyright require us to identify and disclose the origins of any information that is either directly quoted or paraphrased from another source. This includes any opinions or facts that are not clearly evident or that can be ascertained easily. Failing to cite a source not only weakens one’s argument; it may, in some cases, be considered plagiarism (representing another’s work as one’s own), which in most schools will lead to serious disciplinary actions against the author.

Therefore, if in doubt, it is always a good idea to back up information using other sources.

2. How is it done?

In the humanities, we cite our sources using footnotes or endnotes. The two are essentially identical, with the first placing the sources at the bottom of each page, and the second at the end of the entire paper, article, chapter, or book. Most publishers today prefer endnotes, though the curious reader will always find it easier to look to the bottom of the page for the citation. There are various conventions as to how to write footnotes, but nowadays most peer-reviewed journals and most academic publishers follow the system as outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style, with some variations. The examples outlined below represent my preferred method of writing footnotes and bibliography lists, and the one I require my students to follow.

In some fields of the social sciences, parenthetical citations are the norm. These include information about the author, year, and sometime page number in parenthesis after the relevant text. Since only partial information is included in them, a bibliography must always be included at the end of even the shortest paper.

Some professors require one method or the other (in my classes, it’s always footnotes). If you have a choice, though, consider the advantage of footnotes over endnotes or parenthetical citations:

a. Footnotes don’t interrupt the flow of reading; text put in parenthesis does.

b. Parenthetical citations allow for references to sources only. If you want to add notes, you will have to use a footnote anyway.

c. Parenthetical citations require a bibliography. Footnotes, by definition, don’t (although some professors still ask for one). In my opinion, unless one is writing a book, there is no need to double the work. All the information one needs to know about your source is already in the footnote.

d. Pages with footnotes look visually better than pages with a lot of parenthesis.

e. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page and are easy to locate; endnotes require flipping through pages and make the reading process burdensome.


3. What type of sources can I use?

Rule #1: You may only use sources you have seen yourself. If you want to quote a source another author has referred to, provide the full information for that source followed by “as quoted by” and the place you have seen the work cited. See below for concrete examples.

Rule #2: primary sources are preferred to secondary ones, since they establish originality of thought and research. A primary source is any artifact, document, recording (audio, video), or other source of information that was created in the period or area of research, or by a person or a group who are the subject of a study. A secondary source is one that uses primary or other secondary sources to produce an argument or an analysis. When using secondary sources, the key to determining how reputable a source is, is its traceability to an actual author (or a few authors, committee, organization, etc.) whose authority on the subject in question is well established. Since the type of sources one uses affects the strength of the argument and hence the quality of writing in general, the choice of sources is of outmost importance.

If you are writing on a topic you are not yet well familiar with, it is probably a good idea to consult your professor or other people who are knowledgeable in the field before choosing sources.

Here is a list of the types of secondary sources one may use in academic writing, in descending order of quality (the lower a type of source is on the list, the fewer of that kind one should use):

a. Monographs and articles published by academic publishers or university presses, or in peer-reviewed journals. Monographs are book-length works by a single author. Peer-reviewed journals are academic publications whose editors have some expertise in the issues the journal deals with, and who accept articles for publication only after sending them to external referees to determine whether they are of suitable quality and originality. A similar process is followed by most academic presses. Since texts published under the auspices of such presses or in peer-reviewed journals are vetted by a number of experts in the field, one has at least some indication that the information found in them is of a reliable nature.

To determine whether a publisher is “academic” in the sense discussed above, or whether a journal is peer-reviewed, go to the website of the publisher/journal and read about it.

b. Monographs published by semi-academic, commercial publishers. Although most of these publisher will follow an adequate peer-review process, their concern is mostly with making money, and less with academic quality.

c. Edited volumes. These are collections of articles on a certain topic. In most cases, the people writing for these volumes are invited to contribute an article and therefore are practically guaranteed their submission will be accepted, regardless of its quality or of how innovative it is. Choosing articles by well-known scholars unfortunately doesn’t guarantee quality in this case either, since serious researchers often tend to save their best scholarship for articles in peer-reviewed journals and their own monographs.

d. Encyclopedias and reference works. These are a good source when one needs a quick reference to general details, but not so much as a source that substantiates an argument. This is because Encyclopedias are a summary of existing research, address a general audience, and usually do not cite their sources (some exceptions apply here, such as specialized encyclopedias – your professor should be able to recommend the ones that apply to the topic in question).

e. Journals and newspapers that are not peer-reviewed. These usually do not cite their sources, and are often merely the opinion of those who had written them rather than a professional analysis. Two things do make the use of such sources valuable, though: 1. when they are used as a primary source to analyze certain trends in public opinion. 2. when they are used to cite basic information the news section of a paper reported on.

About Online sources:

Nowadays, with the infinite opportunities to find information online, it is not always easy to discern good sources from unacceptable ones. So here are my rules for using online sources in academic papers, which my students are required to follow:

a. Hard-copy sources are more reliable than online ones. This is because even the most professional online databases exist in a virtual world. A library may decide to terminate its subscription to them, or their author(s) may decide to take them down. The result would be that our research, based on such sources, would potentially lose its credibility in the future. Therefore:

b. If an online source can be traced to a reputable hard-copy edition, it is an acceptable source. This includes books, journals, newspapers, encyclopedias, etc. However, my students are allowed to use the online version only for searching and finding information, and are required to cite the original, hard-copy edition, whenever this is possible. This is gradually being made easier, as many online reference works provide hard-copy citations. The same rules for determining the quality of a source stated above apply here as well.

c. Most sources obtained through one of the databases or electronic resources an academic library is subscribed to are legitimate. Most such databases represent online versions of materials that exist somewhere in hard copy, and most of them require an annual subscription fee which libraries pay. They therefore go through a process of screening by librarians, and are thus a good place to start one’s research.

d. Choose online resources that have the potential to cut your research time. These include primarily databases of scanned books and articles that provide fully searchable (and in some cases downloadable as PDF) page images. The leading resources are: google books, archives, and jstor (the latter requiring subscription). Note: you cannot cite the website of those databases as your source. The original work, with all the appropriate details, must be mentioned.

e. Sources that cannot be reliably traced to a person or a reputable author in the field you are writing about, or websites that do not undergo any editorial or peer-review scrutiny, should not be used (and in my classes are banned from research papers). They include Wikipedia, blogs of any kind (even if the author is considered an expert in the field he’s blogging about), websites of organizations and companies, and other personal websites (including this one – see the “Resources” section if you need reference works to cite). The only exception that allows usage of such sources would be a direct reference to or commentary on an opinion or argument made on one of these websites – but the decision to do so has to be clearly justified.

4. How to write footnotes/endnotes and bibliography lists:

See also the footnotes tutorial for more on how to write footnotes properly.


Note: the information below assumes you are writing in the humanities style (i.e. using footnotes/endnotes to cite sources). If you are citing sources using parenthetical citations (the author-date system), which is usually applicable in the social sciences, you may want to check the “Resources” link above for other sources that explain how to do that.

This guide follows the method of the “Chicago Manual of Style,” which most academic publishers and peer-reviewed journals in the United States use nowadays. When writing short research papers, there’s generally no need to provide footnotes/endnotes AND bibliography list. If your professor requires a bibliography, you will still need to provide one.

When choosing between footnotes and endnotes, you should first determine whether your professor (or publisher/journal) has a preference for one or the other. If he/she doesn’t, go with footnotes, for the reasons explained above.

A few rules to remember:

1. No matter which style of formatting you choose for your footnotes/endnotes, you must always be consistent. There is no place for more than one system of documentation, especially not in short research papers.

2. When looking at the examples below, pay special attention to punctuation and capitalization, and stay consistent.

3. In the main text, numbers denoting reference to a footnote should be typed in superscript and in arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.), and not in roman or any other system. Numbers must not be repeated, even if the same source is, but rather appear consecutively.

4. The reference to the note (the footnote number) comes at the end of a quotation, idea, or the relevant passage. It is placed right after quotation marks, commas, semi colons, or periods.

How to formulate footnotes and bibliography entries:


General notes:

1. Author names are written in the format of first and then last (in notes) and vice versa (in bibliographies). Middle names are omitted. When there is more than one author or editor, they are listed in the order in which they appear on the publication. When the first and middle initials of an author appear on a publication instead of the full name, use them.

2. Titles are always capitalized for books and journal titles in English, with the exception of articles and prepositions. In other languages, various rules apply. For example, in French, Italian, Hebrew, and Arabic (transliterated into latin characters), only the first word in the title and place and personal names are capitalized. In German, capitalization of titles follows the standard rules of the language, thus nouns must be capitalized but not verbs or adjectives. In all languages, a secondary title is separated from the primary one by a colon, and follows the same rules of capitalization.

3. Place of publication always refers to city, not state or country. The latter two should be mentioned if the city of publication is relatively unknown or if confusion ambiguity result (if the location of the city is made obvious by the name of the publisher, no clarification is necessary). Thus: New York; London; Paris; but New Brunswick, NJ; Athens, GA; Luton, UK; and (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008). Names of places always appear in English, even if the publication is in another language. Thus: Jerusalem and not Yerushalayim; Munich and not München; Aleppo and not Halab.

4. When there is more than one place of publication listed on the book’s copyright page, use only the first (New York, Oxford, Melbourne, Hong Kong = New York).

5. Date of publication is indicated by year only. If a book, which consists of a number of volumes, was published over a period of a few years, the range of years is given. But if referring to a specific volume, provide only the year of publication of that volume.

6. When the place of publication is not listed but can be surmised with great plausibility, it appears in brackets: [New York]. The same goes for the date: [1988], and publisher: [Yale University Press].

7. When any of the bibliographical details mentioned above cannot be ascertained, they are replaced by [n.d.] for date (no date), and [n.p.] for publisher or place (no publisher, no place).

8. Page numbers must be provided unless the entire work is referred to. There is no need to use p. or pp. to indicate page numbers. The page number, or a range, is enough, with unnecessary or obvious numbers omitted: 4, 45-56, 78-9, 100-12, 145-6, 199-205, 237-45. When a source is quoted directly, it must be clear where the quotation was taken from, even if the note is referring to a larger range of pages: 23-37, quotation from 34; 237-46, quotation from 240.

9.When a book has more than one volume, the volume referred to is indicated by a number only, placed before the page numbers and followed by a colon. There is no need to use vol. or volume: 2:35-47; 5:345-68.

In the examples below, pay close attention to punctuation and capitalization. Differences between notes and bibliography, and between types of notes can be very subtle.


In the examples that follow, N represents how one would cite a source in footnotes/endnotes, B in a bibliography list (not required for my courses).

Single author:

N: Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), 8.

General Footnote Rule: Author first Author last, Title of Book in Italics All Caps Except Prepositions (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), page number(s).

B: Khalidi, Rashid. The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.


N: Abraham Marcus, The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 122-34.

B: Marcus, Abraham. The Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989.


N: Anthony Grafton, What Was History: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 23-5.

B: Grafton, Anthony. What Was History: The Art of History in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.


N: S. D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the World as Portrayed in the Cairo Geniza (Berkley: University of California Press, 1988), 5: 227-46.

B: Goitein, S. D. A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the World as Portrayed in the Cairo Geniza. Berkley: University of California Press, 1967-88. 5 volumes.


Two Authors:

N: Ebru Boyar and Kate Fleet, A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 75-7.

B: Boyar, Ebru and Kate Fleet. A Social History of Ottoman Istanbul. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.


More than two authors:

N: Edhem Eldem et al., The Ottoman City between East and West: Aleppo, Izmir and Istanbul (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 81-2.

B: Eldem, Edhem et al. The Ottoman City between East and West: Aleppo, Izmir and Istanbul. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999.


An article within an edited volume:

N: Daniel Goffman, “Jews in early modern Ottoman commerce” in: Jews, Turks, Ottomans: a Shared History, Fifteenth through the Twentieth Century, ed. Avigdor Levy (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002), 17.

General Footnote Rule: Author first Author Last, “Title of article first word and proper names only capitalized” in: Title of Book in Italics All Caps Except Prepositions ed. Editor first Editor last (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), page number(s).

B: Goffman, Daniel. “Jews in early modern Ottoman commerce” in: Jews, Turks, Ottomans: a Shared History, Fifteenth through the Twentieth Century, ed. Avigdor Levy. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002, 15-34.

Note: for articles in books, journals, and encyclopedias, only the pages relevant to the reference are mentioned in notes. In the bibliography, the range of pages for the entire article should be cited.


Journal article:

N: Michael Marmé, “Locating linkages or painting bull’s-eyes around bullet holes?
An East Asian perspective on the seventeenth-century crisis,” American Historical
Review 113 (2008), 4: 1086.

General Footnote Rule: Author first Author Last, “Title of article first word and proper names only capitalized,”  Title of Journal in Italics All Caps Except Prepositions Volume number (Year), issue number:page number(s).

B: Marmé, Michael. “Locating linkages or painting bull’s-eyes around bullet holes?
An East Asian perspective on the seventeenth-century crisis.” American Historical
Review 113 (2008), 4: 1080-9.


Newspaper article:

N: “A blast of rain but little damage as hurricane hits South Florida,” New York Times 26 August 2005, A10.

Note: if there is no author, the note begins with the title. Otherwise, the author precedes the title just as it would in a book or a journal article.


Encyclopedia article:

N: Yaron Ayalon, “Greece” in: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 2: 305-7.

B: Ayalon, Yaron. “Greece” in: Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Leiden: Brill, 2010, 2: 305-7.



N: Jennifer Downs, “Famine policy and discourses on famine in Ming China, 1368-1644” (PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1995), 78-102.

B: Downs, Jennifer. “Famine policy and discourses on famine in Ming China, 1368-1644.” PhD Dissertation, University of Minnesota, 1995.


Online sources:

Note: Books found on Google Books or on other databases (such as those libraries are subscribed to) are cited as books, not as online resources.

N: Ahmet Davutoglu, “Turkey’s zero-problems foreign policy,” Foreign Policy20 May 2010,, accessed 19 August 2010.

B: Davutoglu, Ahmet. “Turkey’s zero-problems foreign policy.” Foreign Policy20 May 2010, Accessed 19 August 2010.

N: Audrey June, “Efforts to measure faculty workload don’t add up,”Chronicle of Higher Education 12 July 2011,, accessed 12 July 2011.

B: June, Audrey. ”Efforts to measure faculty workload don’t add up.” Chronicle of Higher Education 12 July 2011, Accessed 12 July 2011.

N: Norman Stillman, “Al-Andalus,” Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World online edition,, accessed 1 February 2013.

B: Stillman, Norman. “Al-Andalus.” Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World online edition. Accessed 1 February 2013.

N: Qifa Nabki, “The Noe Doctrine,”, accessed 13 July 2011.

B: Qifa Nabki. “The Noe Doctrine.” Accessed 13 July 2011.

Note: the last example is of a blog post.


Foreign languages:


N: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Histoire humaine et comparée du climat: canicules et
glaciers (XIIIe – XVIIIe siècle) ([Paris]: Fayard, 2004), 356-66.


N: Josef Van Ess, Der Fehltritt des Gelehrten: die “Pest von Emmaus” und ihre
theologischen Nachspiele (Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag C. Winter, 2001), 76-82.


N: Salvatore Speziale, Oltre la peste: sanità, popolazione e società in Tunisia e nel
Maghreb (XVIII-XX secolo) (Cosneza, Italy: Luigi Pellegrini, 1997), 234-48.


N: Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazzālī, al-Tibr al-masbūk fī naṣīḥat al-mulūk ([Cairo]: Maktabat
al-Kullīyāt al-Azharīya, 1968), 58-9.


N: Eliyahu Ashtor, Toldot ha-Yehudim be-Misrayim uve-Suryah taḥat shilṭon ha
mamlukim (Jerusalem: Mosad ha-Rav Quq, 1944), 2: 25-8.


N: Alexes Savvides, Dokimia Othomanikes historias (Athens: Ekdoseis Papazese,
2002), 123-38.


N: Nadir Özbek, Osmanlı İmparatorluğu’nda sosyal devlet: siyaset, iktidar ve
meşruiyet 1876-1914 (Istanbul: İletişim, 2002), 45-58.


Recurring citations – same source:

When the same source appears in subsequent notes, we use a shortened version of the citation – enough to make it recognizable in a bibliography list. The format is usually: Author, Shortened Title, page numbers.


Marcus, Eve of Modernity, 35.

Grafton, What Was History, 28-89.

If the same source appears in two or more subsequent notes, we use ibid.:

1st note:

Michel Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages: an Essay in Social History (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 1986), 27.

The next note, if referring to the same source:

Ibid., 29-32.

Note: if there’s even one note in between the two appearances of the same source, ibid. cannot be used. Ibid. is only for subsequent notes referring to the same source.

Recurring citations – same author(s):

When a new source by an author whose other works have been cited earlier is mentioned in a note, the author’s first name can be omitted. But this must not be done when such an omission can cause confusion, such as when more than one author with that last name is cited throughout your essay.

Recurring citations – same edited volume:

When an article is cited from a book whose other articles have been cited in the paper earlier, a shortened version of the edited volume’s details is sufficient.


1st appearance of an article in an edited volume:

Yasser Tabbaa, “The functional aspects of medieval Islamic hospitals” in:Poverty and Charity in Middle Eastern Contexts, eds. Michael Bonner et al. (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003), 98-9.

A subsequent article from the same volume:

Mine Ener, “The charity of the Khedive” in: Poverty and Charity in Middle Eastern Contexts, 188-90.

Recurring citations – same journal or newspaper:

When articles from the same journal or newspaper appear subsequently, the full name of the journal/newspaper need only appear once. Then, a shortened version is sufficient, and usually appears as an acronym. It should be clear, however, what the acronym is referring to. In books, this is done by a list of abbreviations provided at the beginning. In short articles or papers, it is best to explain what the abbreviated form will be in the journal/newspaper’s first appearance. Here’s how:

1st appearance:

Cyrus Schayegh, ““Seeing like a state”: an essay on the historiography of modern Iran,” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (IJMES) 42 (2010), 1: 37-61.

2nd appearance, another article, same journal:

Henri Lauzière, “The construction of salafiyya: reconsidering salafism from the
perspective of conceptual history,” IJMES 42 (2010), 3: 369-389.