Citing sources is at its most basic about being able to find the materials--again!--that you used in your research. Your professors want you to cite your sources so that they can see what content forms the basis of your argument, and anybody else who reads your work may wish to use your sources, and they need to know how to find them.
Each citation style also has its own way of formatting the written work (known as style guidelines), and it's important that you follow these guidelines in order to meet not only your professors' requests but also make sure that your work meets the standards of your discipline, or that it's even ready for professional publication. Style guidelines usually tell you whether you need a title page, footnotes, and what to call the page with all of your citations (Bibliography, Works Cited, etc.). Consult the style manuals and links on this page for help with both formatting and citing.
The Social Sciences usually use the APA (American Psychological Association) or Chicago Manual of Style for formatting and citations. Those in Political Science may also be asked to use APSA (American Political Science Association) formatting and citation styles. Copies of the most recent editions of most guides are available in the library.
Many databases will generate a citation for you in the style of your choosing. They're not always perfect, but they provide a helpful start. The image below is what this will look like in EBSCO databases, but in general, look on either the left or right sides of the article or detailed record to find this feature. Remember that the database-generated citations still need to be double-checked against the style guide you are using, to make sure that they have included all the required information.
The APSA Style Manual was updated in 2018 and is fully available via this link (you can also click on the link above or on the cover of the book). Use the links at the top of the website to navigate to the source type you want to cite or click "PDF Format" to view the book in its entirety.
If the citation style you need to use for your class isn't listed on this tab, have a look at our Citing Sources research guide, which outlines 11 different citation styles.