Citing sources: Rules of thumb

CrossRef: format your citation

Include as much information as necessary to uniquely identify the source. When in doubt about whether to include clarifying information in a citation, include it.  

  • If no author, use a corporate author (e.g. company, association etc) 
  • If no publication date, use the abbreviation (n.d.) 
  • If there is a DOI, no retrieval date is necessary 
  • If no DOI, include a stable URL (e.g., authoritative website)
  • If content is likely to change, include a retrieval date (for example, websites, quarterly financial data, etc.)

Citation Management Tools

Citation Formats

Two common citation formats are provided by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Psychological Association (APA). In general, use the ACS style for citing scientific sources and the APA style for citing business sources.

Basic format:

ACS:  Surname, A. A.; Surname, B. B.; et al. Title of article. Journal Title Abbreviation year of publicationvolume number (issue number), page range. DOI: number (explanatory note, if needed.)

APA:  Surname, A. A., & Surname, B. B. (Date of publication). Title of article. Title of Online Periodical, volume number (issue number if available), pages. Retrieved from database/URL/DOI. (optional)

Examples (ACS*):

Foster, J. C.; Varlas, S.; Couturaud, B.; Coe, J.; O’Reilly, R. K. Getting into Shape: Reflections on a New Generation of Cylindrical Nanostructures’ Self-Assembly Using Polymer Building Block. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2019141 (7), 2742−2753. DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b08648

Technical Reports
Hung, C.-C.; Hurst, J.; Santiago, D. Boron Nitride Nanoribbons from Exfoliation of Boron Nitride Nanotubes; NASA/TM-2017-219455; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Glenn Research Center: Cleveland, OH, 2017. (accessed 2019-09-10).

Lois-Caballe, C.; Baltimore, D.; Qin, X.-F. Method for Expression of Small RNA Molecules within a Cell. US 7,732,193 B2, 2010.

Chemistry Data from a Database
4-Bromo-2-fluorotoluene. SDBSWeb. National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. (accessed 2019-03-17).

Schrödinger Release 2019-3: BioLuminate; Schrödinger, LLC: New York, 2019. (accessed 2019-09-08).

ASTM International. Standard Test Method for Tensile Properties of Plastics; ASTM D638-14; West Conshohocken, PA, 2014. DOI: 10.1520/D0638-14

Safety Data Sheets (SDSs)
1,4'-Bipiperidine, 99%; CAS RN: 4897-50-1; B22028; rev. 1; Alfa Aesar, Thermo Fisher Scientific: Fair Lawn, NJ, February 20, 2018. (accessed 2019-10-07).

*ACS examples from the ACS Guide for Scholarly Communication, 2020.

Examples (APA**):

Analyst Reports
SADIF Investment Analytics. (2012). Is now the time to buy Starbucks corporation? Retrieved from ThomsonOne database.

Annual Reports from Corporate Websites
Walmart Inc. (2019). Walmart 2018 annual report.  Retrieved January 16, 2019 from

Bloomberg Data
Bloomberg L. P. (2012). Stock price graph for Target Corporation 10/22/12 to 10/26/12. Retrieved from Bloomberg database.

Company and Industry Reports
O'Connor, C. (2018). IBISWorld Industry Report OD4605: Athletic Shoe Stores in the US. Retrieved from IBISWorld database.

Market Research
Harland, B. (2015). Back to school shopping - US - January 2015. Retrieved from Mintel Reports database.

Census and Demographics Data
U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). Table 2.2-U.S. Manufacturers' Sales Branches and Offices- Total and E-commerce Sales: 2010 and 2009Retrieved from

**APA examples from Indiana University Libraries at Bloomington. Retrieved 2020-12-02 from