Anatomy of a Citation: Bibliography Elements

The anatomy of a citation consists of bibliographic elements, which are the specific pieces of information for things such as an author's name, a title, or who published a book or article. This is why your page of resources at the end of a paper is called a "Bibliography" (or it is sometimes called a "Works Cited," or "References" page, depending on your citation style).

Although your professor may want you to use a particular style of citation, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, the bibliographic elements you need to create the citation are the same for each style.

Common Bibliographic Elements

These are common pieces of information that typically go into your bibliographic entry:

  • Creator – Authors, editors, composers, photographers, or any person that has made some sort of creative contribution to the work.
  • Title – The FULL title of a work, including everything before and after a colon.
  • Publisher – The name of the organization, company, or group that published the work.
  • Place of Publication – The place where work was originally published, typically the name of a city (or sometimes a state, province, or country). 
  • Year of Publication – The year when the work was published. 
  • Edition – Some works are published in different editions, which can mean changes to information such as page numbers. 
  • Pagination – The specific page numbers where the information came from within a work, which is important to have so that others can precisely locate your source. 
  • DOI – The Digital Object Identifier,  a string of numbers, letters and symbols used to permanently identify an article or document and link to it on the web. 
  • URL – The web address for a specific online web page where the information source was found. 

Finding Bibliographic Elements

Below are examples of where you can find the bibliographic elements of citations in common types of sources you might use in your research. It is important to be aware that different publications will put the information in different places! Look at the PDF examples to get a better idea of where to look in your sources to find key bibliographic elements.

Books from the Library Catalog

When looking at a book's record details in the library catalog (either print or eBook), many bibliographic elements can be found in the top section of the catalog record. This includes Publisher, Place of Publication, and Publication Year, and full Editor and Author information. You may need to scroll down and click on the View Description heading to view the details. Title information is always found at the top of the record page.

bibliographic elements in a catalog book record

When viewing the actual book, the bibliographic elements for Title, Publisher, and Author are on the title page. The copyright page is usually on the verso (the back) of the title page and it is where you can find the information for the Publisher, Place of Publication and Publication Year, and Edition.

In the example of a book's title and verso pages below, these bibliographic elements are highlighted.

In an edited book with multiple authors, be sure check the table of contents for the Author, Chapter Title, and Pagination (page numbers) of the chapter. The book editor or editors will usually be on the book's title page instead of authors. 

In the PDF example of an edited book below, these bibliographic elements are highlighted on the title, verso, and table of contents pages. 

Articles from a Database

Bibliographic elements of a journal article will appear in different locations according to the journal in which the article was published and/or the database in which you found the article. 

In EBSCO databases, such as Academic Search Premier, most bibliographic elements will be listed on the article record page you see when you first click on a title from the results list. In the example article record below, find the Article Title, Authors, Journal Title, Journal Volume and Issue, Publication Date, and Pagination (pages in the journal where the article is). 

bibliographic elements of an article in a database

Bibliographic elements can also be found in the full text article PDF, usually along the top or bottom of the page. Where exactly the information will be located on the pages is the choice of the publisher, so pay careful attention to the margins of your article.

In the example below, the bibliographic elements for the journal volume and issue numbers and the publication year are at the top of the first page of the article. The first page also has the article title and the authors. On the second page the bibliographic elements for journal title, publication year, journal volume and issue numbers, and pagination are in the top left margin.

Bibliographic elements are essential to identify before assembling them into a citation following the format of a specific style.