Once you’ve gone through your undergrad training, it’s reasonably easy to cite a journal article or book in your field’s preferred style. But what about those tricky sources? Blog posts with no date or author? Newspaper articles from centuries ago? Field sketches in a museum archive? Comments on a YouTube video?
No style guide is going to ever prescribe a correct way to cite every possible source. That’s especially true in the internet era, when new types of sources crop up faster than style authorities can publish new guides. Sometimes you have to think creatively and do a little digging to figure out how you should format your citation.
Here’s an algorithm you can use to work out how to cite any source. Try it out when you next encounter a sticky citation situation. There are some extra details included for APA and MLA users, since those are common citation styles for NZ researchers.
Oh and a note of warning – if you are using citation software such as EndNote or Zotero, don’t assume that the software is smart enough to know how to format unusual sources! How you enter your citation info into the software can influence what the software spits out, and sometimes the software just isn’t equipped to handle certain non-traditional sources. Always check the citation against your style guide and/or with your supervisors.
How do I cite this unusual source?