Writing Tools

32 Citation and Reference Guide and Tips

Citations and Attributions: Is there a Difference?

“Citation” and “Attribution” are often used as synonyms, but they mean two different things.

Citation is a scholarly practice for tracking the ideological underpinnings of a work, usually referencing sources like published books, articles, government documents, primary sources, etc. For example, using the citation style of APA, MLA, or Chicago; dependent on each discipline.

Attribution is about crediting a copyright holder according to the terms of a copyright license, usually crediting artistic works like music, fiction, video, and photography.

Adapted from: Cite & Attribute Your Source from Open.Michigan and used under a CC-BY 3.0 license.

Citation Styles

If you are creating an adaptation, we suggest that you follow the citation style used by the original author to maintain consistency throughout the open textbook.

If you are creating a new work, then use the citation style of your choosing. This may depend on your discipline.

Like any academic work, it is important to cite new information added to an existing open textbook. Refer to SFU’s Writing & Style Guides for citation style guides and tips on how to cite.

For information on citing and attributing images, see Images: Captions, Attributions and Citations

Reference Lists

Reference lists are typically laid out in alphabetical order by the last name of the primary or first listed author. This, however, does depend on the citation style that your choose.

If the title of a publication is used instead (no author listed), then entries that begin with “The” should be alphabetically sorted by the word after “The” (e.g., The Economist should be sorted in the Es).