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Department of Politics

Guidance on Documentation
See also: Documenting Digital Sources

Craig W. Allin

Documentation in General: Documentation of specific source is required for all direct quotations and specific facts beyond the realm of common knowledge. Except when your reference is to a book or article generally, that documentation must lead the reader to the specific page on which you found the quotation or facts cited. Documentation is important for both ethical and practical reasons. Ethically, documentation gives credit where credit is due. Practically, documentation enhances the credibility of your work by demonstrating its reliance on and relationship with credible sources of information. Furthermore, others may need to follow up your research. Without good documentation, your readers will waste a lot of time.

Approved Style Manuals: Different disciplines and different journals have adopted different standards to meet their specialized needs. For the purposes of this class you are required to use parenthetical citations and reference list consistent with one of four standards: APSA, Turabian, APA, or MLA. If you are already familiar with one, use it. If you are not, choose one likely to meet your future needs and get to know it. Indicate the style of documentation you have chosen to use--APSA, Turabian, APA, or MLA--in a parenthetical note following the title of your paper. The official source book for each of the three approved standards is listed below (each in its own approved format), but they are summarized in other works and on various web sites.

  • American Political Science Association Committee on Publications. 2002. The Style Manual for Political Science. Washington, DC: American Political Science Association. [The APSA Style Manual is based on the Chicago Manual of Style, which is used by many book publishers. It provides relatively extensive treatment of government documents. A summary version of the APSA Style Manual standard can be found at University of Wisconsin Writing Center.]
  • Turabian, Kate L. 1996. A manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations. 6th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [Like the APSA Style Manual, Turabian is based on the Chicago Manual of Style. It provides relatively extensive treatment of government documents. A summary version of the Turabian standard can be found on the Georgetown University Library or Bucknell University Library web sites. Chicago or Chicago/Turabian style documentation comes in two forms: [1] parenthetical citations with works cited, and [2] footnotes/endnotes with bibliography. Don't confuse or intermix the two.]
  • American Psychological Association. (2001.) Publication manual of the American Psychological Association. 5th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. [A.P.A. is widely used in the social sciences. A very complete on-line version of the APA standard can be found at Psych Web.]
  • Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003. [MLA is probably the most widely used standard in the humanities. A summary version of the 2003 MLA standard can be found at At the time this page was created most online pages still referenced the 1999 M.L.A. Handbook.]

About Citing Government Documents: Among the style manuals listed above, only APSA and Turabian offer much help citing government documents, and the online summaries are less helpful than the full paper editions. is a good source of examples for government document citations in the Turabian style. The University of Nevada Library is a good source of examples for government document citations in the MLA style. Arizona State University Library provides a government document citation generator for APA and MLA styles. Introduction to Basic Legal Citation by Peter W. Martin at Cornell University's Legal Information Institute can provide more than you would ever want to know about legal citations.

About your Bibliography/Reference List/Works Cited: Taken literally, a list of "Works Cited" (the preferred heading in the M.L.A. and Turabian styles) appended to your paper ought to contain only those sources for which there are actual citations in the text. The headings "Bibliography," "References," and "Reference List" are somewhat more ambiguous. Regardless of the heading you use, include all works upon which you relied whether or not they are formally cited in the text. Do not include works that you located but that proved not to be helpful.

Other Forms of Documentation: The Purdue University Online Writing Lab maintains a web page that lists styles of documentation by discipline and provides online links to web sites that explain the use of each.

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