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School of Land Use and Environmental Change

Citations and reference lists

Individual instructors will specify which citation style, if any, they want their students to use. In general, however, Chicago Style-Scientific (also known as author-date) is preferred for most geography classes. Human geographers may also use Chicago Style-Humanities (also known as notes and bibliography), which allows for footnoting and utilizes a slightly different citation format. Both of these styles are updated regularly, and are found in The Chicago Manual of Style.

Chicago Style-Scientific is very similar to APA. Check with your instructor if you are used to using APA to see whether this may be allowed.

Additional resources on formatting and citations

See our Sample Report for an example of a reference list, title page, table of contents, and etc.‌

Commonly asked citation questions

In physical geography, techniques, and most human geography courses, use of the Chicago Style-Scientific is preferred. Do not use Chicago-Style Humanities in a physical geography course unless you have spoken with the instructor in advance.

In cases when a larger number of sources cannot be converted into the author-date system (such as in those cases when you are working with unpublished materials, historical papers, etc.), it is best to use the Humanities style. (Check with your instructor if this is the case.)

Footnotes can be used in conjunction with author-date citation. However, in these cases, footnotes are not used for citation, but are instead reserved for additional information and author comments that would otherwise be too distracting in the body of the paper.

No. Web addresses are clunky and tell the reader little about the source. They also tend to change over time. Furthermore, a web address often neglects to indicate the ‘author’ of the information.

The only reason to include website addresses in the body of the paper is if you are specifically referring to them. For example: “Census information for Canadian municipalities can be obtained on the Statistics Canada website, at”

If you are required to use a reference list (works cited page), then include only those materials used directly in the paper.

A bibliography will include all materials consulted, regardless of whether they are cited in the paper. However, most of the references in the bibliography should be cited in the paper.

You do not have to include the database address.

A journal database like Academic Search Premier, Sage, or Wiley Interscience is merely a conduit—an electronic library, if you will. Just as you do not provide the street address of the UFV library when you cite a book that you checked out there, you generally do not need to provide the online address for a search engine either.

If you have downloaded the article as a PDF, then the page numbers should have been preserved. A PDF copy of an article is like a photocopy of the article—it’s a ‘picture’ of what it would look like in the hard copy of the journal. Therefore, treat it as such.

If the journal is only available online through the website (i.e. it lacks a print version), then you must absolutely include the web address in the bibliography or reference list (but NOT in the in-text citation).

Furthermore, if the journal articles are provided in HTML, you must also include the web address.

Provide the address for the journal’s homepage, rather than that of the specific article. The web address for the specific article will likely be too long to include in the bibliography or works cited page.

In truth, unless you are a seasoned geography researcher, it is likely that you won’t always know whether there are print equivalents of the journals you are using.

Most journals used in geography do have print versions. Those that do not usually will usually specify that they are an online journal. If you are not sure, include the web access information.

Avoid, if possible, beginning your citation with the date, although in some cases this is allowed. Generally, those sources most likely to be missing authors are newspaper articles, magazine features, and websites.

For newspaper articles, be sure to look at the end of the article. Sometimes the author is listed there. Websites often do not have an obvious ‘author’, but someone is hosting the website. It is that ‘someone’ who should be used as the author. For example, if you go online to the Rio 2016 Olympic site, the author would be Rio 2016 Olympic Committee. Sometimes the ‘author’ can only be discerned when examining the web address.

If there is no obvious author or sponsor for the site, be leery of its content. It’s probably not worth using. Check with your instructor if you are unsure.

It’s not uncommon to come across newspaper articles that list a news service (e.g. The Associated Press, Reuters), but not an author. In these cases, the news service is the author, and should be listed as such.

In these cases, enter n.d. where the date would otherwise be or an n.p. where the place of publication would otherwise be.

Note of caution: websites do not often clearly post the date of the information. In these cases, look for information at the bottom of the webpage (“last modified on”) or under contact information.

Footnotes provide a way of including information in the body of the paper or report that isn't central to the idea or exposition, but which nonetheless would be of interest to the reader.

Footnotes can be used to:

  • identify details that can be cumbersome to manage in text.
  • provide an outlet for the author to express an idea or opinion that would be distracting in the main body of the paper.
  • provide citation.

The author of a text cannot always expect that their footnotes will be read. They are 'optional', so to speak (unless your instructor tells you otherwise!). These types of explanatory footnotes can be used in all types of assignments and in all disciplines. However, they should be used only sparingly. It's great to include the 'extra' information, but it can be overwhelming!

In a typical word-processing program, using footnotes is an easy alternative to using in-text citation.

The use of a single source for several footnotes allows for a simple copy-and-paste operation, rather than having to re-enter information for each footnote. Furthermore, footnote information can be copied into a bibliography and edited more easily than entering each item again.

See the Concordia site for how to cite references in the footnotes and the bibliography with Chicago style.

When completing research assignments, you'll be asked to provide either a reference list or a bibliography. The two formats are similar but not identical.

A reference list is exactly that--a list of references used in the assignment.

A bibliography, in contrast, is designed to be more expansive in purpose. A bibliography would include the relevant works around a particular idea or subject matter, even if some of these were not used directly in one's paper or report.

In general, physical geography and techniques courses would ask for a reference list.

Human geography courses may ask for either a reference list or a bibliography.

Common features to both:

  • List references in alphabetical order by author
  • Correct formatting for the type of assignment; Use Chicago-style Scientific for most geography courses
  • Page number(s)

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