A citation is a reference within a text to another document, the cited work. The purpose of a citation is usually to provide support or evidence for what you are saying; it tells the reader where this support or evidence can be found, and it typically does this by providing a reference to a bibliography, a list of detailed bibliographic information provided at the end of your document.
Given this purpose, there are a number of things that follow:
The second of these is the topic of a separate writing note. With regard to the first, here are some tips on making good citations:
There are many ways in which aggregation techniques have been used within sentence planning [Crowbar 1988].What will I find if I go look in [Crowbar 1988]? The citation above would seem to offer at last the following possibilities:
As a writer, you should make clear what the role of the citation is; otherwise you risk frustrating your reader. So, for the above example, something like the following might be better:
There are many ways in which aggregation techniques have been used within sentence planning (see [Crowbar 1988] for a catalog of these).
It has sometimes been argued (see, for example, [Jones 1966]) that graph unification can be more efficiently implemented than term unification.Well, if [Jones 1966] is a 950 page tome on data structures, this is not helpful. You should make your citation as precise as is necessary; so, in this context, the following might be better:
It has sometimes been argued (see, for example, [Jones 1966, Section 4.6]) that graph unification can be more efficiently implemented than term unification.The degree of precision in the pinpointing will depend on whether you're referring to a discussion of a concept or a specific claim. In many cases it's very appropriate to include specific page numbers in your citations, as in '[Jones 1990:56]' or '[Jones 1990, page 56]'; if you're writing for a reputable publisher they will have a preferred format for such citations.
However, as argued by Jones , this approach is inefficient.This is to be contrasted with parenthetical citations where, well, the citation is parenthetical:
However, the cosine method [Jones 1990] is inefficient.An easy diagnostic is that you can remove a parenthetical citation from the text without disturbing the syntax of the sentence, but you can't remove a syntactic citation without leaving a hole. Note that, of course, the citations in the examples above could be made more precise.
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