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Citing Your Sources

When you do scientific research, you are entering into a conversation between scholars and building upon the work of others. It is important to cite the existing works of others whenever you use a source for inspiration, background information, comparison, quoting/paraphrasing, data, procedures, and anything else.

Careful citing continues the scientific conversation in the following ways: 

  • Citations enable other researchers to look backwards to previous works (and forward to future works).
  • A reference list demonstrates to your reader that you have done background research and used reliable sources.
  • Proper citing of others' work helps you avoid plagiarism by giving credit to other authors in an ethical manner. 

ACS Citation Style

The most common citation style guide in chemistry is the American Chemical Society (ACS) Style Guide:

View the American Chemical Society (ACS) Style Quick Guide to learn more about formatting different types of citations in the ACS style. 

Citation Managers

There are a number of citation managers (also called reference managers) available to use. These programs are designed for students and researchers and they have the following capabilities: 

  • Save and organize the sources you read while doing library research.
  • Add notes, tags, PDFs, and other files to keep all of your research findable when you need it. 
  • Import citation information from the library catalog, journal articles, databases, ebooks, and other online sources. 
  • Format in-text citations and reference lists while you write in the citation style of your choice.
  • Share your citation library with project team members so that everyone can add, edit, and use the same pool of resources.

If you are working in a laboratory, you may need to use the citation manager that your research advisor prefers. Check with them about what the research norms are for your specific team. 

If you're getting started on your own, here are some of the citation managers I recommended:

  • Zotero
    • Free and open access with strong data privacy policies
    • Includes a browser plugin to easily pull citations into your library
    • Cite while you write in Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and LibreOffice
    • Fully accessible after you leave UF
  • EndNote Online
    • Browser based and accessible after you leave UF
    • Cite while you write in Microsoft Word


Tell me more about Citation Managers.
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