Definition: citing a book
During your experience of writing an academic paper, you will surely come across the challenge of citing a book correctly.
If you haven’t written a load of papers, you might not be an expert when it comes to citing a book or any other work yet. When citing a medium you have quoted in your paper, you have to differentiate between citing an article, citing a website, or citing a book.
If you have not done this before, you will surly ask yourself how to cite a book correctly.
In this article, we will guide you through the process of citing a book and tell you how to cite a book the right way. But what counts as a book in an academic context? When it comes to citing a book, most of the time reference is made to a monograph.
A monograph is usually organized in chapters (rather than articles with different titles in edited volumes). For a closer look, click the picture below.
Monograph (= book)
A monograph is a piece of writing entirely written by one author (or maybe a few authors). A monograph is not an edited volume, thus the authors are not a team of editors (cf. Stickel-Wolf & Wolf 2013: 255).
A monograph consists of consecutive chapters (as opposed to an edited volume that is a collection of essays centering on a common theme/topic). A monograph is an autonomous work (see some examples for monographs below).
Example: How to cite a book in APA style
In order to cite a book in APA style, you have to italicize (or underline) the title while the year of publication is enclosed in brackets (cf. Samac, Prenner & Schwetz 2009: 95 ff.).
Typesetting in italics sets the title in contrast to the other information which is part of the full book citation and increases clarity and readability.
Citing a book: Short references in the text
Below you will find a few examples on how to cite a book in your text using the APA style of citation (cf. APA manual 2010: 177):
How to cite a book in the reference list
The year of publication comes right after the author’s name in the APA style. However, the position of the year of publication differs depending on the citation style (it is not always put in brackets). Other citation styles put the year of publication after the title.
As long as you as stick to one system, there is no clear “right” or “wrong” in this matter. Just make sure to always put it in brackets after the author if you decide to use the APA style (cf. APA manual 2010: 203-204; Szuchman 2005: 105).
How to cite a book – Step 1: Components of a book citation
The table below (cf. APA manual 2010 & Oertner, St. John, & Thelen 2014: 48-49) lists the most crucial elements when it comes to citing a book. It is important to distinguish between those pieces of information that must be included when citing a book and information that can be included but is not obligatory.
Moreover, there are things that are never part of a book citation. Generally, it is all about making sure that the source can be easily found (and checked) by the reader of your text. You have to provide as much information as necessary in your book citation, but, at the same time, you must avoid giving redundant information.
The author of a monograph/book as well as the title are vital parts of any book citation. As you can imagine, author and title must be known in order to identify a particular source. Moreover, the year of publication and the place of publication are important as well and have to be included whenever you are citing a book.
In contrast to this, information concerning the academic degree/title or other details about the author are never part of a book citation. For instance, adding “famous botanist” is not recommended! Furthermore, the kind of binding, the price, or the ISBN are never part of the information that you give when you cite a book.
|Components of a book citation||Obligatory in book citations||Examples||Comments: How to cite a book|
|Author||A must in book citations||- Göpferich, Susanne; Schmitt, Peter A.|
- Smart, I.M., Shotton, M.A.
|- The first name is written fully, the middle name abbreviated.
However, it also depends on the citation style chosen:
in APA citations, both first name and middle name are
- n.a. = no author
- The surname of the first author is part of short references in
the text if there are more than three authors: name (first author)
et al. (e.g., Shotton et al.). But: check out our article on APA citation for a more detailed overview on how to cite texts with more than one author.
|Title and subtitle of the book||A must in book citations||- Fun with Psychology|
- The Production of Seriousness
- The Metaphysics of Economic Reason
|- Recommendation: title and subtitle in italics (= autonomous publication).
- Abbreviations are not permitted.
|Important additions||Can be included in book citations||- Translated from English by Barbara Bente|
- 3rd Volume
- Doctoral thesis, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden
- Personnel Research Series: Vol. 1. Job analysis and the curriculum
|Only if relevant, e.g. translator, special edition,
multivolume issue, publication series.
|Edition||Should be included in book citations||- 6th edition|
- 2nd edition
|- It is recommended to include which edition was used,
since page numbers tend to differ between editions.
- Not necessary to indicate that it is the 1st edition.
- Additional information such as “extended edition” or
“revised edition” should not be included in the citation.
|Publisher||Should be included in book citations||- Guildford Press|
- Taylor & Francis
- Oxford University Press
|- In essence, more important than the place of publication
but not obligatory for historical reasons.
- Do not include company/association in your book citation.
|Place of publication||A must in book citations||- New York|
- London, England
|- Do not list more than three places of publication.
- n.p. = no place
|Date of publication||A must in book citations||- 2011|
-  2010
|- Refers to the year of publication of the edition used, but
does not indicate when the book was first published
(in case you are citing a historical source, you can add the
original date of publication in square brackets).
- Use a, b etc. if you are citing works from the same author
that were published in the same year.
- n.y. = no year
- Part of the short reference in the text.
- academic title
- details about the author
- Kind of binding
- ISBN number
|Must not be included in book citations||- Prof./Dr. |
- Famous botanist
- Successful manager
- With dust wrapper
- 265 pages
- 9,90 €
- ISBN 948-3-44455-034-1
|Attention! Many things listed in publishers’ brochures
are not part of a book citation.
Recommended: APA Citation
How to cite a book – Step 2: Choose a citation system
If you want to know how to cite a book, the above table lists and explains all necessary pieces of information that must be included. Nevertheless, the way those bits of information are ordered differs depending on the citation system you choose to follow.
You just have to choose a style and follow through with it, e.g. APA style or Chicago Manual. Those systems are so-called author/year (or date) systems that use parenthetical references in the text (author, year, page number). The short references in the text directly refer to the full reference in the reference list, here you find all the information as listed in the table above.
Recommended: What is plagiarism?
The APA style is recommended because many reference lists of published works follow this system when citing a book. You might have also heard of the so-called Harvard Style. However, this term does not refer to an actual Manual of Style on citing a book or other sources.
Harvard Referencing is just “another name for the author/date citation system, the custom of using author and date in parentheses, e.g. (Robbins 1987), to refer readers to the full bibliographic citations” (cf. Harvard Library 2018, Chernin 1988).
In a nutshell
- The term “monograph” refers to an autonomous work written entirely by one author (or multiple authors).
- There are several pieces of information which must be included in a full citation of a book: author, title and subtitle, date of publication, and place of publication.
- The edition used (page numbers might have changed if it is a different edition) as well as the publisher should also be included in the citation.
- Academic titles, details about the author, the kind of binding, and the ISBN are never part of a book citation.
- In author/year citation systems such as APA Style, Harvard Style, and Chicago Manual, short references are used in the text (author’s name, year of publication). These make direct reference to the full references in the reference list.
APA manual. 2010. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Harvard Library. “Citation and Research Management Tools at Harvard – Harvard Style”, in: Harvard Library. https://guides.library.harvard.edu/cite/guides. Last accessed 25th Oct 2018.
Oertner, Monika, Illona St. John & Gabriele Thelen. 2014. Wissenschaftlich Schreiben – Ein Praxisbuch für Schreibtrainer und Studierende. Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink.
Samac, Klaus, Monika Prenner & Herbert Schwetz. 2009. Die Bachelorarbeit an Universität und Fachhochschule. Wien: Facultas.
Stickel-Wolf, Christine & Joachim Wolf. 2013. Wissenschaftliches Arbeiten und Lerntechniken –Erfolgreich studieren – gewusst wie! 7th Ed. Wiesbaden: Springer Gabler.
Szuchman, Leonore T. 2005. Writing With Style – APA Style Made Easy. 3rd Ed. Canada: Thomson Wadsworth.