How to Cite a Book

28.04.20 Citing sources Time to read: 8min

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Definition: citing a book

When 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 anything you have quoted in your paper, you have to differentiate between wheter it is an article, a website, or a book.

If you have not done this before, you will surely ask yourself how to cite a book correctly.


A citation is a reference to a published or unpublished source of information that was consulted and used in the writing of a book or research paper. Citations give your readers the specifics sources of information contained in your writing. These sources are written at the end of the page or report in alphabetical order. This greatly helps the writer avoid plagiarism in their writing work.

Tip: Always run your work through a plagiarism checker before handing it in.

The basic form of any citation in a book or thesis is as follows: Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date. For books specifically, depending on the style applied, you have to format some parts differently. For example, you have to use italics for the book title when writing in MLA style.

There are three (3) major styles of citation as follows:

a. The APA Style: Fully named the American Psychological Association style, it is an author-year system which ensures that the sources you are referencing in your work can be tracked easily. This style is mostly used for Education, Psychology, and Science writings.

b. The MLA Style: Fully named the Modern Language Association style, this style uses the author-page system of in-text citation. It is popularly referred to as the collegiate level writing citation style. It is used by for writing in the Humanities field.

c. The Chicago Style: This style is extremely flexible in that it unites the two main referencing styles (footnotes or author-year system) in one manual of style. It is used for Business, History, and Fine Arts writings.

They ultimately defer in the order in which the properties are cited. However, the contents are similar in all three cases.

A book citation has numerous purposes which makes it very important. One of which is because it helps the writer avoid plagiarism of other writers’ or researchers’ works that were consulted during the academic writing process. It also provides the reader details about where to find further information on sources used in the text. Plus, it assists the writer with keeping track of all the references they use whilst writing the book or essay.

The citations in books are references to different sources of published or unpublished content. In-text citations belong with the main text, whereas footnotes are put at the bottom of each page. At the end of the book, sources will be in a bibliography or on a works cited page. All of this depends on the referencing style that is required.

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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 Using 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.).

Using italics contrasts the title 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):

(Walker, 2007)
(Walker & Allen, 2004)
The short reference can also be embedded in the sentence structure, e.g. “According to Walker… (2007).”

How to Cite a Book in the Reference List

Smart, I.M. (1995). Fun with psychology. Green Hill, IL: Green Publishing Co.
Shotton, M.A. (1989). Computer addiction? A study of computer dependency. London, England: Taylor & Francis.

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”. 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).

Please note: Check which citation style is required by your supervisor and/or the faculty.

Also useful: What is plagiarism?

Step-by-Step Instructions

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. 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. The year and place of publication are also important 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 Mandator Examples Comments: How to cite a book
Author Yes - Göpferich, Susanne; Schmitt, Peter A.
- Smart, I.M., Shotton, M.A.
- n.a.
- The first name is written in full, 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 Yes - 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 If available - 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 If available - 6th edition
- 2nd edition
- It is recommended that you 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 If available - Guildford Press
- Wiley
- 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 Yes - New York
- London, England
- n.p.
- Do not list more than three places of publication.
- n.p. = no place
Date of publication Yes - 2011
- [1888] 2010
- 2005a
- 2005b
- n.y.
- 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.
Information concerning:
- academic title
- details about the author
- Kind of binding
- Price
- ISBN number
No, must not be included - 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.

Please note: In essence, all citation systems use the same kind of information, just the order in which elements are presented or the punctuation used might differ.

You have to choose a style and use it consistenly, 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; this is where 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).

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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. 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.