Engineering: Citing sources in Engineering

For example ...

Every professional and scholarly journal applies a standard for citing sources and providing references. A given journal may ask prospective authors to apply a particular external standard (e.g. Chicago Manual of Style), or it may have its own particular way of doing things. The International Journal of Non-Linear Mechanics is an example of the latter. On their website, authors preparing articles for submission can go to a page entitled "Guide for Authors" to get the detailed instructions they must follow. On this page, in the sections under 'References' -- Citation in Text, Web References, Reference Style -- you'll see that these guidelines and examples are very similar to the IEEE style in the next box on this page.

References: Citing Your Sources

  • Include a bibliography of any library or Internet resources you use in formal written assignments.

In college writing you should always be prepared to identify the sources you've used for facts, data, and others' ideas or results. You'll note each source in your text, and you'll include a bibliography or list of "references" at the end of your text.

There are many reference and citation styles. Some are closely associated with particular areas of study, others are used in many disciplines (e.g. the APA style, from the American Psychological Association throughout the social sciences). In Engineering there is no one preferred style, but one that's widely used is the IEEE Style. Some basics are below. Here are links to other online helps:  IEEE Citation Reference and  IEEE Editorial Style Manual 2020 (if you really want to get more detailed -- 23p. PDF).

The basics: each time you introduce information for which a source must be given credit, follow that text with a number in square brackets, beginning with [1]; if you refer to the same source again later in your text, use the number previously assigned -- it identifies that particular article/chapter/book/website/etc. by that particular author.

Here are simple guidelines for the References list at the end of your text:

  • Title: References (Placed Flush Left)
  • Arrangement: Arrange the reference list by the order of citation, not by alphabetical order.
  • Spacing: Double-space both within and between entries
  • Indentation: Place the number of the entry at the left margin, enclosed in square brackets.  Indent the text of all entries 2 or 3 spaces to the right of the closing square bracket.
  • Follow the examples below to format your references with the author(s), chapter or article title, book or journal name, website name, publisher, volume and page information, and/or Internet location, as appropriate for each source used.

In very broad, general terms, citations include the following info, though details of punctuation and layout on the page can vary considerably:

[Who wrote it?], [What did they write?], [Where did it appear and when?].

[R.F. Follet and D. J Walker], ["Ground water quality concerns about nitrogen,"] [in Nitrogen Management and Ground Water Protection," Ed. R. F. Follet, Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company Inc, 1989, pp. 1-20].


1. D. Beer, R.F. Martin, and P. Fingle, Photosensory Transduction, New York: Willey, 1993.   a book with 1 or several authors
2. R.F. Follet and D. J Walker, "Ground water quality concerns about nitrogen," in Nitrogen Management and Ground Water Protection," Ed. R. F. Follet, Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company Inc, 1989, pp. 1-20.   a chapter in a book of collected essays by different authors
3. K.A. Nelson, R.J. Dwayne Miller, D.R. Lutz, and M.D. Fayer, "Optical generation of turntable ultrasonic waves," Journal of Applied Physics, vol. 53, no. 2, Feb., pp. 1144-1149.   an article from a scholarly journal
4. T. Land, "Web extension to American Psychological Association style (WEAPAS)," [Online document], 1996 Mar 31(Rev 1.2.4), [cited 1996 Sept 14], Available HTTP:   a website
5. D. Williams, "Screw Less Clip Mounted Computer Drive," U.S. Patent 6,885,550, Apr. 26, 2005.   a patent
Subjects: Engineering
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