Manage your bibliography

Citing is a key academic practice.

A correct reference:

  • shows your understanding of the topic and provide evidence to support your ideas, arguments and opinions
  • allows the reader to identify the sources you have used
  • helps you avoid plagiarism by clarifying which ideas are yours and which are someone else's

All intellectual content owned by third parties is subject to copyright rules, regardless of the form (paper or digital) or the type of publication (volume, article, doctoral thesis, papers). Failure to comply with this principle is potentially plagiarism.

Plagiarism occurs when you present someone else's work as your own, copying or paraphrasing words or ideas without acknowledging the source or misquoting it.
Plagiarism is often not intentional, but the result of superficiality.

You risk committing plagiarism if:

  • you don't keep track of your readings accurately
  • you don't learn citation practices
  • you don't fully understand the role of citations in academic writing

Institutions use plagiarism checker software to measure the level of originality of your work. For example, Turnitin is used at the University of Torino.

Bibliographical citations

To avoid the risk of plagiarism, when you write any paper (report, term paper, degree thesis) you must correctly indicate the bibliographic references to clarify the sources you have used in your work.

A bibliographic reference consists of two parts:

  • the quotation you bring within the text
  • the detailed entry you report in the final bibliography

Citations are also important because they allow the reader to see which sources you based your argument on and allow you to give due recognition to your sources, avoiding plagiarism.

Quotations must always be made regardless of the format of the source and the form (direct or paraphrased) in which you report it. Only for ideas that are a common heritage of knowledge (e.g. dates and irrefutable historical facts), it is not necessary to indicate bibliographic references.

Don't be afraid that including too many citations will make your work unoriginal and derivative. Indeed originality comes from understanding, interpreting and using what you read and references are needed to support or counter your claims. It doesn't matter how many there are, just make sure that every quote is discussed. A good article presents a balanced mix of claims, evidence, and analysis.

Citation types

You must provide a citation whenever you refer to an idea derived from a source. The citation style you choose determines what information to include in citations and affects as well their order and placement.

Quotations can be direct or indirect:

  • direct, when you report the source verbatim, using the same words as the text
  • indirect, when you report it indirectly, paraphrased or summarized.

In both cases, the reference to the reproduced work is mandatory. You can choose to insert bibliographic references directly in the text or indicate them in footnotes. All documents must also be cited in the bibliographic references at the end of the thesis.

Direct quotes display text between quotation marks in the exact original form.

as Annibaldi maintains (Annibaldi-Berta, 1999, 2, 131), «the investigations into the CIG and its consequences were only one of the many themes on which social research was carried out in Turin in the 1980s».

The source of the citation can be displayed in brackets in the text, as in the example proposed (American usage), or it can be displayed as a footnote.
If you choose to quote it according to the American usage, all the additional elements of the cross-reference will be given in the final bibliography.
If, on the other hand, you choose to place it at the foot of the page, the complete bibliographic reference will be inserted in the note and the abbreviation cit. will be used in subsequent citations.

Long quotes

They are normally reported in the body of the text in smaller font, with single line spacing and wider margins.


Rendering someone else's speech in your own words is called paraphrasing. As a rule, it is not a single sentence that is paraphrased, but an entire paragraph or even longer sentences. In this case the bibliographic reference is required as well, but the number of pages may not be specified.

General rules for citations

In citations you must make available all the information necessary to make the document recognizable (and traceable) without ambiguity, but in the most concentrated form possible. The fundamental elements common to the citation of any type of document, both on fixed support (paper or digital) and on online electronic support are:

  1. Author
  2. Title or titles
  3. Publication date (last update for a website)
  4. Specific information on the publication (particular editions or versions of the document, if found, for monographic documents, or indications regarding volume, year and issue if the citation concerns a journal article)
  5. Pagination details (in the rare case they can be found in the text)
  6. Place of publication and publisher's name (for websites replaced by: URL indication)
  7. (only for websites): Access date

Please note:

  • author is always the first mandatory element of the citation (copyright) and it is put in italics in the form Surname dotted First name (e.g. Culasso F.)
  • each element is separated from the following by punctuation
  • the quote closes with a final point
Examples for different kind of items
Encyclopedia entry

«Recycling» on (last visit 27/01/2017)

Book with only one author

Bustreo M. (2015). Tesi di laurea step by step. La guida per progettare, scrivere e argomentare prove finali e scritti professionali senza stress. Milano, Hoepli (+ number of the page of what you are quoting).

Piva F. (2008). Storia di Leda. Da bracciante a dirigente di partito. Milano, Franco Angeli (+ number of the page of what you are quoting).

Pay attention: in the final bibliography page numbers are omitted.

Book with more than one author (up to 3)

Cereseto G., Frisone A., Varlese L. (2009). Non è un gioco da ragazze. Femminismo e sindacato: i Coordinamenti donne Flm, Roma, Ediesse (+ number of the page of what you are quoting).

Pay attention: in the final bibliography page numbers are omitted.

Book with more than 3 authors (anthology)

Fuori l’italiano dall’università? Inglese, internazionalizzazione, politica linguistica (2013). A cura di N. Maraschio e D. De Martino, Bari, Laterza (+ number of the page of what you are quoting).

Pay attention: in the final bibliography page numbers are omitted.

A single contribute in an anthology 

Testa A., Inglese all’Università: tra sogno e nightmare, in Fuori l’italiano dall’università? Inglese, internazionalizzazione, politica linguistica (2012). A cura di N. Maraschio e D. De Martino, Bari, Laterza (+ number of the page of what you are quoting).

Pay attention: in the final bibliography page numbers are omitted.

Journal article

Balbo L. (1973), Le condizioni strutturali della vita familiare, in “Inchiesta”, a. 3, n. 9 (gennaio- marzo 1973) (+ number of the page of what you are quoting).

Pay attention: in the final bibliography you must put pages of the whole article (in this case: pp. 11-17).

Online article

The same rules apply as for printed articles, even if the page numbers are sometimes missing, adding the URL of the periodical or possibly the DOI, i.e. the code that makes the document unambiguously recognizable on the web.

Dowling E. (2017). In the wake of austerity: social impact bonds and the financialization of the welfare state in Britain, in “New Political Economy”, Vol. 22, n. 3, DOI 10.1080/13563467.2017.1232709


DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is a string that provides a permanent link to locate the document online. You often find it in the article header or in its related metadata. If the DOI is not available you can use its URL.

Cappellini, B. (2009). The sacrifice of re-use: the travels of leftovers and family relations. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 8(6), 365–375.  

Learn to use the DOI Citation Formatter!


In addition to providing the URL in its most stable component, it is necessary to indicate the date on which the site was visited.

FAO - (last visit on 27/10/2020)

Citation styles

All documents listed in your bibliography must be described in a single, consistent citation style. If you capture citations from different sources, you will have to adapt them to the chosen style, unless you use citation management software (such as Zotero), which does this automatically.

There are many citation styles. The disciplinary area of ​​Social Sciences (Economics, Communication Sciences) favors the author-data style (e.g. APA). APA provides a citation engine.

The chosen style influences:

  • how and where you place short quotes;
  • in what order the references should be placed;
  • the punctuation.

Many search tools (for example our discovery tool Eureka) allow you to export the citation in a specific citation style (see the image at the side. Click to elarge it).

Bibliography and Webliography
  • A bibliography is an ordered list of materials (books, articles, etc.) on a particular topic. You can include the books you have read, regardless you have cited or not cited them in the thesis. Sorting can be in alphabetical (preferably) or chronological order. Each reference must be complete. Bibliography is usually placed at the end of the work.
  • A webliography is a list of websites related to a particular topic, which are referred to as a whole and not in relation to individual pages or documents published therein. Remember to indicate them using the stable part of the URL (main domain) and to declare the date of your last visit to the website: for example "Last visit on 14/9/2021"

Many students think that the distinction between a bibliography and a webliography depends on the support of the documents they cite. For this reason, they include paper documents in their bibliographies and online documents in their webliography.

This is not correct: if you read an article published in the “American Journal of Agricultural Economics”, October 2017, v. 99, issue 5, pp. 1159-71, it doesn't matter if you are reading the printed or digital version. The scientific thesis of the article is identical in both cases and will in any case be cited in the bibliography. At most, if you are reading the online version, you can give the DOI.

What you have to cite in the webliography is something else, i.e. websites that cover a certain topic as a whole.

RMS (Reference Management Systems)



RMS (Reference Management Systems) are software aimed at managing bibliographic references.

They allow to:

  • collect references and store them in a desktop library or web account
  • organize references with folders and tags, to sort them by topic/project/author etc.
  • add notes to references
  • attach PDFs
  • cite references and create bibliographies in your chosen citation style
  • share references with others and create collaborative libraries of references


  • They do not correct typos, errors or omissions from manually entered references or those ones downloaded from databases.
  • You have to manually correct the references by checking their accuracy: punctuation, capitalization, spelling.
  • The completeness of the metadata depends on the source (catalogue, database, website…) from which they are downloaded.

On the web you find many RMS such as Endnotes, Mendeley, Zotero, RefWorks, etc… Some are free, some commercial and some hybrid. 
At BEM we promote the use of Zotero, because

  • it is free and open source
  • it has a browser extension for collecting references from web pages or web pages themselves while browsing
  • it can cite in MS Word, Google Docs and Libreoffice
  • it can easily import PDF annotations created with other software

Zotero consists of the following 3 components:

  1. the program itself (required)
  2. the connector (required)
  3. plugins (optional but recommended). Plugins are small extensions of Zotero's default features that can be useful for performing some tasks. Their usefulness, of course, depends on what you have to do.

You can learn how to use Zotero independently, following the advice of one of the many videos you find on youtube or follow one of the dedicated BEM courses.