Computer Science & Computer Engineering

Resources to help you with research in Computer Science and Computer Engineering.

Citing Right

The ACM and IEEE each have specific style guides.  Here are some general statements that may help you with IEEE and ACM styles.

There are two parts to citing correctly:

First, indicate in the sentence that there is supporting information and/or that the information used is quoted or paraphrased.  There are two basic methods.
  The In-text citation used by most IEEE and ACM publications is a numbering system
        [#] as a superscript or normal text
        (#) as a superscript or normal text
        # as a superscription (hardest to see!) AND
Second, a full citation for each item referenced is included in a bibliography, a works cited list, or as end  notes.  Generally if, in-line citations are used, then the bibliography or works cited list is arranged alphabetically by authors' last names.  When a numbering system is used, the arrangement of the reference lists can be either in the order cited or alphabetically.

For class assignments, it is possible that the resources listed in the bibliography are not all directly referenced in the report/paper.  Speak with the instructor on how these should be included, if a number list is expected.

Each reference should have enough information to clearly identify the piece being cited.  The information needed generally includes the following elements.  The elements are listed in the most common order in scientific styles and the elements of a journal citation are colored.  These elements should be divided by consistent punctuation in the reference.

    Last name and initials (or full name) of all authors
    Year of publication
    Title of paper, report or book chapter
    Last name and initials (or full name) of all editors (for book or conference)
    Title of periodical (or journal), conference proceedings or book
    Volume number and issue number (if needed)
    Name of publisher and their location (for books, documents, reports)
    Conference location and sponsoring organization
    Inclusive page numbers
    URL, DOI or permalink
    Access date

For more information about the best practices for citing reused programming code in both reports and source code please visiting the link below.

More Citation Assistance

Most databases provided by the libraries have a "Cite" feature built in.  Look for a link or button for citing.  If the link is available, you will see a screen which provides a citation in your preferred format that you can cut and paste into your bibliography.

Many electronic resources offer citation creators and there are some that are freely available on the web.  Feel free to use the links below at your convenience.

However, make sure you carefully edit the results before you paste them into your bibliography, citation creators are not always perfect. Automatic citation generation is only as good as the details made available from the database.

Why Cite?

When you use other authors' ideas and words in your writing, it is important to credit them - even if you do not quote their words exactly as written.

Citing your sources allows your reader to identify the works you have consulted and to understand the breadth and scope of your research. Footnotes, end notes, and lists of works consulted provide substantiation for your own findings and ideas.

Practicing "cite as you write" and keeping track of ideas and quotations that you use in your own writing helps you to avoid plagiarism or charges of research misconduct.

According to the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) "Plagiarism, in which one misrepresents ideas, words, computer codes or other creative expression as one's own, is a clear violation of such ethical principles."  Please go to their site for more complete information.

What Is Common Knowledge?

"Common knowledge" -- you don't need to cite where you found "common knowledge".  But what is "common knowledge"?  Guess what -- it varies.  Here is a safe definition, because you don't want to be accused of plagiarism. 

Did you know it without looking it up?  If you are just learning about your field, you should err on the side of caution.  Better to cite something that didn't need a citation, then to be accused of plagiarism.

Would other people in the class know this?  Common knowledge is based, to some extent, on what the "general practitioner" in the field would know.  And what would be general knowledge for a practicing electrical engineer MAY NOT be common knowledge for a freshman engineering student.

Do you find the information in many PUBLISHED (not web pages) resources? Some experts say if you find it in 3 reference tools, no need to cite. Others say 5. If you don't have time to check that the information has been used in many different places, cite it.  Play it safe.  The citation can be easily removed later and until the paper is in it's final version, you will know where to go back and verify the information.

  • Example 1:  Water boils at 100 °C.  (I looked it up to make sure I was right.  Still it is common knowledge and I will not cite my source.)
  • Example 2:  The melting point of acacetin is 263 °C.  (For an organic chemist, this might be common knowledge.  For me it is not.  I would cite it for two reasons. First, I had to go find it. Second, I want to show the reader it is valid number.)
  • Example 3: Nixon resigned from the US Presidency. (Common knowledge)
  • Example 4: Nixon resigned from the US Presidency at the urging of .......  (Not so common knowledge, I would cite where I found that information.)