General Principles of Citation
An ever-growing amount of federal government information is available in electronic format. This presents unique challenges to a scholar citing such works. The following principles should be followed to ensure that another researcher can locate exactly the same electronic text and distinguish the electronic text from the print equivalent.
- Use document header information to provide information about the electronic document. Header information is found at the top of each electronic record.
- Try to provide a unique identifier (either a record or entry number, a code, or a standard abbreviation) to help the reader identify the exact text being cited. Frequently, this information is in the header.
- Provide a document date or "Load date" for each record to provide information about the specific version being cited. This record may be updated later, and the date provided within the citation will alert a reader to a possible change in the text.
- Supply information (such as U.S. Congress or U.S. House) to clarify the source of the material; many databases do not provide this information in the header for each document. It can be found in the database description within the citation help provided in ProQuest® Congressional.
- Indicate the database name and the vendor making the database available. Some databases are available from many different sources, and the text may be different in each. This information also allows the reader to contact the vendor for help in accessing the information.
- Insert a standard pattern of punctuation to clarify the relationship between the elements of the citation. Underlining or italicizing titles, dates, and vendor names can help the reader understand the source of the citation information.
- Since many full-text databases do not include page numbers, insert phrases such as "Quote from:" or "Appendix from:" to let your reader know that the information being quoted is from a larger document.
For more detailed information and guidelines for citing both print and electronically formatted government information resources, consult The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Social Science and Business Research, 3rd ed. by Debora Cheney, LexisNexis, Bethesda, MD. 2002. This manual was originally published in 1984 as The Complete Guide to Citing Government Documents: A Manual for Writers and Librarians by Diane Garner and Diane Smith.