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How to Cite a PDF File


In modern scholarship, more research is done away from the hallowed halls of libraries. Instead, students and scholars work online, reading and citing web pages and scholarly articles accessed online. Most often, these articles are obtained in PDF or portable document format. While the information contained in these documents is often credible, citing them can be a problem. However, the processes are not dissimilar from citing a book, paper or magazine article, with only a few extra steps.

Determine the title and author of the document you are citing. This should be on the front page. If the information is not included with the PDF, refer to the website where you obtained the PDF.

Find the title of the publication where the document appeared. While this information may be contained in the PDF, it can most likely be found on the website from where the PDF was downloaded.

Copy the URL of the PDF you downloaded, if it is available.

Assemble this information in the appropriate order and format according to the citation style you are using. Follow the templates for citing a book or article contained in the style's manual.

Append "PDF" to the end of the citation, followed by the PDF's URL if available. The URL is especially important if the document is not available offline.

Add the name of the online database the article was accessed at, such as JSTOR, if it was found on such a database. You need not use the word "Web" in your citation, as a PDF citation infers that the source was found online.

About the Author

Alexander Rudinski has been writing professionally since 2008. His work appears on the Nerve website, where he continues to work as a photographer and writer. Rudinski has a Bachelor of Science in communications, concentrating on documentary video, photography and professional writing. He graduated from the University of the Arts, Philadelphia.

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