Citation Guide

IEEE: Essential Rules

Accessed Date and URL Formatting

  • Only include date accessed if the source material has no date.
  • Never include a period at the end of the URL.
  • Do not insert a hard or soft return within the URL string; doing so breaks the link.

Author Names: Honorifics

Do not include honorifics (Dr., Col., Professor, etc.) when citing author names. Including these titles in the body of your document is acceptable.

Bibliography / List of References

What is the difference between them?

  • A Bibliography lists all works cited and consulted
  • A List of References includes all works cited in a text

The NPS Thesis Processing Office prefers a List of References for the following: 

  • Thesis
  • Capstone project report
  • MBA report
  • Dissertation

Capitalization (Title Case / Sentence case)

Title Case Sentence case
Love among the Ruins: A Memoir of Life and Love in Hamburg, 1945 Love among the ruins: A memoir of life and love in Hamburg, 1945

Capitalize everything except:

  • conjunctions (and, but, or, etc.)
  • prepositions (to, of, on, among, between, etc.)
  • articles (a, an, the)

Capitalize only:

  • the first words in titles and subtitles
  • proper nouns


Note: Always format the information in your citations (titles, author names, etc.) according to the requirements of the citation style you are using, regardless of how it appears in the original source.

Equation, Formula

A reader may be referencing equations, paragraphs, or subsections individually, which is why the citation should always be clear for individual equations throughout.

You may weave the source into the narrative; for example:

  • The author applied the X method [4], to describe ...
  • The derivation that follows is summarized from [4].

Here is a specific example of citing properly before the equation:

IEEE citing before equation or formula

Source: J. E. O’Connor, “Design and simulation of novel high-efficiency, back-contact solar cells,” Ph.D. dissertation, Dept. Elect. and Comput. Eng., Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, 2017. 

And here is a specific example of how to cite an equation after it is presented; the equations must correctly function grammatically as part of the sentence text: 

IEEE citing after equation or formula

Source: J. E. O’Connor, “Design and simulation of novel high-efficiency, back-contact solar cells,” Ph.D. dissertation, Dept. Elect. and Comput. Eng., Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA, 2017. 

Et al.

  • In the List of References, if more than seven authors, list the first seven followed by et al.
  • In the body of the text, use et al. when three or more names are given.
    Example: Ma et al. [19] extended the work …

For MAE Department: 

  • In the List of References, list all the authors.
  • In the body of the text, use et al. when three or more names are given.

    Example: Ma et al. [19] extended the work …

How often to cite?

  • Remember: one citation at the end of a string of sentences or a paragraph cannot “cover” the entire section.
  • Cite a source the first time it is used in each paragraph.
  • Every sentence thereafter in the paragraph that uses information from this same source must contain either a signal phrase or a citation clearly indicating where the information came from.
    • Note: always use a citation (even if you also use a signal phrase) every time you quote material.

Identifying Organizational Authors

Official Documents

The author is the organization immediately responsible for creating the document. In the example below, the author is the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations and the publisher is the Department of the Navy.

Identifying organizational authors


In the example above, the author is NOT an umbrella organization, signatory, or any of the following:

  • Chief of Naval Operations
  • Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
  • W. F. Moran
  • Department of Defense
  • Navy Pentagon
  • R. P. Burke
  • United States of America​

Do not include acronyms for organizations listed as authors in the List of References or footnotes:

  • YES: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
  • NO: Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO or OCNO).
  • NO: CNO or OCNO.

In-text Citation Placement & Signal Phrases

Citation Order

  • IEEE strongly prefers that bracketed in-text citations appear sequentially, beginning with [1], within the body of the text; it does not matter in what order they appear in the List of Tables and the List of Figures.


Where in the sentence does my bracketed citation go?

  • If you name your source(s) in a given sentence, a bracketed citation follows immediately after mentioning the source. Example: Rejecting Abbott and Costello’s method [1], Laurel and Hardy [2] propose an altogether different model for optimizing hat density.
  • Bracketed citations can also be treated as source names themselves. Example: In contrast to [1], [2] proposes an altogether different model.
    • Note: Do not, however, begin a sentence with a bracketed citation.
  • Otherwise, bracketed citations are placed at the end of the phrase [3] or sentence they cover [4], inside the punctuation, like this [5].
    • If the sentence ends with a quotation, "close the quote, then place the citation between the quotation marks and the punctuation, like this” [6].
  • Do not insert spaces between a bracketed citation and the punctuation that follows it.

In the paragraph below, citations are highlighted in yellow and signal phrases are in blue. Note that the second sentence is common knowledge, whereas the final sentence is clearly the opinion of the author.

Smith’s study [1] indicates that red and yellow are the best colors with which to decorate your restaurant because they induce feelings of hunger. Consider popular fast-food chains, which often use red and yellow in their advertising and décor. According to Smith’s study, restaurant customers felt more energized in red and yellow environments, which encouraged them to order more food. The same study explained that patrons felt relaxed in blue and purple environments, which encouraged them to “spend more time considering the menu options and eat at a slower pace.” Although other hospitality research suggests blue décor can give your restaurant a casual, laid-back atmosphere [2]Smith believes it encourages patrons to linger at their tables without ordering additional food or beverages. Accordingly, it is difficult to identify a popular chain restaurant that decorates with calmer hues.

Missing Info

If any information is missing from a source (a journal with no volume number, for example), simply omit that information. For sources consulted in hardcopy, omit the URL and any additional verbiage that introduces it. Anything retrieved online, however, MUST have a link. The only exception is journals retrieved from a subscription database such as ProQuest. 

Multiple Sources Bracketing Format

Correct format: [23], [34], [77]

Correct format: [23]–[28]

Incorrect format: [23, 34, 77]

Page Numbers

It is not necessary to include page numbers in bracketed citations.

For a portion in a book, journal, or other volume, include page-number range in List of References/Bibliography.

Example: [7] P. Haynes, “Al-Qaeda, oil dependence, and U.S. foreign policy,” in Energy Security and Global Politics: The Militarization of Resource Management, D. Moran and J. A. Russell, Eds. New York, NY, USA: Routledge, 2009, pp. 62–74.

Print vs. Online

When citing a source retrieved online, use the "online" format even when you or someone else printed out the material. For example, if you print out a thesis or your advisor provides you with a printed thesis, it is still categorized as an online document.

Only cite as a print source when the material has been produced by a publisher in hard copy. For example, if you obtain a print journal or book from the library stacks, it is categorized as a printed source.

Secondary Sources

A secondary source is a source that cites some other work that you discuss in your text.

Whenever possible, consult primary sources and your sources’ sources yourself. Upon investigating the primary source, you may find you disagree with the secondary source author’s analysis or methods. Only use secondary sources when the primary source is unavailable.

How to Incorporate Secondary Sources

The following passage incorporates a properly credited secondary source. The secondary source information is highlighted in yellow; the primary source information is highlighted in blue.

Walker describes data collected in 1999 by Miguel Roig that correlates students’ inadequate paraphrasing to poor reading comprehension. Citing Roig’s data, Walker explains that “students do in fact possess skills necessary for paraphrasing but … may be impeded from applying those skills when dealing with rigorous text” [1].

Note: Include  only  the  secondary  source  (the  source  you  consulted)  in  your  reference  list. 


For more information

See the TPO's "Citing Your Sources’ Sources" handout.