Citing is important for several reasons:
Essentially, it's an address that also serves to give attribution to the party or parties responsible for the work.
Similar to how your friends need the address to your home to find your Super Bowl party, a reader needs an address to find the article you have used in your research. Additionally, citations give the proper credit to those who created the source you used and helps you to avoid plagiarizing another researcher.
Since a citation is an address, it needs to have enough information to be unique while giving proper credit.
If you told your friends your house is the blue one on 1st street in Denver - they might have a hard time finding you. There could be hundreds of blue houses on 1st street in a large city. They also need your house number, apartment number, etc.
In the case of citations, you need to make sure you include all the important information:
You won't use all of this information in every case, but make sure you check if your source includes any of this information. For example, it might not be immediately apparent that a book is the 3rd edition, but edition is important. If you quote the 3rd edition, but your reader finds the 4th edition, there could be differences between the two sources.
Finding the necessary information can be tricky, but if you follow a few basic rules, you should eventually get what you need.
No one expects you to memorize every citation format. There are plenty of examples out there for you to consider when you need to build a citation.
Avoid generators or automatically generated citations. These are tempting, but they are computer generated and are only as good as the information that has been entered into the generator.
Savage Library has the official and most current manuals for the most popular citation styles on "permanent reserve" behind the main desk. Just come and request to use one of them and we will check it out to you for a couple hours. (They may only be used inside the library building). Our permanent reserves include MLA, APA, Chicago, AP, and Turabian. We may have other style manuals housed in our regular collection.
I know it can be frustrating when you are faced with using a different style for each class or project. There are many styles out there and there are reasons for this. For instance, music researchers tend to use Turabian style because it accommodates the type of information they need to cite, such as musical scores. Also, some styles developed because certain disciplines wanted various pieces of information to be at the front of the citation.
The simplest way to approach citations is to gather the information and then plug it into the appropriate example. Try not to let the different styles slow you down. In the end, they all have the same purpose - give credit and allow someone to find it later.