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I have to cite a multi-chapter report. Every chapter has different authors. Should I cite with the name of the main author and then the specific chapter? Or should I use the first author of the chapter I am citing?

If the main author is Smith but Jeff is the author of a chapter where Smith is not in the authors’ list, should I cite with “(Smith et. al 2000, Ch 6)” or “(Jeff et. al 2000)” and then add a citation for each chapter in the cited literature section?

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In your example, you are citing the chapter author's work, not the work of the compiler/editor of the book as a whole. According to the APA Publication Manual, use the following reference format for this situation.

Author, A.A. (1967) Title of chapter or entry. In A. Editor & B. Editor (Eds.), Title of book (pp. xxx-xxx). Location: Publisher

Of course, your intext citation would reference the chapter author too, not the book author/editor. The same general format holds for other reference styles as well.

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If authors are identified for the chapters, then this document is best treated as an edited collection. In this case, the chapter authors are the author and the chapter title the title. The overall report title is then the collection title (filling a similar role to journal title) and the "main" authors the editors.

The exact details of how this is formatted depend on the style where you are submitting, but if any names are appearing in the main text, they are of the chapter authors.

  • This is not a book but a multi-chapter report, and it is unclear who are the editors. It is a IUCN report for the record. – Herman Toothrot Dec 29 '14 at 20:04
  • Please note that nothing in my answer assumes a book. It should apply to any multicomponent document, including the report you described. – jakebeal Dec 29 '14 at 20:16
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should I cite with (Smith et. al 2000, ch 6) or (Jeff et. al 2000) and then add a citation for each chapter in the cited literature section?

I've checked The Chicago Manual of Style and the New Oxford Style Manual and it seems that the second style is preferable. I don't know if there is a standard way to abbreviate if one has to cite many different chapters.

However, if you're writing for a journal, there might be a preferred style, which can be described in the journal style guide or applied directly by the typesetter.

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Remember that the reference in the text is "only" a flag to enable the reader to find the important information, the reference, in your reference list. With the "author-year" form the in text information provides a knowledgeable reader with a flag that can make the reference known without looking into the reference list but in a system where references are provided with only numbers (Vancouver style). So the important information is in the reference list.

With that background, it is clear that referencing the authors of the chapters is the way to go. If no clear author exists for chapter the compilation or book editor can be referenced but adding the specific chapter number in the reference (assuming the chapter IS numbered). There is no major point in adding the chapter number to a reference pointing to a chapter given by its author. All such information will be given in the references. Even if more than one chapter has been written by a specific author (team) you can still provide only the usual "author-year" but label the references, for example, (Smith et. al 2000a), (Smith et. al 2000b) etc. All will be explained in the reference list.

So as a conclusion, use references as if the chapters where articles in a journal but be careful by providing all necessary information about full publication information of the chapter (number and name of chapter) as well as book editor, title, publisher etc. in the reference list. Please refer to journal instructions (equiv.) for details.

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