I am trying to write a non-fiction book about summarizing core computer science concepts. I plan to self publish this book through the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing program. My target audience includes

  1. undergrad freshmen
  2. business managers working in a tech industry but have little or no technical knowledge
  3. general public interested to learn more about computer science

I am curious what is the correct way to cite the sources if I were to adopt the IEEE or APA reference style? I understand how the APA/IEEE style is used (e.g I used them in my school's reports)

Thing is, I don't really see non-fiction book putting the references like this in the main body of their text,

ADHD has a prevalence of around 5% among children (Someone, 2013) and 2.5% among adults (Someoneelse, 2007).

For authors who adopted IEEE style, they also don't usually put the numbering e.g [1] in the main text. So is it okay if I just leave the references at the end of the book?

  • Welcome to Writing.SE Wong Seng Wee, glad you found us. We have a tour and help center you might wish to check out. Interesting question. It would help us answer it if you told us your audience. Students? professionals? the general public?
    – Cyn
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 16:33
  • Undergrad freshmen but also for business managers working in a tech industry but have little or no technical knowledge. It could be for the general public interested to learn more about computer science.
    – Seng Wee
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 16:47
  • Great. Could you please edit the question to include that?
    – Cyn
    Commented Sep 15, 2019 at 16:50

2 Answers 2


How and where you cite depends entirely on your audience. For school reports and academic/scientific papers, you use formal citations both in the body of the text and in footnotes or endnotes.

You're writing a popular science book. Formal citations will slow down the reader and probably turn most of them off. You want prose that catches the imagination and engages your reader, not prose that the reader has to slog through.

The length of your work matters too. It's easier to read a work with full citations if it's short. A paper vs a book.

Use endnotes. These are part of the appendix and go after the book is complete. Divide them up by chapter and list them in the order that they appeared in that chapter. You can add page numbers to each endnote entry if you wish, or you can number entries in the body of the text (like a footnote). Adding numbers in the text is distracting so only do it if the chapters are long and there's no other way to make the information clear.

You might want to use both footnotes and endnotes. The footnotes for short but important references or asides and the endnotes for longer ones only of interest to a few.

Use some references in the body of the book. For example, you will mention names of people involved in the work you're discussing and you might give the name of an important book. If the person or book is part of the history, vs just the place where you got the information, include it in the text. Otherwise, save it for the end.

A bibliography is another method for citations. This works well if you mention authors and titles in the text, but is also helpful even if you don't. You can include a line describing the contents and/or importance of the work if you wish.

A good example of a scholarly nonfiction book written for a popular audience is A History Of The World In Six Glasses. The chapters only occasionally mention references and they leave out a fair bit of detail, that only some people would want to know. But the endnotes include all that, plus there's a bibliography. This allows readers to just sit back and enjoy the book, but to delve more deeply if and when they choose.

Find books that have a similar market and scope to yours, even if the subject is completely different. See how they handle the issue of citations. Some authors to check out: Sam Kean, Frans de Waal, Jean Manco, Michael Pollan, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz.


Different publishers will have different preferences about this. An academic press is likely to prefer a more academic style. A popular press will prefer a more popular style. Ultimately, this decision is going to be up to the publisher. If you know who the publisher is, ask them which style they prefer. If you don't know yet, use the style you are used to and be prepared to change it if your publisher asks you to.

However, the important thing you should know in this regard is that non-fiction books don't have to be finished before they are sold. In fact, it is usually preferable to sell them before you finish them. Generally, what agents and editors want to see is a book proposal and a few sample chapters. If they like the proposal, they will enter into a negotiation with you to refine the plan for the book. One of the many items that you can discuss at that time is the style of citations they prefer.

  • I plan to self publish through Kindle Direct Publishing though, does that matter?
    – Seng Wee
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 7:14
  • Then you can do what you like.
    – user16226
    Commented Sep 16, 2019 at 11:03

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