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Citing Sources in a Research Paper: Tips to Know
For many students, the process of creating the research paper is not what scares them; it is the thought of developing a bibliography. You know you have to cite your source, and considering a paper of this type is based on concrete findings, you can plan on having a long list of sources to cite. You likely already have an outline and have been instructed how, but these tips will make the process a lot easier.
- Know Your Style - Understand that your citation will vary depending on if you are using APA, MLA, or Chicago Manual Style. Make sure you are using the right one. Regardless which you use, you will need a bibliography listing and in-text citation.
- When to Cite - You will always cite a source when you use a quote or base an idea on the work of another person.
- Modern Language Associations Style - MLA Style is usually used in humanities and liberal arts. Your in-text citation will need to include the author's last name and page number. If there is no identifying author, use the first few words of the source.
- American Psychological Association Style - APA Style is commonly used in behavioral and social science, nursing, and business. Include the author's last name, publication, and page number, if available in parentheses after your quote.
- Alphabetical Order - When you create your reference page, all sources get listed in alphabetical order, according to the primary author's last name. This holds true whether using MLA or APA Style.
- Use a Paper Writing Resource - There are online research sites that allow you to cite passages instantly, create custom folders, highlight text in a variety of colors, bookmark, and automatically generate bibliographies. Of course, you won't be able to rely on such a tool completely, if some of your research is coming from the library, but it will help with online publication citation.
- Don't Use URLs in MLA Style - Although URLs were once used in MLA Style they are not anymore. Electronic sources are listed as web publications because web addresses are not static, and many documents appear in multiple databases. If your instructor requests them to be included, they will appear after date of access in angle brackets.
- Gather Information for Electronic Sources - When using online publications gather as much information as you can for your research notes and citation. Although all may not be available, aim to get author and/or editor name, article name, title of website, version number, publisher name and date, page number, medium, and date you accessed it.
- Image Citing - When citing a photograph, painting, or sculpture, provide the artist's name, work of art, date of creation, city and institution where it is housed, medium, and date of access.
- Double-check Prepared Citations - If using a citation already available through a library database or referenced in a piece of work, always double-check it for accuracy.