How to Cite a Research Paper | APA, MLA, and Chicago formats

How to Cite a Research Paper | APA, MLA, and Chicago formats

Have you heard of plagiarism? Whenever writing a research paper, it is essential to document all sources. This is because you will be required to write a research paper in your studies. As such, you must know how to cite a research paper for your work.

Proper research paper citation is essential for your research paper to meet the required standards. This article will guide you on how to cite research paper in APA, MLA, and Chicago.

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The basis of citations

The primary reason for referencing papers correctly is to evade intellectual dishonesty. When you present other scholars’ ideas without recognizing them, it would be unethical. Citing research papers is fundamental decency. 

It is natural for people to have a solid sense of ownership, not only for physical belongings but also for intellectual achievements and works. You always want to know where a given piece of information came from and who is responsible.

Over quotation refers to when you use a lot of citation than required. It is prevalent in the in-text citation. Over quotation occurs when you repeat the same source in every sentence expressing the same topic. That would distract your readers.

On the contrary, under citation is failing to cite your sources. Ensure that you are thorough in assembling and referencing your sources. Under quotation can lead to plagiarism.

Importance of research paper citing

Scholars in research hold sessions to discuss and debate the first person to create an idea, make a discovery or a research methodology. When you understand how to cite a research paper, you offer an avenue to critique your study. It is an opportunity to attain additional data about your research topic.

Proper referencing is significant for the following reasons;

Evade plagiarism  

Referencing allows research paper writers to quote works by others appropriately. It is a way of acknowledging the source of information.  

Citing a research paper offers evidence 

Citing data and studies gives you evidence to support the critical points of your research paper. It is, especially, vital when making an argument.

You can use other researcher’s philosophies to reinforce your argument. If in disagreement, it can act as a position to contend with your alternative viewpoint. Existing information provides immediate context to emphasize the importance of your research. 

Reverence for intellectual property rights 

Your research might include industry material that is legally protected by intellectual property rights. For instance, it can be patents, trademarks, creative works, or geographical indications. 

In the professional world, there are serious repercussions when you fail to cite your work. It may cost you a career, ruin your reputation, and can lead to legal action. 

Provide specifics on source documents 

Research paper citing enables reviewers to check for data and your line of argument. It guides readers where they can get more information after reading your research. Your audience will follow references or footnotes to locate authoritative and relevant sources.

Research paper citing increases your credibility

Citing your work shows that you have performed a thorough literature review of your topic. It, therefore, means you are writing from an informed perspective which increases your credibility. 

The same way other people’s ideas can bolster your essay and offer evidence for your concepts, it can weaken your credibility if found fabricated. Your reputation will not be tarnished when the facts of others turn out to be inaccurate.   

Essential elements in research paper citation

Different fields and disciplines in research have varied styles and standards of how to do citations in research papers. Rules differ depending on the citation format. Most formats have common elements that you ought to include.

The following are some of the common elements for research paper citation:

  • Title 
  • Author
  • Page numbers
  • Editor 
  • Source name
  • Publisher or university  
  • Year or date of publication 
  • City 
  • Volume and edition
  • URL when using online sources
  • DOI

How to cite sources in a research paper

There are two significant aspects of how to cite a research paper, that is, reference list and in-text citation. The in-text citation is included in the body of your research paper. Sources in in-text citation can be used severally depending on the necessity to use them. 

The reference list section comes at the end of your essay. Although citation styles differ, there are essential elements that should be included.

Research paper citation format largely depends on your institution, discipline, or venues of publication. You should check the instructions page to know the preferred style.

Common mistakes in citing research papers

When studying how to write a research paper, you are prone to mistakes until you perfect your writing skills. You must back up your ideas in research paper writing. Without proper citation, your work will lose credibility.

Correct citation in research paper writing can seem to be tricky. You might get confused during the writing process since the formats have similarities, yet they are different. When you know the citation errors to avoid, you are building your writing skills.

  1. Not knowing how citations differ from references

One essential aspect of how to cite a research paper is to get familiar with the common terminologies. It can be puzzling even for good authors. 

Citations are included in the body of your paper. They have direct quotes or paraphrased information from a given author. References are provided at the end of your work as a list. 

  1. Missing citations or references

References and citations are a package deal. Any citation requires a reference under the bibliography page whereas every reference must be in the in-text citation

It is common for paper writers to forget to cite in your paper body or not include an in-text citation under the reference list. Every citation in your essay should lead to a reference.

  1. Omitting page numbers

When you cite specific information from a long article or a book, it would be better to use the page number of your source. Although it is rare for someone to dig up info from the exact page, it is better to cover your bases. 

Citations refer readers to your research. It is helpful to provide the page number of the information in a book comprising thousands of pages. It offers accuracy. 

  1. Not keeping citations alphabetically

You cannot have your works cited jungled up in your paper. Every research paper citation format requires you to have your citation alphabetically using the first element of the source. It could be a title, author’s last name, corporations, and more.

If there is more than one author, you should arrange them alphabetically using their surname. You should apply the rule for both in-text citation that has many authors and reference list. 

  1. Missing punctuation 

Perusing a guide on how to cite a research paper can feel like a mystery as you try to figure out why you need to put a comma or a period in certain places. Initially, you might think that there is no rhyme to it. It is easy for your instructor to point out where you have errored in your formatting.

Every citation style has a particular way to punctuate your in-text citations and reference list. Follow proper format to make your work perfect. There are various examples on the internet for your orientation. 

  1. Failing to cite paraphrased info 

When you quote information in your research paper, you should include in-text citation and a bibliography page. If you fail to cite a paraphrased work, it will be considered plagiarism. As much as you have used ideas from another person’s work, always remember to mention them.

  1. Using outdated information 

For all your research work, use up-to-date information to back up your concepts. The world is evolving so fast, and what was true twenty years ago may not be regarded as accurate today. 

  1. Citing unverified sources

Not every source you come across on the internet is worth including in your research. Only consider credible sources with authoritative, relevant, and accurate information. Avoid citing blogs and other sources such as Wikipedia.

  1. Unnecessary citations 

The art of how to cite a research paper is about creating balance. You don’t make too few or too many citations. For instance, you can present an idea from a specific book in a paragraph. In this case, you can make one citation at the end of the section instead of citing every sentence. 

  1. Mangling spelling

Some names might be difficult to spell or spelled differently. But that does not mean you can jumble up the spelling. If you are uncertain about the correct spelling, it will be better to check with other sources or search online.

How to write a reference list for a research paper

Reference list is the last page of your research paper and should start on a new page from your essay text. An entry in the list must represent all the sources you used for your research. The names differ depending on your format, that is, works cited, bibliography, or reference. 

In some cases, your tutor might require you to use annotated bibliography to offer a brief account of sources. The following are tips for writing a reference list;

  • Focus on recent materials, not older than five years unless used for the overriding purpose
  • Always denote your references numerically and in order by use of superscript. Provide DOIs when you cite articles
  • You can use journal articles that are yet to be published as long as they have been submitted and recognized for publication 
  • You should not include personal communication unless it offers essential data that is not obtainable from a public source
  • Primary literature, patents, and websites should be listed numerically in the sequence they occur in the paper

How to cite a research paper

The following is a guideline of how to cite research papers using APA, MLA, and Chicago formats.

APA format for research paper

American Psychological Association (APA) research paper format is usually used in behavioral and social science papers. Academic writings such as descriptive essay outlines commonly use APA style and have general writing guidelines. 

APA 7th edition is the latest version, published in October 2019. You should type your paper in 12 pt.—Times New Roman font and double-spaced. A research paper in APA style should have a title page, abstract, main body, and references.

How to cite in APA format

how to cite a research paper

In-text citation enables your readers to know which idea is attributed to whom. APA cite research paper has two main components for in-text citation; author and date. In addition, APA has parenthetical and narrative citations. 

  • Parenthetical citation – both the date and author appear in the text separated by a comma. It can be within the sentence or at the end. 
  • Narrative citation – the author’s surname appears in the running text and the date in the parentheses after it. Do not use parentheses in case both components appear in the running text.

Step-by-step APA citation 

  1. Begin with the author’s surname and first name initial

In APA format, the name of the author is inverted. It, therefore, means you list the surname first. After that, place a comma, then insert the initial of the first name. You can separate the names of several authors by commas and use an ampersand (&) before the last person’s name. 

  1. Insert the year of publication

If the source was issued in an academic journal, contain the year in parentheses after the writer’s name. For unpublished papers, you can use the year in which it was written.

  1. Include the research paper title

With the aid of sentence capitalization, write out the full title of the source. It would be best if you also capitalized the first word and names. To include a subtitle, use a colon and capitalize the first letter in the title.

  1. Provide information of your source

If your source was published in a magazine or an academic journal, use the article format to include the information. Unpublished sources will always give you enough information to direct your audience. 

Group authors

It is essential to know how to write an APA bibliography that has individuals, multiple writers, or groups authors. Group authors come as an institution, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. For the reference list, always indicate the full name of the group and abbreviation in the text. 

If your source has only the group name on the title page, treat it as group author. If there are separate names, these will be as multiple writers.

MLA formatting for research papers

Modern Language Association (MLA) is primarily used in humanities and liberal arts. MLAs have principles rather than a set of rules to follow. It does not comprise a cover page, and the context should be in 12 pt.—Times New Romans, double-spaced.

Always use an indented paragraph, half-inch. MLA format research paper will have your surname and page number appear on the upper right-side corner of the page. It should have your name, professor’s name, course, and due date.

Research paper citation in MLA format.

The latest MLA dissertation citation version is the 8th edition which was published in 2016. In-text citation in MLA has the author’s name and page or page-range elements. 

It also takes two forms of in-text citation: narrative and parenthetical. In this case, the parenthetical citation has the author’s surname and page number without any punctuation in between. The narrative source, writer’s surname will appear in the running text and the page number in brackets after it.  

A guideline to MLA citation 

  1. Start with the writers of the paper

Invert the author’s names to start with the surname followed by first names. The first name should be spelled out and not initials. For multiple authors, use commas to separate them.

  1. Write the title of the source.

In MLA style, titles, and subtitles should be enclosed using quotation marks. You should capitalize most words. Exclude conjunctions or short articles unless they are at the beginning of the title or subtitle. 

  1. Mention the source’s location 

MLA format operates under the concept of containers. When citing, always list the smallest container followed by the larger as you ascend to the largest. 

Works-cited list

MLA style use the title “works cited” rather than referencing a new page after the paper text. The list comprises of all the sources used in the essay with different elements contingent on the source type. 

The authors should be in alphabetical order of the first writer. If the author is unknown, use the title. When alphabetizing the titles, ignore the articles “the,” “an,” and “a.” For multiple works of a single author, you should sequence them using dates. 

The first reference must have the writer’s full name. You should format your works cited list by double-spacing. The second and the line that follows should be indented by half-inch from the margin. 

Writing a works cited list can be confusing since different sources require different formats of how to cite a research paper. For instance, citing a book or chapters in a book differs from citing a journal or magazine.

Chicago research paper format

Chicago format is used in humanities, arts, and literature. You are required to cite your sources in footnotes. Chicago format research paper offers you a chance to express credibility and accountability to related references in your essay. 

It helps you to use block quotations in your research paper. The format has two citation forms: author-date style and notes and bibliography plan. The latest Chicago version is the 8th edition. 

Notes and bibliography style

You cite sources in footnotes in full or condensed citation and use a superscript. You place the raised numbers at the end of the sentences. It helps to show readers that the text contains information from different sources. 

Every superscript should link to an item on the end-notes or footnotes. Footnotes are the notes at the bottom of a page, while end-notes the information is placed at the end of the paper. 

Full citation follows the sequence of the first name, surname, title. The location, publisher, and publication year follow in parentheses in that order. Lastly, you include the page number where the info is found. 

A simple guide of how to cite a research paper in Chicago style uses shortened footnotes for multiple-time citations. It includes the author’s surname, shortened title, and the page number. The entries in the bibliography should be in alphabetical order. 

Author-date style

The author-date form offers an easy writing technique for in-text citation in Chicago style. The format mentions the writer’s surname, publication year, and the page number. You will use a comma to separate the page number from the year of publication. 

For multiple authors, you provide the surname of the first writer, followed by the first names of other authors. Separate the names using commas and place a period at the end of the authors’ element. 

How to cite thesis

The format of citing another person’s thesis will depend on whether it is published, unpublished, or available from a database. It is also subjected to the nature of your thesis. But  How long is a thesis statement

When citing a thesis, you ought to look for the following data;

  • Author’s name (surname, first and middle name initials)
  • Year of publication
  • Thesis title
  • Name of associated institution

You will also know the type of thesis you are citing and the format you are using, whether MLA, APA, or Chicago. When citing the published thesis in the database, you will include the archive name, and the institution appears after the title, enclosed in brackets.

Citing unpublished thesis requires that you indicate “unpublished” to your bracket description and mention the university outside the parentheses. You can obtain an unpublished dissertation from the author directly or in print form from the university. 

Key takeaway

This article had provided a detailed guide on how to cite a research paper. It can be challenging at first, but you will master the art with time.  You must show the readers your concepts, facts, and ideas and those that were borrowed. 

Whether you will use direct quotes, paraphrase, or summarize, you must acknowledge the source. The only exception is for information that is deemed as common knowledge. For instance, George Washington was United States’ first president. You can, however, place your order on citing your research for further assistance

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