How to Cite Sources in a Research Paper

How to Cite Sources in a Research Paper

When putting together your ideas with the ideas taken from others, always make sure that you are properly introducing and citing sources. If you don’t, you will be misleading your reader and, in the worst-case scenario, you could be accused of plagiarism. Here are some research paper tips for using outside information in your writing.

There are three ways to incorporate outside sources into your research paper:

1. Summary: Summarize an outside source when you want to gloss the entire argument and include highlights that need to be understood as background information before getting into specific supports for your argument or main idea.

2. Paraphrase: Paraphrase an outside source when you need to use the specific concept the author is treating but you don’t need to preserve the exact language of the text. Paraphrasing is preferable to direct quoting in this case because it allows you to maintain your voice in the research paper.

3. Direct Quotes: Writers directly quote an outside source only when the wording is particular and the meaning of the quote would be lost if the writer were to paraphrase. Writers might also quote when they want to emphasize the speaker’s identity or emphasize the writer’s stance is not the same as their own. If you are placing quotation marks around text and citing it, the wording must be identical to the original even if the original is incorrect. If the original makes a grammar or spelling mistake, maintain the mistake and place ‘[sic]’ next to the mistake.

Whether you are summarizing, paraphrasing or quoting, you must cite the source. If what your writing does not come from general knowledge or your own mind, you must cite the information. How do you cite these outside sources? Depending on your field, you’ll choose one of several formatting guides to follow. To give you an idea, the Humanities use MLA; history fields use APA; journalism uses the Chicago Manual of Style and there are several other fields and formatting guides to go with them. No matter the guide, these are the important pieces of information that need to be included when citing outside sources. Since MLA and APA are two of the major formatting guides, this information will pertain to them.

1. Bibliography or Works Cited where you list the bibliographic information for each source in your paper. 

2. In-text citation that can be linked back to the bibliography provided. Every time you summarize paragraphs or quote an outside source, you need to provide either a footnote or parenthetical citation that allows the reader to find the source information and page number so that if he or she desires, the exact quote can be found in its original context.

3. Introducing the speaker or source of information in the body of your text is often preferable since it gives the reader a sense of why the information is appropriate and credible in your paper. If the speaker is not particularly important, you can simply include the speaker information in the in-text citation.

At first it might feel strange to constantly cite your sources, but the general rule of thumb is to err on the side of caution. Over-citing is safer than under-citing and risking plagiarism. 

Cassie Golie works as a full-time writer for higher education blogs focusing on online education opportunities. Several educational establishments offer online education degrees, including   Northeastern University and Brown University. 

Categories: Writing Tips   Tags: how to cite sources in a research paper, citing sources in a research paper, how to cite a source in a research paper, research paper citing sources