Tips for citing research

To cite or not to cite? That is the question. (Or something like that!) Many people feel that citing too much makes the paper look like a cut-and-paste. Others feel that citing too little takes the research out of research paper. The real question here should not be how much or how little to cite. Instead, ask yourself when you should cite. Are you actually citing everything you should be? If not, toil and trouble might be in your future!

 

Don’t be a copycat!

What to Cite

  • Quotations: This is the most obvious recommendation. Of course, if you use someone’s direct words, verbatim, you must give credit to that person.
  • Summaries: A summary is a way of shortening or generalizing the actual information. But the information, although more concise, still came from another source originally. Therefore, credit must be given where credit is due. Cite the source.
  • Paraphrases: To paraphrase means to rephrase someone else’s words in your own words. Even though you have reconfigured a sentence to be based on your own words, the original thought came from another source. You still must cite the original source!

Remember: Any time a thought did not come from your own mind, the source needs to be cited.

How to Cite

For quotations:

Whether you are using MLA or APA, make sure that your quotation marks end before the parentheses, and your punctuation (unless it is an integral part of the quotation, as would be the case with a question mark) follows the parentheses.

For summaries and paraphrases:

Remember, whether you are using MLA or APA, you should place your final punctuation mark after the parentheses.

MLA:

Cite the author’s last name, followed by the page number.

APA:

Cite the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the year of publication, another comma, the abbreviation for page (p.), and the page number.

NOTE:

The guidelines above are based on sources that provide one author’s name, a year of publication, and page numbers. Many sources do not conveniently fit these requirements, however. One might easily become ensnared by multiple authors, websites, organizations, blogs, interviews, conferences … the list of possibilities goes on and on. Trust the editors at WordsRU to provide accurate citations for all of your varied sources.

 A matter of style

To create a smoother flow of writing, consider introducing your author in the beginning of your sentence. That way, you do not need to cite the author. Try some of these phrases:

  • According to So-and-so …
  • So-and-so explained/concluded/determined …
  • Based on So-and-so’s research …
  • As So-and-so stated/observed/remarked …

 Examples

Let’s consider this quotation by Stephen King in his book On Writing: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

A summary would condense the words: Writers must read and write a lot.

  • As you can see, I have used just the main words to convey the general idea.

To paraphrase, I could state: In order to become a strong writer, one must devote an enormous amount of time to both reading and writing.

  • Here, I used completely different words–my own words–to state the same main idea.

As previously noted, I cannot include any of these references in an essay without citing Mr. King. Here is how that would look:

MLA

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” (King 139).

Writers must read and write a lot (King 139).

In order to become a strong writer, one must devote an enormous amount of time to both reading and writing (King 139).

Notice that the format for the parenthetical citation did not change. Whether you are providing a direct quotation, a summary, or a paraphrase, cite the author’s last name and the page number.

If you provide the author’s name in your sentence, you need only cite the page number:

As noted by author Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” (139).

APA

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” (King, 2002, p. 139).

Writers must read and write a lot (King, 2002, p. 139).

In order to become a strong writer, one must devote an enormous amount of time to both reading and writing (King, 2002, p. 139).

Once again, the format for in-text citations did not change. Whether you are providing a direct quotation, a summary, or a paraphrase, cite the author’s last name, the date of publication, and the page number.

If you provide the author’s name in your sentence, cite the date of publication directly after the author’s name; cite the page number at the end:

As noted by author Stephen King (2002), “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot” (p. 139).

A Review

  • cite all quotations
  • cite all summaries
  • cite all paraphrases
  • try to provide the author’s name in the sentence
  • MLA: provide the author’s last name and page number
  • APA: provide the author’s last name, date of publication, and page number

 

The bottom line is that you should never steal another person’s thoughts. By citing sources, you are proving that you have taken the time to conduct your research, extrapolate the pertinent information, and rephrase in a manner that complement’s your writing piece.

What frustrates or confuses you about citing sources?

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