As an academic writer, you have to document your research sources properly. Citing your sources is quintessential when you are working on a research article. It allows your reader to verify your facts and claims, and it proves to your reader that all of the material in the article is valid. However, documenting sources does not have to be as daunting and cumbersome as it sounds. There are many ways to improve the effectiveness of your source materials and make research easier for yourself and your readers. This guide is written to help you create proper citations so that you never have to worry about it again.
What Is Citation?
A citation refers to the source of a quotation, ideas, or other information used in your work. It's one of the critical aspects of academic writing since it allows readers to find your sources as well as helps them judge the quality of your research. If a source you use is vital to your research, including a citation when you mention it can also give you additional credibility.
Why is Citing Sources Important?
When writing a research paper, never forget to credit your sources. In-text citations and works cited pages are the two ways you can do this. The in-text citations are brief bits of text that appear within your paper itself, and the works cited page is a proper list of the sources you used (in alphabetical order) that appears at the end of your article.
The reason for giving credit to sources is to:
- Show your reader that proper research has been done by listing sources you used to get your information.
- Give credit to the author who originally wrote about it and allowed you to share the information with your readers.
- Prevent legal issues on the grounds of copyright infringement.
It's mandatory to give credit where credit is due by listing the source and author of the material you researched or read, be it an article, book, website, or any other source of information.
It also shows readers that you did not come up with this "amazing" idea on your own, but rather someone else did it before you, so they may want to check out that source as well.
What Needs to be Cited?
You must cite a reference when you:
- Provide a direct quotation or paraphrase of others’ work.
- Cite specific facts or ideas rather than just a broad concept.
- Include information in your paper that is widely known or commonly accepted.
- Include lengthy material from a source, such as an encyclopedia article.
In general, if you use someone else's exact words (quotations) or information (paraphrasing) in your research, you need to document where you found this information. In addition, you may find it helpful to consult the publication manual of the American Psychological Association (APA). The APA manual addresses all of these situations and many more.
The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association details precisely what constitutes a proper citation and provides guidelines for citing sources across different fields of study. However, it is essential to remember that the APA publications manual primarily targets academic researchers. So, if your writing does not fall into this category, it would be better to consult the Chicago Manual of Style.
What's Involved in Citing Correctly?
Most papers require a bibliography to be placed at the end. It is not just a list of sources cited but also a list of books, articles, and other materials consulted in the preparation of the report. In the bibliography, alphabetize entries by author's surname. If there are multiple works by the same author, order chronologically according to date of publication (with earlier published work listed first). If you do not know an author's name, alphabetize by title. Also, include any article that is not signed.
The bibliography aims to help readers find each source used in your study and understand what kind of research you have done. The placement and style differ from one field to another; therefore, check your instructor's requirements for a sample bibliography or ask about it during class discussion.
What Citation Style Should I Use?
When choosing a citation style, you should consider first what discipline you are working in. Each of the significant styles has its own rules for citing sources within the text and when to include a Works Cited page at the end of your project.
Education, Psychology, and Sciences use APA (American Psychological Association). In addition, it uses specific guidelines for formatting references, such as including author names and dates when referencing particular types of source material.
The Humanities use MLA (Modern Language Association) style. MLA uses specific guidelines for formatting references to ensure consistency across all projects. It includes documenting all sources within the text of your project and providing a complete list of all sources in alphabetical order on a separate list known as a Works Cited page.
This format, generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts requires particular documentation formats within the body of your project and offers flexibility in creating appropriate Works.
What are the common citation mistakes?
When you are writing a paper and include information from other sources, it is important to cite all your sources in your article and provide complete documentation in the works cited at the very end of your research paper. It is a standard format for documenting sources required by most colleges and universities.
Here are some common citation mistakes that students make:
1. In-text Citation Mistakes
a. Misquoting – A mistake that many students make when citing their sources is misquoting. Not only can this hurt your credibility as an author, but it may also get you in trouble with the teacher who has to correct the mistake in your term paper. To avoid misquoting, double-check the quote to make sure you have it right and use quotation marks, if necessary.
b. Incorrect Page Numbers – When citing a source, include the page number of where you found the information. Page numbers should be included in parentheses following the direct quote or paraphrase. If you do not have page numbers in your source, you may use any other identifying information such as chapter titles or figure numbers instead of page numbers to cite your correct source.
A good bibliography or reference list should include all necessary information so readers can easily find the source used for your input. For example, some people choose to put each entry in alphabetical order by author's last name, while others prefer to put them in chronological order by publication date. You may also see some entries with no author listed, as many older sources do not include an author name. Include every source you used because someone might want to know where you got something less specific.
2. Repetition of the same reference.
Repetition of the same reference after each sentence in a paragraph is an absolute NO. It is unnecessary and leads to confusion. Your purpose of acknowledging the original author as well as citing the source is fulfilled by just referencing it once.
3. Not Citing in Alphabetical order
Correct alphabetization, otherwise known as alphabetical ordering, is important for citations. While Citing authors, always put them in alphabetical order by the author's last name. This makes it easier to find the citations and also avoids confusion.
4. Incorrect Punctuations
When you start writing down citations, one of the most confusing issues is figuring out where to put the comma and periods in your citations. You may even have professors who will pick apart your work in-depth, looking for mistakes you might have made while citing. Therefore, it is always crucial to have at least some examples of correct citations executed correctly before writing out your own.
5. Not defining the citations
Sentences like “Earlier research showed…” and “Previous researches have proved….” are a flaw. It is always advisable to justify and cite the “earlier studies” stated in the article. These sentences need to be referenced to show the original research and source.
When you write an academic paper or write your dissertation, it’s important to make sure that everything is cited properly so that the reader (or examiner) doesn’t become frustrated with bad citing. A well-cited piece is a joy to read. A poorly cited piece of writing, however, ensures the reader will become frustrated with bad citing. Citations can be tricky; however, failing to cite appropriately can lead to your paper being rejected. Therefore, Always remember, “When in doubt, cite!”
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