When and How to Cite a Research Paper

Referencing sources is part of the paper writing process when researching. It improves the validity of the research and shows that other researchers agree with what you believe about a particular issue. In a way, referencing gives supporting evidence to your ideas.  Not indicating a source might be considered theft because you use others' information without crediting. It is called plagiarism and may even result in a lawsuit against the person. This ethical rule should be followed not just in academic circles but in all types of writing.

How to cite?

There are two ways of citing the source of information:

  1. In-text citation - It is a brief reference that the writer includes in the body of the work. It has different details such as the name, surname of the author, title of the book, year of publication, etc.
  2. Reference list or bibliography – It is often put at the end of the paper and contains all the references in your work. Reference list generally includes more information compared with the in-text citation.

Some writers use both of these methods.

These are some common citation styles in academic writing:

  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Chicago, with two styles: Bibliography and Notes
  • Council of Science Editors (CSE)
  • Harvard

The style preference may depend on the person, publication, research field and academic disciplines.

When to cite the source?

According to the APA, you should credit the source in the following cases:

(Note: It is a direct quote from their website.)

  • paraphrase (i.e., state in your own words) the ideas of others
  • directly quote the words of others
  • refer to data or data sets
  • reprint or adapt a table or figure, even images from the internet that are free or licensed in the Creative Commons
  • reprint a long text passage or commercially copyrighted test item

 ("APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition")

Direct quotes

A direct quotation is an act of using the same words as the original owner. In this case, you should put the text inside of quotation marks or state that you took it from a particular source. Of course, you should also reference the source appropriately.

Paraphrasing and summarizing

Paraphrasing is when you use your own words to describe what the original author says, and it usually has the same length. A summary is an overview of the text in short form.

You may not need quotation marks in these two cases.

You don't need to cite the source of information if it is common knowledge. Also, as a thumb rule, you should reference the source if you can't decide whether you should cite it or not.