Citing Sources in Research Papers
Citing sources refers to the process of documenting the sources you use so that others can find them. Most research builds on research that has come before, so as you cite sources, you allow others to see the research that has contributed to your project.
For an explanation of the text below, see the video tutorial Citing Sources in MLA Style (5:29)
The Two Parts of the Citation Process
Although there are different citation formatting styles (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago), most require you to cite your work in two places in a research paper.
First part in the body of the paper: At the place in your paper where you refer to the information from another source, you will need to place a reference to the source. For MLA or APA, this may be a short parenthetical citation, so-called because you need to put brief information (such as the author's name and page number with MLA style) in parentheses. For some styles, you may need to place a reference to a footnote or endnote.
Second part at the end of the paper: At the end of your paper, you should place the full source information in a list of works that may be called the References, Works Cited, or Bibliography. For this list, follow the formatting guidelines of your specific style.
Example: Transferring Information from Research Sources to Your Paper (MLA Style)
Let’s say you're writing your paper and pulling information from sources. You find a source from a scholarly article and you summarize the argument it presents. At the point in your paper that you summarize the argument, you should put a short reference to the source. Because this is MLA style, you’ll use the author’s last name and the specific page number for the information in parentheses. Then you’ll add the complete reference to your list of Works Cited at the end. The Works Cited entries will be placed in alphabetical order and each line after the first line of each entry should be indented.
Then you find a great quote from a magazine article. You add the quote to your paper with a short citation in parentheses, and then add the complete reference to your list of Works Cited.
And then you find a statistic from a government website. You add the statistic to your paper. Because the website does not have an author or page number, you just place the title of the webpage in parentheses. Then you add the complete reference to your list of Works Cited. And so on...
Check out these Style Guides for more help with citing sources in MLA, ALA, Chicago, and other styles. Here are a few good ones to get your started: