How To Cite Sources in a Research Paper

When you are writing a research paper, it is very important that you put in your sources, whether you are quoting, summarizing, or paraphrasing the work of another author. The way to do it is by adding footnotes or endnotes at the bottom of each page of your research paper or placing parenthetical documentation beside the quoted passage. Citing sources is the means to provide a link to your sources of quotes, passages and summaries. It is also the means to give credit to the authors whose previous works have aided you in coming up with your own research paper. This will help you avoid plagiarism, too. A bibliography should also be included at the end of your research paper.

There are several style guides for citing sources. Sometimes your instructor will specify the style that he wants you to use. Other times, it is up to you to use the style that you are familiar with and feel comfortable in using.  The format of your citations depends on your chosen citation style. Check out the different citation styles below and how and where these are applied.

  1. The most common citation styles that have been developed are the Modern Language Association of America or better know as MLA, the APA or American Psychological Association style guide and the Chicago Manual of Style, also called the Chicago Style Guide or the Turabian Style Guide.
  2. The MLA is often used when the research paper talks about topics in the field of humanities, arts and literature. For papers on the social sciences, the preference is to use the APA Style Guide, while most writers and topics in the field of history prefer to use the Chicago Style Guide.
  3. These three popular style guides only have minor differences in how the citation is presented. It is best that you read all the instructions in the published manuals for these different style guides for clarification. To illustrate how the style guides differ, here are examples of how it is done for book references:


McDonald, Malcolm H.B., and Morris, Peter. The Marketing Plan: A Pictorial Guide For Managers. London: Heinemann, 1987. Print.

  You can view a short guide here, which is based on the MLA Handbook for  
  Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition.


McDonald, M.&Morris, P. (1987). The marketing plan: A pictorial guide for managers. London: Heinemann.

  You can view a tutorial of how the APA style is done at the website.


McDonald, Malcolm H.B., and Morris, Peter. The Marketing Plan: A Pictorial Guide for Managers. London, Heinemann, 1987.

 You can read more about this citation style at the Chicago Manual of Style Online.

There are more rules to follow, including how you format the whole research paper, citing printed articles and online publications. Decide which style works best for you and maintain it throughout your work. Consistency of style is one of the things that your instructor will look for when you hand in your research paper.


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