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In-Text Citations: The Basics

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APA (American Psychological Association) style is most commonly used to cite sources within the social sciences. This resource, revised according to the 6 th edition, second printing of the APA manual, offers examples for the general format of APA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the reference page. For more information, please consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , (6 th ed., 2 nd printing).

Note:  This page reflects APA 6, which is now out of date. It will remain online until 2021, but will not be updated. The equivalent APA 7 page can be found here .

Reference citations in text are covered on pages 169-179 of the Publication Manual. What follows are some general guidelines for referring to the works of others in your essay.

Note:  On pages 65-66, the Publication Manual suggests that authors of research papers should use the past tense or present perfect tense for signal phrases that occur in the literature review and procedure descriptions (for example, Jones (1998) found or Jones (1998) has found ...). Contexts other than traditionally-structured research writing may permit the simple present tense (for example, Jones (1998)  finds ).

APA citation basics

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

In-text citation capitalization, quotes, and italics/underlining

  • Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.

( Note: in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized: Writing new media .)

  • When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word: Natural-Born Cyborgs .
  • Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's Vertigo ."
  • Italicize the titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums: The Closing of the American Mind ; The Wizard of Oz ; Friends .
  • Put quotation marks around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles, articles from edited collections, television series episodes, and song titles: "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds;" "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."

Short quotations

If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference (preceded by "p."). Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.

According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time" (p. 199).

Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199); what implications does this have for teachers?

If the author is not named in a signal phrase, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.

She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style" (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.

Long quotations

Place direct quotations that are 40 words or longer in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many students failed to purchase a style manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)

Summary or paraphrase

If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference, but APA guidelines encourage you to also provide the page number (although it is not required).

According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners.
APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).

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Cite your sources

  • is the right thing to do  to give credit to those who had the idea
  • shows that you have read and understand  what experts have had to say about your topic
  • helps people find the sources  that you used in case they want to read more about the topic
  • provides   evidence  for your arguments
  • is professional and  standard practice   for students and scholars

What is a Citation?

A citation identifies for the reader the original source for an idea, information, or image that is referred to in a work.

  • In the body of a paper, the  in-text citation  acknowledges the source of information used.
  • At the end of a paper, the citations are compiled on a  References  or  Works Cited  list. A basic citation includes the author, title, and publication information of the source. 

Citation basics

From:  Lemieux  Library,  University  of Seattle 

Why Should You Cite?

Quoting Are you quoting two or more consecutive words from a source? Then the original source should be cited and the words or phrase placed in quotes. 

Paraphrasing If an idea or information comes from another source,  even if you put it in your own words , you still need to credit the source.  General vs. Unfamiliar Knowledge You do not need to cite material which is accepted common knowledge. If in doubt whether your information is common knowledge or not, cite it. Formats We usually think of books and articles. However, if you use material from web sites, films, music, graphs, tables, etc. you'll also need to cite these as well.

Plagiarism is presenting the words or ideas of someone else as your own without proper acknowledgment of the source. When you work on a research paper and use supporting material from works by others, it's okay to quote people and use their ideas, but you do need to correctly credit them. Even when you summarize or paraphrase information found in books, articles, or Web pages, you must acknowledge the original author.

Citation Style Help

Helpful links:

  • MLA ,  Works Cited : A Quick Guide (a template of core elements)
  • CSE  (Council of Science Editors)

For additional writing resources specific to styles listed here visit the  Purdue OWL Writing Lab

Citation and Bibliography Resources

Writing an annotated bibliography

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APA In-Text Citations for Research Writing

how to cite sources within research paper

Why Use In-Text Citations?

When writing a journal article, literature review, convention paper, or any other academic document, authors must include in-text citations whenever they refer to, summarize, paraphrase, or quote from another source. In addition, every time a work is cited within a paper (in APA style, a parenthetical citation), a corresponding entry must be included in the reference list.

How to Cite a Research Paper Using In-Text Citations

The rationale behind citing other people’s publications in your own manuscript is that you want to avoid intellectual dishonesty by giving credit to whoever reported a finding first or invented a specific technique. This is not only an ethical question, as being “sloppy” with your sources can easily be considered plagiarism (and even self-plagiarism , if you fail to refer to your own work), which can have legal consequences and damage your reputation.

General rules for what information should be provided when citing sources in a research paper vary across fields and depend on the type of source (e.g., books, journal articles, patents, conference proceedings, websites, etc.). We are not going into such differences here but will focus on the correct way of referencing other people’s research in your own paper according to one of the most common styles used to cite sources within the social sciences and in several other academic disciplines , that is, APA (American Psychological Association) style .

In research papers, in-text citations are most commonly used in the Introduction and Discussion Results sections. The following guidelines and examples are taken from the APA Publication Manual, 6th edition, 2nd printing , which details rules and application of APA style in research papers, including in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and references. For more information, consult the APA Style Manual website .

This resource provides detailed guidelines for citing sources in your paper and includes examples of in-text citations for reference by research authors. Before submitting your manuscript to a journal or publisher, be sure to use our free APA citation generator for your references and in-text citations.

APA Citation Rules: The Basics

Order and structure of in-text citation content.

When using APA format, follow the “author-date” method of in-text citation. Write the author’s last name and publication year for the source in parentheses and separate these pieces of information with a comma.

When referring to external work or referencing an entire work but not directly quoting the material, you only need to make a reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your citation.

The results of the first enzyme study (Chen et al., 2014) revealed several relationships.

If you mention the name of the author of the work in the sentence or earlier in the paragraph, you only need to include the year of publication in the citation.

Chen (2014) discusses several relationships revealed in this study.

Verb tense used in referring to other works

APA style requires authors to use past tense or present perfect tense (NOT present tense) when using signal phrases to refer to or discuss previous research (have a look at this article for more details on the correct tenses for different parts of a research paper ).

Radnitz (1995) found… / Radnitz (1995) has found…

Placement of in-text citations in the sentence (no quotation)

When referring to a specific work or works, place the citation (publication date only) directly after the author of the study referenced.

Klinge and Rogers (2010) found that mirroring is instrumental in developments of performative gender roles.

When giving information that reflects the results or implications of previous work, place the citation (author and publication date) at the end of the sentence.

Mirroring has been found to be instrumental in the development of performative gender roles (Klinge and Rogers, 2010).


Always capitalize author names and initials in in-text citations.

(r. kazinsky, 2014)    (R. Kazinsky, 2014)

In-Text Citation Rules for Short Quotations

When quoting directly from a work, include the author, publication year, and page number of the reference (preceded by “p.”).

Method 1 : Introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author’s last name; the publication year will follow in parentheses. Include the page number in parentheses at the end of the quoted text. Note that the quotation marks surround the text only, and not the parenthetical citation.

According to Khan (1976), “Graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research” (p. 45). Khan (1976) noted that “graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research” (p. 45), a fact that has profound implications for research departments.

Method 2 : If the author is absent in the signal phrase, include the author’s last name, the publication year, and the page number together in parentheses after the quoted text.

Researchers noted that “graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research” (Khan, 1976, p. 45), but they did not offer a suggestion as to the cause.

In-text Citation Rules for Long Quotations

Long direct quotations are those with at least 40 words of quoted text in a row. Long quotes should be placed in a separate block of lines without quotation marks, similar to creating a new paragraph. Begin the quotation on a new line and indent 0.5in/1.27cm from the left margin. Type the entire quotation within these new margins using double-spacing. Include the parenthetical citation after the final punctuation mark.

Khan’s (1976) study found the following: Graduate students tend to apply more diverse methods during their first two years of research, especially when conducting research in teams of three or fewer with no senior researchers    present. This tendency could be attributed to either a misunderstanding of correct methodology or to a feeling of freedom to explore different approaches that the researchers have yet to employ. (p. 45)

Summarizing and Paraphrasing Other Works

When  paraphrasing another work , you only need to cite the author and year of publication in your in-text citation. It may be a good idea to include the page number as well if the paraphrased information is located on a specific page of the original text. APA guidelines encourage this inclusion but do not require it.

According to Khan (1976), new researchers tend to use more diverse methodologies. New researchers tend to use more diverse methodologies (Khan, 1976, p. 45).

Common Signal Phrases for Introducing External Works

  • According to Johnson (publication year)…
  • As Johnson (publication year) has noted…
  • Johnson and Smith (publication year) contend that…
  • As Johnson’s (2011) study revealed…

Citing Works by Multiple Authors/Editors

When making an in-text citation of works by multiple authors, there are specific rules to follow depending on the number of authors of a publication and the number of times you cite the same works.

Citing Multiple Works in One In-text Citation

When citing more than one source in the same in-text citation, list all sources in the standard way and separate them with a semi-colon. List the sources alphabetically (by author’s last name or by title if no author is given) in the order they appear in the reference list.

(Marsh, 1997; Johnson, 2002). (Kazinsky, 2017; “Three Different Roads,”  2013).

Citing Works by the Same Author with the Same Publication Year

When citing two or more sources with the same author and year of publication, assign lowercase letters directly after the year of publication (a, b, c) according to the alphabetical order of titles. You will use the same alphabetical designations in your in-text citations that you do in your reference list.

The incidence of West Nile virus in Florida increased between 2002 and 2004 (Dickens, 2014a). According to Dickens (2014b), “these viral infections were precipitated by record levels of rainfall around the peninsula” (p. 150).

Citing a Work Quoted in another Source

Work quoted or paraphrased in another text is called a “secondary source.” While in your reference list you must cite the primary source as well, in your in-text citation you will add the words “as cited in” followed by the secondary source. For example, if a review article by Franklin you are citing includes a useful quote by Adams that supports your paper, your in-text citation would look like this:

According to a study by Adams (as cited in Franklin, 2016), 25% of all US federal prisoners have been diagnosed with some form of social disorder. Adams (as cited in Franklin) contends that this statistic “reflects the dehumanizing conditions of most federal institutions” (p. 76).

Citing Web Pages

Entire website.

When citing an entire website (with no specific webpage or article given), simply provide the title and web address within the text of your paper. No citation is needed in the References.

The American Psychological Association includes detailed information on how to apply APA citation (http://www.apa.org).

Webpage with author(s)

A webpage with an individual author or authors should be cited in the same way as other texts, with the name or names written first, followed by the publication year.

There were 523 new cases reported in 2011 alone (Kristoff, 2012).

Webpage with a group author

Treat group authors as individual authors in in-text citations, but instead of the author’s last name, include the name of the group.

Claustrophobia afflicts one in five Britons (The Surrey Group, 2003).

Webpage with missing information

Even when some central information is missing from a website (e.g., no author, date, or webpage title), you may still cite it as a source if you use the correct formatting. For information on how to cite a website with missing information, visit the APA Style Blog post on  Missing Pieces .

Citing social media sources

For a more comprehensive explanation of social media citation guidelines, visit the APA Style Blog post on  How to Cite Social Media in APA Style .

And when submitting your finished AP document to journals or for a class assignment, be sure to get professional English editing services , including academic editing , manuscript editing , and research paper editing services . Professional editors with experience in APA, AMA, MLA, and other popular style guides will make sure that your document’s citations and references conform to the journal of your choice.

Wordvice Resources

Wordvice provides a variety of other articles on topics such as the number of references your manuscript should contain , different citation styles if your target style does not use APA, and how to paraphrase correctly when citing sources in your paper, as well as more general advice on how to write research papers on the Wordvice academic resources website .

PhD Assistance

How to correctly cite sources in research paper, introduction.

Academic writing necessitates the use of citations. You should include a citation that gives attribution to the respective author if you utilize ideas and knowledge from a source such as a book, article, or web page. To avoid plagiarism, a citation is essential. There are many different referencing styles , each with its own set of formatting criteria. In scholarly work, a citation style is a set of standards for citing sources. Official guidebooks with descriptions, illustrations, and directions are frequently produced with citation style requirements. The following are the most prevalent citation styles:

  • In the humanities, MLA style is used (literature or languages)
  • In the social sciences, the APA style is used (psychology or education)
  • In history, Chicago notes and bibliographies are used.
  • In the sciences, the author-date format is used.


When to cite sources

In all kinds of scholarly texts , references are mandatory. You must cite a reference every whenever you use it to expand on ideas, summarize facts, argue the case, or offer evidence. You have to cite sources when you do the following:

  • Quote or rephrase the actual document to link to a source:
  • Take a brief piece of text verbatim and place it within quotation marks to quote a resource.
  • Put the material around your own terms to summarize a source.

To avoid plagiarism, whether you cite or rephrase, you should always add a citation. Referencing also helps your audience to locate the primary author for themselves, enhancing the credibility of your article. You can trust us for  PhD Dissertation Writing Help .

Remember to reference any other materials you utilize for concepts, illustrations, or proofs, in addition to scholarly articles like books and journals. Webpages, YouTube clips, reference books, seminars, and online media comments all fall under this category.

 Which citation style to use

Check the requirements first because many university departments and scholarly articles need a citation style. You must choose a citation style and utilize it uniformly through your paper if no reference style is mentioned.

Your best option is determined by your subject and specialty. In the social sciences, APA is the most widely used style, whereas in the humanities, MLA is the most widely used style. Other fields, such as medicine or engineering, have their own distinct styles.

You can find out what style your professor uses by asking them or reading previous papers in your field. PhD Assistance experts has experience in handling to Publish the  journal papers in all research subjects   with assured 2:1 distinction. Talk to Experts Now

In-text citations and full references

There are two fundamental components to every source citation:

  • Next to the necessary material, include a brief in-text citation.
  • A complete reference that includes all of the information needed to locate the original source.

Citations in the text: In-text citations are usually written in parenthesis and include the author’s last name as well as a year or page number (depending on the citation style). You can trust us for  Future PhD Research Services . Footnotes, endnotes, or bracketed numerals that match reference data are used in some styles. Each citation style has its own set of criteria for citing:

  • sources with numerous authors
  • sources without a name for the author
  • sources with an unclear publication date
  • sources that don’t have page numbers
  • a single author’s many sources

References, also known as Works Cited or Bibliography, are frequently listed at the end of a document.

The author, title, and publication date of the source are always included in full references. They also contain additional information that aids in the identification of the source. Contact PhD Assistance  for reference collection and Future Research work.

A reference’s specific format is determined by the type of source. A book reference, for example, includes the publisher and, on occasion, the edition, whereas a journal article reference includes the volume and issue numbers as well as the page range where the article occurs.

Using a citation generator

It might be tough to get every detail exactly because each style has so many little variances. Using a citation generator is the simplest method. The generator will automatically generate an in-text reference and reference entry in the correct format if you use a URL or DOI, or if you manually enter the resource details. You can save your list of references as you go along and then download it after you’re through.

 Checking your citations

A plagiarism checker ensures that you’ve included citations where they’re required, whereas a citation checker ensures that your citations are properly formatted.

It is critical to correctly cite sources in order to avoid plagiarism in your content. Plagiarism is more than merely copying and pasting the words of another author.

  • VanScoy, A., Julien, H., & Harding, A. (2022). “Like Putting Broccoli in a Quiche”: Instructors Talk about Incorporating Theory into Reference Courses. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, e20210022.
  • Reed, M., Kinder, D., & Farnum, C. (2022). Collaboration between librarians and teaching faculty to teach information literacy at one Ontario university: Experiences and outcomes. Journal of information literacy, 1(3), 29-46.
  • Dwivedi, Y. K., Hughes, L., Cheung, C. M., Conboy, K., Duan, Y., Dubey, R., … & Viglia, G. (2022). How to develop a quality research article and avoid a journal desk rejection. International Journal of Information Management, 62, 102426.
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Citing Your Sources

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When you use ideas that are not your own, it is important to credit or cite the author(s) or source, even if you do not quote their idea or words exactly as written. Citing your sources allows your reader to identify the works you have consulted and to understand the scope of your research. There are many different citation styles available. You may be required to use a particular style or you may choose one.

One of the commonly used styles is the APA (American Psychological Association) Style.

APA style stipulates that authors use brief references in the text of a work with full bibliographic details supplied in a Reference List (typically at the end of your document). In text, the reference is very brief and usually consists simply of the author's last name and a date.For example:

...Sheep milk has been proved to contain more nutrients than cow milk (Johnson, 2005).

In a Reference list, the reference contains full bibliographic details written in a format that depends on the type of reference. Examples of formats for some common types of references are listed below. For additional information, visit the University of Arkansas libraries webpage on citing your sources . Another useful web-site on this topic is here.

Author last name, Author First Initial. Author Second Initial. (Publication Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume(issue) (if issue numbered), pages.

Bass, M. A., Enochs, W. K., & DiBrezzo, R. (2002). Comparison of two exercise programs on general well-being of college students. Psychological Reports, 91(3), 1195-1201.

Author Last Name, Author First Initial. Author Second Initial. (if there is no author move entry title to first position) (Publication year). Title of article or entry. In Work title. (Vol. number, pp. pages). Place: Publisher.

"Ivory-billed woodpecker." (2002). In The new encyclopædia britannica. (Vol. 5, p. ). 15th ed. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.

Author Last Name, Author First Initial. Author Second Initial. (if there is no author move entry title to first position) (Publication year). Title of article or entry. In Work title. Retrieved from (database name or URL).

Ivory-billed woodpecker. (2006). In Encyclopædia britannica online. Retrieved from http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9043081

Author last name, Author First Initial. Author Second Initial. (Publication Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Magazine,volume, pages.

Holloway, M. (2005, August). When extinct isn't. Scientific American, 293, 22-23.

Author last name, Author First Initial. Author Second Initial. (Publication Year, Month Day). Title of article. Title of Magazine. volume, pages. Retrieved from (database name or URL).

Holloway, M. (2005, August). When extinct isn't. Scientific American, 293, 22-23. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Page Author Last Name, Page Author First Initial. Page Author Second Initial. Page title [nature of work - web site, blog, forum posting, etc.]. (Publication Year). Retrieved from (URL)

Sabo, G., et al. Rock art in Arkansas [Web site]. (2001). Retrieved from http://arkarcheology.uark.edu/rockart/index.html

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  • Citing sources

How to Cite Sources | Citation Generator & Quick Guide

Citing your sources is essential in  academic writing . Whenever you quote or paraphrase a source (such as a book, article, or webpage), you have to include a  citation crediting the original author.

Failing to properly cite your sources counts as plagiarism , since you’re presenting someone else’s ideas as if they were your own.

The most commonly used citation styles are APA and MLA. The free Scribbr Citation Generator is the quickest way to cite sources in these styles. Simply enter the URL, DOI, or title, and we’ll generate an accurate, correctly formatted citation.

Generate accurate citations with Scribbr

Table of contents, when do you need to cite sources, which citation style should you use, in-text citations, reference lists and bibliographies.

Scribbr Citation Generator

Other useful citation tools

Citation examples and full guides, frequently asked questions about citing sources.

Citations are required in all types of academic texts. They are needed for several reasons:

  • To avoid plagiarism by indicating when you’re taking information from another source
  • To give proper credit to the author of that source
  • To allow the reader to consult your sources for themselves

A citation is needed whenever you integrate a source into your writing. This usually means quoting or paraphrasing:

  • To quote a source , copy a short piece of text word for word and put it inside quotation marks .
  • To paraphrase a source , put the text into your own words. It’s important that the paraphrase is not too close to the original wording. You can use the paraphrasing tool if you don’t want to do this manually.

Citations are needed whether you quote or paraphrase, and whatever type of source you use. As well as citing scholarly sources like books and journal articles, don’t forget to include citations for any other sources you use for ideas, examples, or evidence. That includes websites, YouTube videos , and lectures .

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Usually, your institution (or the journal you’re submitting to) will require you to follow a specific citation style, so check your guidelines or ask your instructor.

In some cases, you may have to choose a citation style for yourself. Make sure to pick one style and use it consistently:

  • APA Style is widely used in the social sciences and beyond.
  • MLA style is common in the humanities.
  • Chicago notes and bibliography , common in the humanities
  • Chicago author-date , used in the (social) sciences
  • There are many other citation styles for different disciplines.

If in doubt, check with your instructor or read other papers from your field of study to see what style they follow.

In most styles, your citations consist of:

  • Brief in-text citations at the relevant points in the text
  • A reference list or bibliography containing full information on all the sources you’ve cited

In-text citations most commonly take the form of parenthetical citations featuring the last name of the source’s author and its year of publication (aka author-date citations).

An alternative to this type of in-text citation is the system used in numerical citation styles , where a number is inserted into the text, corresponding to an entry in a numbered reference list.

There are also note citation styles , where you place your citations in either footnotes or endnotes . Since they’re not embedded in the text itself, these citations can provide more detail and sometimes aren’t accompanied by a full reference list or bibliography.

A reference list (aka “Bibliography” or “Works Cited,” depending on the style) is where you provide full information on each of the sources you’ve cited in the text. It appears at the end of your paper, usually with a hanging indent applied to each entry.

The information included in reference entries is broadly similar, whatever citation style you’re using. For each source, you’ll typically include the:

  • Author name
  • Publication date
  • Container (e.g., the book an essay was published in, the journal an article appeared in)
  • Location (e.g., a URL or DOI , or sometimes a physical location)

The exact information included varies depending on the source type and the citation style. The order in which the information appears, and how you format it (e.g., capitalization, use of italics) also varies.

Most commonly, the entries in your reference list are alphabetized by author name. This allows the reader to easily find the relevant entry based on the author name in your in-text citation.


In numerical citation styles, the entries in your reference list are numbered, usually based on the order in which you cite them. The reader finds the right entry based on the number that appears in the text.

Vancouver reference list example

Scribbr Citation Checker New

The AI-powered Citation Checker helps you avoid common mistakes such as:

  • Missing commas and periods
  • Incorrect usage of “et al.”
  • Ampersands (&) in narrative citations
  • Missing reference entries

how to cite sources within research paper

Because each style has many small differences regarding things like italicization, capitalization , and punctuation , it can be difficult to get every detail right. Using a citation generator can save you a lot of time and effort.

Scribbr offers citation generators for both APA and MLA style. Both are quick, easy to use, and 100% free, with no ads and no registration required.

Just input a URL or DOI or add the source details manually, and the generator will automatically produce an in-text citation and reference entry in the correct format. You can save your reference list as you go and download it when you’re done, and even add annotations for an annotated bibliography .

Once you’ve prepared your citations, you might still be unsure if they’re correct and if you’ve used them appropriately in your text. This is where Scribbr’s other citation tools and services may come in handy:

Plagiarism Checker

Citation Checker

Citation Editing

Plagiarism means passing off someone else’s words or ideas as your own. It’s a serious offense in academia. Universities use plagiarism checking software to scan your paper and identify any similarities to other texts.

When you’re dealing with a lot of sources, it’s easy to make mistakes that could constitute accidental plagiarism. For example, you might forget to add a citation after a quote, or paraphrase a source in a way that’s too close to the original text.

Using a plagiarism checker yourself before you submit your work can help you spot these mistakes before they get you in trouble. Based on the results, you can add any missing citations and rephrase your text where necessary.

Try out the Scribbr Plagiarism Checker for free, or check out our detailed comparison of the best plagiarism checkers available online.

Scribbr Plagiarism Checker

Scribbr’s Citation Checker is a unique AI-powered tool that automatically detects stylistic errors and inconsistencies in your in-text citations. It also suggests a correction for every mistake.

Currently available for APA Style, this is the fastest and easiest way to make sure you’ve formatted your citations correctly. You can try out the tool for free below.

If you need extra help with your reference list, we also offer a more in-depth Citation Editing Service.

Our experts cross-check your in-text citations and reference entries, make sure you’ve included the correct information for each source, and improve the formatting of your reference page.

If you want to handle your citations yourself, Scribbr’s free Knowledge Base provides clear, accurate guidance on every aspect of citation. You can see citation examples for a variety of common source types below:

And you can check out our comprehensive guides to the most popular citation styles:

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

The abbreviation “ et al. ” (Latin for “and others”) is used to shorten citations of sources with multiple authors.

“Et al.” is used in APA in-text citations of sources with 3+ authors, e.g. (Smith et al., 2019). It is not used in APA reference entries .

Use “et al.” for 3+ authors in MLA in-text citations and Works Cited entries.

Use “et al.” for 4+ authors in a Chicago in-text citation , and for 10+ authors in a Chicago bibliography entry.

The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .

APA format is widely used by professionals, researchers, and students in the social and behavioral sciences, including fields like education, psychology, and business.

Be sure to check the guidelines of your university or the journal you want to be published in to double-check which style you should be using.

MLA Style  is the second most used citation style (after APA ). It is mainly used by students and researchers in humanities fields such as literature, languages, and philosophy.

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  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • 11. Citing Sources
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

A citation is a formal reference to a published or unpublished source that you consulted and obtained information from while writing your research paper. In-text citations are embedded within the body of your paper and use a shorthand notation style [e.g., author's last name and item's date of publication in parentheses] that refers to the complete description of the item at the end of the paper. Materials cited at the end of a paper may be listed under the heading References, Sources, Works Cited, or Bibliography. The way in which you cite your sources depends on the writing style manual your professor wants you to use for the class [e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, Turabian, etc.]. Note that some disciplines have their own citation rules [e.g., law].

Citations: Overview. OASIS Writing Center, Walden University; Research and Citation. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Citing Sources. University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

Reasons for Citing Your Sources

Reasons for Citing Sources in Your Research Paper

English scientist, Sir Isaac Newton, once wrote, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Citations support actively learning how to "see further" through processes of intellectual discovery and applying a deliberate method of navigating through the scholarly landscape by tracking how cited works are subsequently used by different scholars over time.

Listed below are eight specific reasons why citing sources is an important part of doing good research:

  • S hows the reader where they can go to find more information . In the most fundamental sense, citations help readers expand their knowledge about the research problem. One of the most effective strategies for locating authoritative, relevant sources about a topic is to review the materials cited in the works of other authors. In this way, the sources you cite in your paper help the reader determine where to go to better understand the topic.
  • Increases your credibility as an author . Citations to the words, ideas, and arguments of scholars demonstrates that you have conducted a thorough review of the literature and, therefore, that you are reporting the findings of your research or proposing any recommended courses of action from an informed and critically engaged perspective. Collectively, your cited sources provide evidence that you understand that knowledge creation is non-linear and contested.
  • Reinforces your arguments . Citing sources is the means by which you document the fact that you have properly addressed the " So What? " question. This refers to whether you thoroughly considered the significance of the research problem and its implications applied to creating new knowledge and understanding . In this way, citations draw attention to and support the legitimacy and originality of your own ideas.
  • Demonstrates that you have "listened" to the relevant conversations among scholars before joining in . Your citations tell the reader where you developed an understanding of the debates that have taken place among scholars. In this way, your cited sources provide evidence concerning how you educated yourself about ongoing conversations within relevant communities of researchers before inserting your own arguments and ideas. In academic, peer-reviewed research, most of these conversations take place in books, reports, and journal articles.
  • Delineates alternative approaches to explaining the research problem . If you disagree with an author's ideas or you believe that a topic has been understudied or you find there is a gap in how scholars have understood the research problem, your citations serve as the source materials from which to analyze and present an alternative viewpoint or to argue that there is a need to pursue a different course of action.
  • Helps the reader understand the context of your argument . The sources you cite provide a way for readers to understand the specific circumstances, conditions, or settings of the research problem being investigated and, by extension, the means by which your argument can be fully understood and assessed. Citations place your line of reasoning within a specific contextualized framework based on how other researchers have studied the problem.
  • Frames the long-term development of concepts and ideas within the literature . No topic rests in isolation from research that has been conducted in the past. Your citations help the reader understand the growth and transformation of the ideas, theoretical assumptions, and systematic inquiries that have taken place prior to your current engagement with the research problem.
  • Supports critical thinking and independent learning . Judging the authenticity, reliability, validity, and originality of prior research is an act of interpretation, reflection, and introspective thinking applied to evaluating whether the source will effectively contribute to understanding the problem in ways that are persuasive and align with your overall research objectives. As a researcher, you don't approach reviewing and citing sources as a passive process, but as an act of critically scrutinizing sources as part of your overall assessment of how scholars have effectively addressed the research problem.

Aksnes, Dag W., Liv Langfeldt, and Paul Wouters. "Citations, Citation Indicators, and Research Quality: An Overview of Basic Concepts and Theories." Sage Open 9 (January-March 2019): https://doi.org/10.1177/2158244019829575; Ballenger, Bruce P. The Curious Researcher: A Guide to Writing Research Papers . 7th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2012; D'Angelo, Barbara J. "Using Source Analysis to Promote Critical Thinking." Research Strategies 18 (Winter 2001): 303-309; Mauer, Barry and John Venecek. “Scholarship as Conversation.” Strategies for Conducting Literary Research, University of Central Florida, 2021; Why Cite? Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale University; Citing Information. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Harvard Guide to Using Sources. Harvard College Writing Program. Harvard University; Newton, Philip. "Academic Integrity: A Quantitative Study of Confidence and Understanding in Students at the Start of Their Higher Education."  Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 41 (2016): 482-497; Referencing More Effectively. Academic Skills Centre. University of Canberra; Using Sources. Yale College Writing Center. Yale University; Vosburgh, Richard M. "Closing the Academic-practitioner Gap: Research Must Answer the “SO WHAT” Question." H uman Resource Management Review 32 (March 2022): 100633; When and Why to Cite Sources. Information Literacy Playlists, SUNY, Albany Libraries.

Structure and Writing Style

Referencing your sources means systematically showing what information or ideas you acquired from another author’s work, and identifying where that information come from . You must cite research in order to do research, but at the same time, you must delineate what are your original thoughts and ideas and what are the thoughts and ideas of others. Citations help achieve this. Procedures used to cite sources vary among different fields of study. If not outlined in your course syllabus or writing assignment, always speak with your professor about what writing style for citing sources should be used for the class because it is important to fully understand the citation style to be used in your paper, and to apply it consistently. If your professor defers and tells you to "choose whatever you want, just be consistent," then choose the citation style you are most familiar with or that is appropriate to your major [e.g., use Chicago style if its a history class; use APA if its an education course; use MLA if it is literature or a general writing course].


1. Are there any reasons I should avoid referencing other people's work? No. If placed in the proper context, r eferencing other people's research is never an indication that your work is substandard or lacks originality. In fact, the opposite is true. If you write your paper without adequate references to previous studies, you are signaling to the reader that you are not familiar with the literature on the topic, thereby, undermining the validity of your study and your credibility as a researcher. Including references in academic writing is one of the most important ways to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of how the research problem has been addressed. It is the intellectual packaging around which you present your thoughts and ideas to the reader.

2. What should I do if I find out that my great idea has already been studied by another researcher? It can be frustrating to come up with what you believe is a great topic only to find that it's already been thoroughly studied. However, do not become frustrated by this. You can acknowledge the prior research by writing in the text of your paper [see also Smith, 2002], then citing the complete source in your list of references. Use the discovery of prior studies as an opportunity to demonstrate the significance of the problem being investigated and, if applicable, as a means of delineating your analysis from those of others [e.g., the prior study is ten years old and doesn't take into account new variables]. Strategies for responding to prior research can include: stating how your study updates previous understandings about the topic, offering a new or different perspective, applying a different or innovative method of data gathering, and/or describing a new set of insights, guidelines, recommendations, best practices, or working solutions.

3. What should I do if I want to use an adapted version of someone else's work? You still must cite the original work. For example, maybe you are using a table of statistics from a journal article published in 1996 by author Smith, but you have altered or added new data to it. Reference the revised chart, such as, [adapted from Smith, 1996], then cite the complete source in your list of references. You can also use other terms in order to specify the exact relationship between the original source and the version you have presented, such as, "based on data from Smith [1996]...," or "summarized from Smith [1996]...." Citing the original source helps the reader locate where the information was first presented and under what context it was used as well as to evaluate how effectively you applied it to your own research.

4. What should I do if several authors have published very similar information or ideas? You can indicate that the idea or information can be found in the works of others by stating something similar to the following example: "Though many scholars have applied rational choice theory to understanding economic relations among nations [Smith, 1989; Jones, 1991; Johnson, 1994; Anderson, 2003], little attention has been given to applying the theory to examining the influence of non-governmental organizations in a globalized economy." If you only reference one author or only the most recent study, then your readers may assume that only one author has published on this topic, or more likely, they will conclude that you have not conducted a thorough literature review. Referencing all relevant authors of prior studies gives your readers a clear idea of the breadth of analysis you conducted in preparing to study the research problem. If there has been a significant number of prior studies on the topic, describe the most comprehensive and recent works because they will presumably discuss and reference the older studies. However, note in your review of the literature that there has been significant scholarship devoted to the topic so the reader knows that you are aware of the numerous prior studies.

5. What if I find exactly what I want to say in the writing of another researcher? In the social sciences, the rationale in duplicating prior research is generally governed by the passage of time, changing circumstances or conditions, or the emergence of variables that necessitate a new investigation . If someone else has recently conducted a thorough investigation of precisely the same research problem that you intend to study, then you likely will have to revise your topic, or at the very least, review this literature to identify something new to say about the problem. However, if it is someone else's particularly succinct expression, but it fits perfectly with what you are trying to say, then you can quote from the author directly, referencing the source. Identifying an author who has made the exact same point that you want to make can be an opportunity to add legitimacy to, as well as reinforce the significance of, the research problem you are investigating. The key is to build on that idea in new and innovative ways. If you are not sure how to do this, consult with a librarian .

6. Should I cite a source even if it was published long ago? Any source used in writing your paper should be cited, regardless of when it was written. However, in building a case for understanding prior research about your topic, it is generally true that you should focus on citing more recently published studies because they presumably have built upon the research of older studies. When referencing prior studies, use the research problem as your guide when considering what to cite. If a study from forty years ago investigated the same topic, it probably should be examined and considered in your list of references because the research may have been foundational or groundbreaking at the time, even if its findings are no longer relevant to current conditions or reflect current thinking [one way to determine if a study is foundational or groundbreaking is to examine how often it has been cited in recent studies using the "Cited by" feature of Google Scholar ]. However, if an older study only relates to the research problem tangentially or it has not been cited in recent studies, then it may be more appropriate to list it under further readings .

NOTE:   In any academic writing, you are required to identify which ideas, facts, thoughts, concepts, or declarative statements are yours and which are derived from the research of others. The only exception to this rule is information that is considered to be a commonly known fact [e.g., "George Washington was the first president of the United States"] or a statement that is self-evident [e.g., "Australia is a country in the Global South"]. Appreciate, however, that any "commonly known fact" is culturally constructed and shaped by social and aesthetical biases . If you are in doubt about whether or not a fact is considered to be widely understood knowledge, provide a supporting citation, or, ask your professor for clarification about how the statement should be cited.

Ballenger, Bruce P. The Curious Researcher: A Guide to Writing Research Papers . 7th edition. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2012; Carlock, Janine. Developing Information Literacy Skills: A Guide to Finding, Evaluating, and Citing Sources . Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2020; Harvard Guide to Using Sources. Harvard College Writing Program. Harvard University; How to Cite Other Sources in Your Paper. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Lunsford, Andrea A. and Robert Connors; The St. Martin's Handbook . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989; Mills, Elizabeth Shown. Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace . 3rd edition. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2015; Research and Citation Resources. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Why Cite? Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, Yale Univeraity.

Other Citation Research Guides

The following USC Libraries research guide can help you properly cite sources in your research paper:

  • Citation Guide

The following USC Libraries research guide offers basic information on using images and media in research:

Listed below are particularly well-done and comprehensive websites that provide specific examples of how to cite sources under different style guidelines.

  • Purdue University Online Writing Lab
  • Southern Cross University Harvard Referencing Style
  • University of Wisconsin Writing Center

This is a useful guide concerning how to properly cite images in your research paper.

  • Colgate Visual Resources Library, Citing Images

This guide provides good information on the act of citation analysis, whereby you count the number of times a published work is cited by other works in order to measure the impact of a publication or author.

Measuring Your Impact: Impact Factor, Citation Analysis, and other Metrics: Citation Analysis [Sandy De Groote, University of Illinois, Chicago]

Automatic Citation Generators

The links below lead to systems where you can type in your information and have a citation compiled for you. Note that these systems are not foolproof so it is important that you verify that the citation is correct and check your spelling, capitalization, etc. However, they can be useful in creating basic types of citations, particularly for online sources.

  • BibMe -- APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian styles
  • DocsCite -- for citing government publications in APA or MLA formats
  • EasyBib -- APA, MLA, and Chicago styles
  • Son of Citation Machine -- APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian styles

NOTE:   Many companies that create the research databases the USC Libraries subscribe to, such as ProQuest , include built-in citation generators that help take the guesswork out of how to properly cite a work. When available, you should always utilize these features because they not only generate a citation to the source [e.g., a journal article], but include information about where you accessed the source [e.g., the database].

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  • Last Updated: Oct 10, 2023 1:30 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide

How To Write a Research Paper

  • 1. Understand the Assignment
  • 2. Choose Topic & Write Thesis Statement
  • 3. Create Concept Map & Keyword List
  • 4. Research Your Topic
  • 5. Create an Outline
  • 6. Write the Paper
  • Assignment Calculator

Why are citations important?

Apa citations.

Good research projects combine data from a variety of sources and carefully document the sources of information and ideas. Research documentation usually appears in two parts: short in-text citations occurring within the actual paper and a longer, complete list of works at the end of the paper called a bibliography, reference list, or works cited page. 

Besides giving credit to the source of information or ideas, there are other great reasons to cite in your research project:

  • Persuasiveness - Your writing will be more persuasive if you cite the research on which you based your own conclusions and arguments.
  • Sharing - Citations make it possible for your professor and other readers to examine interesting sources that you found.
  • Communication -  Correct citations helps you communicate effectively with potential peers within a discipline.
  • Skills -  Correct citation demonstrates your research and documentation abilities to your professor.
  • Avoid Plagiarism -  Correct citation use helps protect you from plagiarizing.

Note: a hyperlink or URL included in the text is not the same as a citation. Ex: "Higher gas prices are on the way (cnn.com/specialreport)." URLs in the text, while common on the internet, are not considered a correct form of scholarly citation.

Video Accessibility

  • Purdue University OWL - Online Writing Lab (APA)
  • APA Citations, 6th Edition -- Seminole State College
  • APA Citations -- Valencia College
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  • Next: Credits >>
  • Last Updated: Oct 31, 2023 9:15 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.seminolestate.edu/researchpaper

How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: Step 5: Cite

  • Get Started
  • 1a. Select a Topic
  • 1b. Develop Research Questions
  • 1c. Identify Keywords
  • 1d. Find Background Information
  • 1e. Refine a Topic
  • 2a. Search Strategies
  • 2d. Articles
  • 2e. Videos & Images
  • 2f. Databases
  • 2g. Websites
  • 2h. Grey Literature
  • 2i. Open Access Materials
  • 3a. Evaluate Sources
  • 3b. Primary vs. Secondary
  • 3c. Types of Periodicals
  • 4a. Take Notes
  • 4b. Outline the Paper
  • 4c. Incorporate Source Material
  • 5a. Avoid Plagiarism
  • 5b. Zotero & MyBib
  • 5c. MLA Formatting
  • 5d. MLA Citation Examples
  • 5e. APA Formatting
  • 5f. APA Citation Examples
  • 5g. Annotated Bibliographies

Using Information Legally and Ethically

how to cite sources within research paper

Citing resources is common practice for writers engaged in any type of research. By providing citations, the writer is contributing to the ongoing scholarly discussion of the topic. Properly cited resources:

  • Attribute credit where credit is due
  • Provide credibility for your arguments
  • Demonstrate evidence of your research
  • Offer a path for your readers for ongoing scholarship
  • Help avoid plagiarism

The legal and ethical issues surrounding the use of information goes beyond avoiding plagiarism and properly citing sources .

Researchers should be knowledgable about isses related to:

  • freedom of speech
  • intellectual property
  • billions of pages of web content,
  • millions of pages of proprietary content from subscription publications, and
  • over 80 million student papers previously submitted to Turnitin.

Easy-to-read Originality Reports help teach students about proper citation and ensure their academic integrity.

Your instructor may choose to use the T urnitin service which is embedded within the Canvas course management system.

What are Citations?

Choosing a Citation Style

Various disciplines have preferred citation styles, depending, usually, on which bits of information about sources is most relevant to researchers. Commonly used styles are:

  • APA (American Psychological Association) -  used in   psychology, education, and other social sciences (See  Basics of APA Style  tutorial.)
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) -  used in literature, arts, and humanities
  • Chicago -  used in the humanities and social sciences
  • Turabian -   based on Chicago style, and designed for students to use with all subjects - used in many disciplines in humanities, social sciences and natural sciences
  • APSA (American Political Science Association) -  used in political science ( APSA Style Manual )
  • ACS (American Chemical Society)  - used in chemistry
  • CSE (Council of Science Editors)  - used in biology

Your instructor may want you to use a particular style. When in doubt, ask.

The following style guide books are available on reserve at the Library Services Desk. They can be checked out for use in the Library only.

  • APA ( Publication manual of the American Psychological Association , 6th ed.)
  • MLA ( MLA handbook for writers of research papers , 7th ed.)
  • Chicago style ( The Chicago Manual of Style , 16th ed.)
  • Turabian ( A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations,  2013)

See Purdue Owl: Research and Citation Resources , or ask at the Library Services Desk for help.

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  • Next: 5a. Avoid Plagiarism >>
  • Last Updated: Sep 28, 2023 1:09 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.elmira.edu/research


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    Citations are a crucial part of any major paper, research project, or scholarly article. While the expectations surrounding citations can vary from educator to educator, there are plenty of free tools available to help you generate successf...

  3. What Is a “work Cited” Page?

    A works cited page lists the references used in a paper written in MLA or APA format. The works cited page differs from a bibliography; a works cited page lists references used throughout the paper, while a bibliography page lists all the s...

  4. How To Cite a Research Paper: Citation Styles Guide

    The components in a citation or reference entry are devised to allow the reader to identify or locate the specific source that is cited (Lanning, 2016).

  5. In-Text Citations: The Basics

    When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source

  6. Cite Your Sources

    A citation identifies for the reader the original source for an idea, information, or image that is referred to in a work. In the body of a paper, the in-text

  7. APA In-Text Citations for Research Writing

    When using APA format, follow the “author-date” method of in-text citation. Write the author's last name and publication year for the source in

  8. Citing/Documenting Resources

    To cite a source means to give credit for the original source of information, an idea, or way of articulating an idea. It is a standardized method of

  9. How to correctly cite sources in research paper?

    Introduction · Quote or rephrase the actual document to link to a source: · Take a brief piece of text verbatim and place it within quotation

  10. Citing Your Sources (APA Style)

    Author Last Name, Author First Initial. Author Second Initial. (if there is no author move entry title to first position) (Publication year). Title of article

  11. How to Cite Sources

    In-text citations most commonly take the form of parenthetical citations featuring the last name of the source's author and its year of publication (aka author-

  12. 11. Citing Sources

    Referencing your sources means systematically showing what information or ideas you acquired from another author's work, and identifying where

  13. Citations

    Research documentation usually appears in two parts: short in-text citations ... cite sources using APA and formating a paper in APA style.

  14. How to Do Research: A Step-By-Step Guide: Step 5: Cite

    Citing resources is common practice for writers engaged in any type of research. By providing citations, the writer is contributing to the ongoing scholarly