The Importance of Referencing and Citations in Research papers
A citation is simply a reference to a published or unpublished source.
Citation is a method of telling your audience/readers the source of some aspects within your project. It provides your audience with the necessary information that can be utilised the same source.
Along with information such as author(s), date of publication, title and page numbers, citations may also include unique identifiers depending on the type of work being referred to:
- Citations of books may consist of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
- Specific volumes, articles or other identifiable parts of a periodical, may have an associated Serial Item and Contribution Identifier (SICI) or an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).
- Electronic documents may have a digital object identifier (DOI).
- Biomedical research articles may have a PubMed Identifier (PMID).
Whenever you borrow words or ideas, you need to acknowledge their source. The following situations almost always require citation:
- Whenever you use quotes.
- Whenever you paraphrase.
- Whenever you use an approach that someone else has already expressed.
- Whenever you make specific reference to the work of another.
- Whenever someone else’s work has been critical in developing your own ideas.
Relevance of Citation
- We’re done with the why you need references. Giving credit where credit is due is the only way you can avoid plagiarism. Let’s face facts. There’s no such thing as an original idea, you’re going to have to you someone’s work, either you’re lifting a quote or utilising the concept of research. You have to give them credit.
But besides anti-plagiarism there are a few other reasons to cite your references:
- Citations are beneficial to anyone who wants to find out more about your ideas and where they came from.
- Not all sources are good or right — your own ideas may often be more accurate or engaging than those of your sources. Proper citation will keep you from taking the rap for someone else’s immoral purposes.
- Citing sources shows the amount of research you’ve done.
- Citing sources strengthens your work by lending outside support to your ideas.
Misconceptions of Citations and Referencing
Citations make your work appear to be less original. This is a common misconception people have about referencing their work. And I can’t same it’s enough times, that’s simply untrue. Citing sources actually, helps your reader distinguish your ideas from those of your sources. And necessarily emphasise the originality of your own work.
Let’s discuss two referencing styles:
APA Citation Style
Starting with the APA (American Psychological Association) in-text and reference list citations styles.
Core Components of an APA Reference:
I) APA Referencing Basics: Reference List
A reference list is a comprehensive list of references used in a write-up. It includes:
- the author name,
- date of publication,
- title and more.
An APA reference list must:
- Be alphabetically by the name of first author (or title, if the author isn’t known, in this case a, an and they, should be ignored)
- If there are multiple works by the same author these are ordered by date, if the jobs are in the same year they are ordered alphabetically by the title and are allocated a letter (a,b,c etc.) after the date.
II) APA Referencing Basics: In-Text Citation
An In-text APA reference is citations within the core of the document and refers to a straight quote or paraphrase. They correspond to mention in the main reference list. These citations include the surname of the author and date of publication only. Using an example author James Mitchell, this takes the form:
Projecttopics.org (2019) states… Or … (Projecttopics.org, 2019).
The assembly of the reference changes depending on whether it’s a direct quote or parenthetical used:
Direct Quote: The citation must follow the quote directly and contain a page number after the date, for example (projecttopics.org, 2019, page 1). This rule holds for all of the variations listed.
Parenthetical: The page number isn’t required.
Two Authors: The surname of both authors is stated with either ‘and’ or an ampersand between. For example:
Project and Topics (2019) state… Or … (Project and Topics, 2019).
Three, Four or Five Authors:
For the first cite, all names should be listed:
Project, Topics, and Org (2019) state… Or … (Project, Topics, and Org 2017).
In the case that the authors are unknown, use the first few words as your reference. In most cases, this would be the title of the material. In this case your reference should be italicised. For example:
(Citation Why and How, 2019).
If this is the title of an article, chapter or web page, it should be in quotation marks. For example:
(“Citation Why and How”, 2019).
Citing Authors with Multiple Works from One Year:
Works must be cited with a, b, c etc. following the date. These letters are allocated within the reference list, which is organised alphabetically by the surname of the first author. For example:
(Projecttopics.org, 2017a) Or (Projecttopics.org, 2017b).
Citing Multiple Works in One Parentheses:
If these works are by the same author, the surname is stated once followed by the dates in order chronologically. For example:
Projecttopics.org (2007, 2013, 2017) Or (Projecttopics.org, 2007, 2013, 2017)
If these works are by multiple authors, then the references are ordered alphabetically by the first author separated by a semicolon as follows:
(Mitchell & Smith 2017; Thomson, Coyne, & Davis, 2015).
Citing a Group or Organization:
For the first cite, the full name of the group must be used. Subsequently, this can be shortened. For example:
First cite: (Projecttopics.org, 2019)
Further Cites: (Projecttopics.org Citation, 2017)
Citing a Secondary Source:
In this case, the original author and date should be stated first followed by ‘as cited in’ followed by the author and date of the secondary source. For example:
Projecttopics.org (1988) as cited in John (2019) Or (Projecttopics.org, 1988, as mentioned in Dennis, 2019)
How to Cite Different Source Types
The in-text citation doesn’t vary depending on source type unless the author is unknown.
Reference list citations are highly variable depending on the source.
How to Cite a Book (Title, not chapter) in APA Format
Book referencing is the most basic style; it matches the template above, minus the URL section. So, the basic format of a book reference is as follows:
Book referencing examples:
Project, T.O., Topics, O., & Org, R.P. (2019). Citation Why and How. Lagos, Nigeria: My Publisher
How to Cite an Edited Book in APA Format
This referencing format is very similar to the book format apart from one extra inclusion: (Ed(s)). The basic setup is as follows:
Edited book example:
Williams, S.T. (Ed.). (2015). Referencing: A guide to citation rules (3rd ed.). New York, NY: My Publisher
How to Cite a Chapter in an Edited Book in APA Format
Edited books are collations of chapters written by different authors. To reference a single chapter, a different format is needed. The basic structure is as follows:
Edited book chapter example:
In the following example, B.N. Troy is the author of the chapter, and S.T. Williams is the editor.
Troy, B.N. (2015). APA citation rules. In S.T, Williams (Ed.). A guide to citation rules (2nd ed., pp. 50-95). New York, NY: Publishers.
How to Cite an E-Book in APA Format
An E-Book reference is the same as a book reference expect the publisher is swapped for a URL. The basic structure is as follows:
Author surname, initial(s) (Ed(s).*). (Year). Title (ed.*). Retrieved from URL
Mitchell, J.A., Thomson, M., & Coyne, R.P. (2019). A guide to citation. Retrieved from https://www.projecttopics.org
How to Cite an E-Book Chapter in APA Format
This follows the same structure as an edited book chapter reference except the publisher is exchanged for a URL. The fabric is as follows:
Last name of the chapter author, initial(s). (Year). Chapter title. In editor initial(s), surname (Ed.). Title (ed., pp. Chapter page range). Retrieved from URL
E-Book chapter example:
Troy, B.N. (2015). APA citation rules. In S.T, Williams (Ed.). A guide to citation rules (2nd ed., pp. 50-95). Retrieved from https://www.projecttopics.org
How to Cite a Journal Article in Print or Online in APA Format
Articles differ from book citations in that the publisher and publisher location are not included. For journal articles, these are replaced with the journal title, volume number, issue number and page number. The basic structure is:
Journal Article Examples:
John, Smith .A. (2017). Citation: Why is it so significant. Coverage Journal, 67(2), 81-95
Mitchell, J.A. (2017). Citation: Why is it so important. Mendeley Journal, 67(2), 81-95. Retrieved from projecttopics.org
How to Cite a Newspaper Articles in Print or Online in APA Format
The basic structure is as follows:
Author surname, initial(s). (Year, Month Day). Title. Title of Newspaper, column/section, p. or pp. Retrieved from URL*
**Only include if the article is online.
Note: the date includes the year, month and date.
Newspaper Articles Example:
John, S.A. (2019). Changes to citation formats shake the research world. The Mendeley Telegraph, Research News, pp.9. Retrieved from projecttopics.org
How to Cite Magazine Articles in Print or Online in APA Format
The basic structure is as follows:
Author surname, initial(s). (Year, month day). Title. Title of the Magazine, pp.
Magazine Article Example:
Carl, W.A. (2017). How citation changed the research world. The Mendeley, pp. 26-28
How to Cite Non-Print Material in APA Format
How to Cite an Image in APA Format
Millais, J.E. (1851-1852). Ophelia [painting]. Retrieved from www.website.org.uk/art/artworks/millais-ophelia-n01506
How to Cite a Film in APA Format
Producer surname, initial (Producer), & Director surname, initial (Director). (Year of Release). Title of film [Motion Picture]. Country of Origin: Studio.
John, A. (Producer), & Hitchcock, A. (1954) Rear window. United States of America: Paramount Pictures.
How to Cite a TV Programme in APA Format
Writer surname, initial(s) (Writer), & Director surname, initial(s) (Director). (Year of Release). Episode title [Television series episode]. In Executive producer surname, initial(s) (Executive Producer), TV series name. City, State of original channel: Network, Studio or Distributor
TV Programme Example:
Catlin, M., and Walley-Beckett, Moire (Writers), & Johnson, R (Director). (2010). Fly [Television series episode]. In Schnauz, T. (Executive Producer). Breaking bad. Culver City, CA: Sony Pictures Television
How to Cite a Song in APA Format
Jake, Hello, MNEK, Koenig, E., Haynie, E., Tillman, J., and Rhoden, S.M. (2016) Hold up [Recorded by Beyonce]. On Lemonade [visual album]. New York, NY: Parkwood Records (August 16)
How to Cite a Website in APA Format
When citing a website, the basic structure is as follows:
Author surname, initial(s). (Year, month day). Title. Retrieved from URL
Website Citation example:
John, S.A. (2019, Aug 25). How and when to reference. Retrieved from https://www.projecttopics.org.
To learn more about citing a web page and entire websites in APA, MLA or Harvard, check out How to Cite a Website post.
For a summary of all the references for each source type along with examples take a look at our Ultimate Citation Cheat Sheet. It also contains examples for MLA 8 and Harvard formats.
MLA 8 Citation Style
This is a complete guide to MLA 8 (Modern Language Association, 8th edition) in-text and reference list citations. This easy-to-use, comprehensive guide makes citing any source naturally. Check out our other citation guides on APA and Harvard referencing.
If adding something that isn’t in the original source, add it within square brackets
If the date is approximate, add ‘circa.’ before it
If you are unsure about the components in the cause, follow it with a ‘?’
MLA Referencing Basics: Works-Cited List
In MLA8 format, the reference list is usually titled the ‘Works-Cited List’. This is a list of all the sources referenced within the document and contains the author’s name, source title, date of publication and more information which varies depending on the source type. An MLA Works-Cited List must:
Begin in a new page at the end of the document
Be ordered alphabetically by the name of first author (or title if the author is unknown, in terms of alphabetising this ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’ should be ignored)
If there are multiple works by the same author these are ordered by date, if the jobs are in the same year they are ordered alphabetically by the title.
Entries must be double spaced
Second and subsequent lines of a source must be indented 0.5inches from the margin
If multiple works by the same author are listed, the first reference must contain the full name but subsequent references should have author name replaced with ‘- – -’
Contain full references for all in-text references used
MLA Referencing Basics: In-Text Citation
In-text references must be included following the use of a quote or paraphrase taken from another piece of work.
In-text citations are citations within the main body of the text and refer to a direct quote or paraphrase. In-text citations:
Correspond to a reference in the main reference list.
They contain the first word of the reference, which is usually the author’s surname, and the page, or page-range in which the reference is found.
They come directly after the quote or parenthetical or in a natural pause.
Using the example author James A. John, they take the form:
John states “…” (89) Or (John 89)
More than One Author:
For 2-3 authors, all the names can be listed along with the page number in the following format:
(John, Smith, and Edward 189)
For 3+ authors, only the surname of the first author should be listed, followed by ‘et al.’:
(Edward et al. 189)
In this case, the full title italicised, a shortened title within quotation marks or an article or webpage in quotation marks should be used in place of the author. Using the example of a book ‘A guide to citation’ and an article ‘APA Citation guide’, this takes the form:
Book Title: A Guide to Citation states “..” (189) Or (A Guide to Citation 189)
Article Title: “APA Citation Guide” states “…” (189) Or (“APA Citation Guide” 189)
Authors with Multiple Cited Works:
Include a shortened version of the title within the citation: (Mitchell, A Guide to Citation 189)
Authors with the Same Surname:
In this case, including an initial: (J. John 76) and (M. John 100-120)
No Page Number
If the source includes another numbered pattern (e.g. chapters, paragraphs), then these numbers can be used instead: (John, ch. 7) ch referring to chapter.
If there are no numbered sections, then the name is quoted alone.
Citing a Quote or Parenthetical:
In these cases, use ‘qt.’ before the name: (qt. In John 189)
Citing Audio-Visual Sources:
In these cases a time stamp must be used in place of the page number in the form hh:mm:ss: (Mitchell 00:18:23)
How to Cite Different Source Types
In-text citation only varies with the source type if the author is unknown or if the source is audiovisual (detailed above)
Reference list citations are highly variable depending on the source.
How to Cite Books in MLA Format
Book referencing is the most basic type of reference. The basic format is as follows:
Book Referencing Example:
Smith, Isimilia A. Citation Why and How. 2nd ed, My London Publisher, 2019.
Note: Author name. Title. Version, Publisher, Year of Publication.
How to Cite Edited and Translated Books in MLA Format
The format of these is the same as a book reference except that the editor or translator must be specified. This is done in one of two ways:
Editor or translator is added after the names in the author list. This is done if the editing or translation is the focus of your work. E.g. Carlos, Smith editor.
The names are added to the contributors’ list preceded by ‘translated by’ or ‘edited by’. This is done if the author or work itself is the focus of your work, no the editing or translation. E.g. Edited by James Mendeley,
The two likely formats are:
Last name, first name, editor. Title. Title of container, Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Year of publication. Or
Last name, first name. Title. Title of container, edited by Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Year of publication.
Edited and Translated Book Examples:
Troy, Ben N., editor, and Mary Smith. A Guide to Citation Rules. Oxford Publishers, 2015.
John, Steve and Niccole A. James. MLA Citation Rules. Translated by John Oderinge, Project Topics Publishing’s, 2019.
How to Cite E-Books in MLA Format
An e-book is considered to be a different version of a book, so the e-book identity is entered into the version section of the regular book reference template. Specific providers of the e-book can be referenced for instance kindle which is referenced as ‘kindle ed.’.
The basic format of an e-book citation is:
Last name, first name. Title. Title of container, Contributors, edition, e-book, Number, Publisher, Year of publication.
Troy, Ben N., et al. A Guide to Citation. 2nd ed, e-book, New York Publishers, 2010.
How to Cite a Chapter (or Essay) in a Book in MLA Format
This reference takes a slightly different form to the book reference
Chapter Citation Example:
John, Steve A. “MLA Citation why and how”. Citation Why and How, 2019, pp. 17-34
How to Cite Articles in MLA Format
There are variations between journal, magazine and newspaper article references within the date and title of container sections.
Journal Citation Example:
John, Steve A. “Citation Why and How”. Project Topics Journal, vol. 4, no. 6, John
2019, pp .67-84.
Newspaper/Magazine Citation Example:
Mitchell, James A. “How Citation Changed the Research World”. The Mendeley, weekend edition, vol. 62, no. 9, 6 September 2017, pp. 70-81.
Online Citation Example:
The only change when referencing an online article is the addition of the database title and a URL or DOI corresponding to the report.
John, Steve A. “Citation Why and How”. Project Topics Journal, vol. 2, no. 6, John
2019, pp .67-84. Journal Database, Projecttopics.org
How to Cite Non-Print Material
An image in MLA Format
The basic format to cite an image is as follows:
Creator’s surname, other names. “Title of Image”. Website Title, contributors, reproduction, number, date, URL.
Image Citation Example:
John, Sir John Everett. “Ophelia.” Tate, N01506, 1851-2
Film in MLA Format
The simple construction of a film reference is:
Director name, director. “Title of the film”. Contributors, Distributor, year of release. Medium
However, the title and director name can be swapped if the focus of your work is not on the director:
“Title of the film”. Directed by director name, contributors, Distributor, year of release. Medium
The medium is not needed for MLA8 citation, but it is useful for the reader. If the film is from online, the medium should be swapped for a URL.
John, Craig, director. “Party Time”. Performances by Blossom Fave, Utobo Pictures, 1979. DVD
TV Series in MLA Format
The format is similar to that of a movie reference but includes the episode and season number:
“Episode Title”. Program Title, created by Creator Name, contributors, season #, episode #. Network, Year of Publication.
TV Series Citation Example:
“Long night.” Game of Thrones, written by Dennis Craig, directed by Sam crook, season 8, episode 3, HBO, 2019.
Music in MLA Format
The basic structure for referencing music is:
Author name(s). “Title of the Track”. Title of the Album, other contributors, version, Record Label, Year of Publication
Music Citation Example:
Beyoncé. “Hello”. Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016.
How to Cite a Webpage in MLA Format
The basic format for this is:
Last name of the author, first name. “Title of page/document”. Title of overall webpage, date, URL.
Website Citation Example:
John, Utobo A., and Samuel Gbenga. Citation Why and How. 25 Jan. 2019: Projecttopics.org.
To learn more about citing a webpage and entire websites in MLA, APA or Harvard, check out How to Cite a Website post.
For a summary of all the references for each source type along with examples take a look at our Ultimate Citation Cheat Sheet. It also contains examples for APA and Harvard formats.
I can admit that there’s a lot to consider when referencing sources correctly, and that’s just 2 out of 7 referencing styles we have our citation tool.
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