Citing Sources In A Research Paper: General Guidelines

Research paper assignments are usually given for one of two reasons. The first is to give students the opportunity to investigate a topic of interest. The second is to learn how to follow the rules of writing these complicated papers. Even though there are numerous manuals and websites that help students understand how to cite their sources, students tend to have challenges understanding this skill. Knowing the general guidelines of citing sources makes the process easier to complete correctly.

  • Know when to cite: The most important guideline for citing sources is knowing what and when to cite source. Generally, if a piece of information is not known by the majority of people, then the information should be cited. This usually applies to dates that are not a part of the regular calendar, statistics that are not common knowledge, and facts that most people do not know. The best way to judge what should and should not be cited is if you knew it before you conducted research, then you do not need to cite the fact.

  • Know how to cite: Most citations include the same things. The name of the author, the place the fact was written, who published the writing, and two dates. Most people will correctly get the date that the fact was published, but they forget to get the date that they found the information. Every citation style has subtly different formatting techniques, but the information is always the same.

  • Know where to get help citing: When you have the information to create the citation, you can make your life much easier by finding a website that will do the formatting for you. The Internet is full of websites that will compile the actual citation, so you do not need to worry about what comes first, where the punctuation goes, and what needs to be capitalized or abbreviated. Prior to the Internet research paper writers were tied to their manuals and the memories; but now, you simply enter information into a website and the citation is created for you.

  • Know where to put the citations: Once you have the citations, you will need to build the list so your readers do not accuse you of plagiarizing. Each documentation style, like APA and MLA, have different formatting for their bibliography or works cited pages. You will also need to know how to show in-text documentation so your readers know what information you gathered from those sources.

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