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Research paper writing manual: citing sources

Citations are an important part of research paper writing. They provide reference to published materials used during research. This allows the reader of the paper to reference the source or locate copies for their own interest. When a citation is not completed correctly it may be considered incomplete, especially when limited information is made available about the source. It is also important to understand why it is important to properly cite sources, since some print content (books and articles found on and offline) may not correctly cite a source.

What Materials Need to Be Cited

In most cases whatever you use as a source to get information for your paper needs to be cited. This includes books, articles and electronic sources. Each source may require the writer to include specific information about it in an orderly fashion, while being able to distinguish the type of source it is. For instance, a book citation may include publication date or year, publisher and periodical issue if relevant.

An article citation (such as a scholar journal, newspaper or magazine) may include article title, book title if content is a story or poem, inclusive page numbers, volume number, journal title, publisher and place of publication. Electronic sources such as content found online through an article database may include the internet address or URL, date accessed or retrieved, title, author, and other content depending on academic level.

Understanding Citation Styles

There are a few citation styles commonly used by academic students that help you cite sources accurately. Because different forms have developed the student may have specific guidelines to follow for the style they need to use. Common styles used include Chicago Manual of Style, American Psychological Association (APA), and Modern Language Association (MLA). Each style will have a format for you to follow that will help you properly cite each source you use. There are handbooks and samples available on and offline you can refer to for further understanding.

The Significance of Citations

Many students wonder why sources are cited in the first place. You want to inform your reading audience about sources used while giving credit to sources you accessed. Others feel it is an important element in avoiding plagiarism. This is when information from a source is copied without giving credit and passing it off as your own. This act has serious consequences for academic students that may result in course failure, non-credit for work completed, or even expulsion from school.