11 Tips for Citing Your Research Paper Correctly


Having to cite your sources can seem like a boring step in the writing process. It’s often tempting to skip the task until the eleventh hour and find yourself in a desperate rush to put together a list of quotes riddled with mistakes at the end.

Save yourself the stress with these handy citation tips that can take your research paper to the next level.

1. Follow your style guide

A style guide is a set of standards for writing and formatting a document. You will need them when you start writing a research paper. Make sure you know which style guide you should use for your paper. Different styles follow their unique set of rules for formatting, in-text citations, and how to list citation entries.

Some of the most common style guides used by academics are MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style).

2.… and be consistent with that

Your style guide is usually determined by an instructor or faculty members in your department. Sometimes you may need to use different styles for different classes.

Whatever style you follow, make sure it’s consistent throughout the project. Check your quotes at the end of your essay to make sure of any last minute improvements that might be needed before you hand in your work.

3. Be careful with menstrual placements

It’s strange to think that a misplaced period (.) Could wreak havoc on your research paper – but welcome to academia! Be very careful about where you place your points and make sure they match the style of citation you are using.

For the majority of style guides, like APA and MLA, the period is almost always placed outside and after parentheses (brackets). You can remember this by remembering that the quote belongs inside the sentence to which it refers.

Example: Professors report that many students find it difficult to position themselves on the period when citing texts (11 Tips for Citing Your Research Paper Correctly, 2021).

4. If necessary, cite yourself

Self-plagiarism is a real thing and you can be guilty of it without even knowing what it means. It might sound strange, but if you borrow an idea from a previous article you wrote, without the proper citation, you are pleading.

Let’s say you have been active in a field of research for some time and your current work is an extension of previous studies. In such cases, you can reuse data from one of your previous papers. Remember to cite yourself as you would cite the work of others.

5. Understand when to cite resources

When writing an academic article, you seek out and present other people’s ideas to help discuss your own. You need to make it clear which idea belongs to whom.

Whether you are taking a direct quote, paraphrasing, or even referring to a general thought, you must indicate the original source. It’s almost always better to over-reference than under-reference, otherwise you risk plagiarizing.

You don’t need to cite facts. It’s widely believed that WWI started in 1914, so you wouldn’t need to quote that – unless you find someone arguing differently, of course!

6. Use an online citation generator

An online quote generator helps you produce fully formatted quotes after entering information about your sources. If you have a hard time remembering different styles or struggling to make sense of a whole stack of sources, a citation tool can be a godsend.

With these you insert source details into defined fields, define your SEO style and pouf! A perfectly generated and error-free reference list will appear.

7. Determine the types of sources

In order to produce a top-notch article, chances are good that you will consult different types of sources: books, films, journal articles, etc.

While it is easy to determine the types of sources if you physically manipulate them, there are many resources today that are digitally produced and available online. This means you might be viewing a chapter of a book in a PDF on a website, which is confusing!

Always refer to a formal guide for your SEO style to help you decide.

If you are really not sure, ask a librarian. They will often know the answer or where to find it.

8. Quote as you write (and don’t leave it until the end!)

Once you’ve gathered all of your resources and started writing your article, be sure to complete your quotes as you write. It can be tempting to write the article first and worry about adding and formatting quotes at the end, but don’t be tempted.

By the time you finish your paper you may be washed out, and writing a good bibliography requires attention to detail. So start early, write like a pro, and quote as you go.

9. Match your in-text quotes to your final reference list

Whenever you include information from an external source, you need two things: an in-text citation / footnote and a list of references / bibliography entry. But it’s often easy to put your reference in the text and then forget the full reference at the end.

This common mistake is easily avoided. Once you think you’re done, go back and map your in-text references or footnotes to each matching entry at the end. This simple check can save you a lot of hassle!

10. Avoid repeating referencing the same source several times

Sometimes you might find yourself citing a source for virtually every sentence. Sometimes it can be the same source and you will end up feeling very repetitive.

In most SEO styles, you can work around this problem by making it clear that future sentences will refer to a single source. Write an introductory sentence that refers to that source, and be sure to make it clear where the source thoughts end and your own thoughts begin.

Example: Clark (2010) suggests that increasing penalties and educating drivers could combat the problem. However, one of the most striking issues in Clark’s argument is …

11. Cite the correct amount

Should a 1000 word essay include 10 sources or 100? There is no magic number for the number of quotes you should include in your essay, and more isn’t always better. What matters is how your use of the sources improves your essay.

However, if you are truly feeling lost, your teacher may be able to give you a rough indication of how many sources they might expect you to include.


Writing well documented and perfectly formatted paper takes time. However, if you’re thorough with your style guide, careful with your formatting, and use a few handy tips to improve your research game, you’ll get an A + – for your list of quotes at least 😉


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