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How to Cite a Research Paper - A Complete Guide

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Published on: Jan 26, 2018

Last updated on: Jan 11, 2024

How to Cite a Research Paper

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If you're a student working on a research paper, knowing how to cite your sources is crucial. It's important to cite your sources so that readers can easily find them and read more about what you found.

In this blog post, you will be guided through the steps of how to cite a research paper properly. You will be shown helpful examples of citing different types of sources such as websites, books, scholarly journals, and more. 

But wait, there’s more! 

We’ll look into different citation styles and their formats. The goal is to help make the task of correctly citing sources less intimidating so that you can focus on getting your work done.

So, stick around, and let’s dive in!

On This Page

What is a Citation Style?

A citation style is a standardized format for citing sources in academic and research papers. It provides guidelines for how to properly reference books, articles, websites, and other materials to give credit to the original authors. 

It also enables readers to locate the sources easily. Common citation styles include APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard styles.

All citation styles contain the same information elements. They include the author's name, title of the work, publication year, page numbers, website name, and place of publication. However, the order and formatting of these elements vary between different citation styles.

Why is Following Citation Styles Important?

The main reason to cite the added sources and details is to avoid academic theft and intellectual dishonesty. Adding and presenting ideas and quotes of other scholars and researchers without crediting them properly is punishable by law. The person would even have to face legal consequences.

Components of a Research Paper Citation

Citing a research paper involves more than just acknowledging the source; it requires a systematic approach that includes various essential components. 

Let's dive into the 6 key elements of a research paper citation:

1. Title of the Paper

  • The title represents the essence of the research paper. Accurate citation ensures that readers can quickly identify the source and the specific topic under consideration.
    Examples of Properly Formatted Paper Titles:
    In APA style: "The Impact of Climate Change on Global Biodiversity"
    In MLA style: "Exploring the Role of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare"

2. Author(s) of the Paper

  • Citing authors acknowledges their intellectual contribution and provides credibility to your research. It also allows readers to trace the original work for deeper exploration.

3. Journal or Source Information

Properly citing the journal or source where the paper was published helps readers verify the credibility of the source and locate it for further reading. When citing online sources, include the full URL or DOI for accessibility.

4. Publication Date

Publication dates indicate the currency of the source. In fields where information evolves rapidly, citing outdated sources can misinform readers.

5. Page Numbers

Page numbers are crucial when citing specific ideas, quotes, or data from a research paper. They allow readers to pinpoint the exact location of the information within the source.

6. DOI (Digital Object Identifier)

A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string assigned to a digital publication. It ensures a stable and permanent link to the source, making it easy for readers to access and verify the paper.

How to Cite a Research Paper in Different Referencing Styles?

As discussed earlier, different referring styles follow different patterns in which the details are added and presented. 
Check out the informative video below to get a brief understanding of the topic under discussion:

Let's explore the process of citing research papers in various citation styles:

APA Research Paper Format

APA (American Psychological Association) Style is a widely accepted format for academic and research paper writing in various fields, including social sciences. It provides a set of rules and guidelines for formatting papers and citing sources to ensure clarity and consistency in academic writing.

General Formatting Guidelines for Citation:

Here are guidelines on how to cite a research paper in APA 7th edition.

  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides of the paper.
  • Set the font to 12-point Times New Roman or Arial.
  • Double-space the entire paper, including the references.
  • Include a title page with the title, author's name, institution, and running head.
  • Create a running head (a shortened version of the title) on every page.
  • Include page numbers in the top right corner of each page.
  • Indent the first line of each paragraph by 0.5 inches.
  • Use a hanging indent for reference citations.
  • Capitalize the first word and major words of the title.

APA Citation Formats for Different Kinds of Source

Source Type

Format

Example

BooksAuthor, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Publisher.Smith, J. (2019). The Art of Writing. Academic Press.
Journal ArticlesAuthor, A. A. (Year). Title of article. Title of Journal, volume number(issue number), page range.Johnson, L. M. (2020). The Impact of Climate Change. Environmental Science, 25(4), 321-335.
WebsitesAuthor, A. A. (Year, Month Day). Title of web page. Website Name. URLBrown, S. (2021, May 15). How to Cite in APA Style. Academic Writing Guide. https://www.example.com/cite-apa-style  
NewspapersAuthor, A.A.. (Year, Month, Date of Publication). Article title. Magazine Title, pp. xx-xx.Rosenberg, G. (1997, March 31). Electronic discovery proves an effective legal weapon. The New York Times, p. D5.
MagazinesAuthor, A.A.. (Year, a month of Publication). Article title. Magazine Title, Volume(Issue), pp.-pp.Tumulty, K. (2006, April). Should they stay, or should they go? Time, 167(15), 3-40.


Note: For multiple authors, you do not have to add all the authors in the list or even in the in-text citation. For more, read a complete APA format guide and learn to style your paper and citations accordingly.

MLA Research Paper Format

MLA (Modern Language Association) Style is commonly used in the humanities and liberal arts. It emphasizes the author's name and page number in in-text citations and provides guidelines for formatting research papers.

General Formatting Guidelines for Citation:

Here are guidelines on how to cite a research paper MLA.

  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use a legible 12-point font, such as Times New Roman.
  • Double-space the entire paper.
  • Include a header with your last name and page number.
  • Center-align the title and capitalize significant words.
  • Indent the first line of paragraphs by 0.5 inches.

MLA Citation Formats for Different Kinds of Source

Source Type

Format

Example

BooksAuthor(s). Title of Book. Publisher, Year.Smith, John. The Art of Writing. Academic Press, 2019.
Journal ArticlesAuthor(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal, volume, issue, year, page range.
Johnson, Lisa M. "The Impact of Climate Change." Environmental Science, vol. 25, no. 4, 2020, pp. 321-335.
WebsitesAuthor(s). "Title of Web Page." Website Name, URL.Brown, Sarah. "How to Cite in MLA Style." Academic Writing Guide, www.example.com/cite-mla-style
MagazinesLast Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Magazine Name Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.Smith, John. “Obama inaugurated as President.” Time 21 Jan. 2009: 21-23. Print.
NewspapersLast Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Newspaper Name Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.Smith, John. “Steelers win Super Bowl XLIII.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2 Feb. 2009: 4-6. Print.


A comprehensive MLA format guide will help you know and understand this style guide properly. The style uses parenthetical citations and refers to its references as ‘Works Cited.’

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Chicago Style Research Paper Format

Chicago Style is a citation style widely used in history, literature, and other humanities disciplines. It offers two citation systems: the notes and bibliography system and the author-date system.

General Formatting Guidelines for Citation:

  • Use 1-inch margins.
  • Use a legible 12-point font.
  • Double-space the entire paper.
  • Include footnotes or endnotes for source citations.
  • Create a bibliography page listing all sources.

Chicago Citation Formats for Different Kinds of Source

Source Type

Format

Example

Books 
Author(s). Title of Book. Publisher, Year.
Smith, John. The Art of Writing. Academic Press, 2019.
Journal Articles 
Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal volume, no. issue (Year): page range.
Johnson, Lisa M. "The Impact of Climate Change." Environmental Science 25, no. 4 (2020): 321-335.
Websites 
Author(s). Year. "Title of Web Page." Website Name. URL.
Brown, Sarah. 2021. "How to Cite in Chicago Style." Academic Writing Guide. www.example.com/cite-chicago-style. 
Newspapers
Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Newspaper Name, Publication Date.
Smith, John. “Steelers win Super Bowl XLIII.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 2, 2009.
MagazinesLast Name, First Name. Article title. Magazine Title, Month Date, Year of publication.Chan, Dan. The art of pandas. Panda Magazine, Nov 10, 1985.

Chicago style format has many other conventions also, and you can learn them by going through a detailed guide.

ASA Research Paper Format

ASA (American Sociological Association) Style is commonly used in sociology and related fields. It provides guidelines for formatting research papers and citing sources.

General Formatting Guidelines for Citation:

  • Use 1.25-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use a legible 12-point font, typically Times New Roman.
  • Double-space the entire paper.
  • Include a title page with the title, author's name, institution, and running head.

ASA Citation Formats for Different Kinds of Source

Source Type

Format

Example

BooksAuthor’s Last and First Name. Year of Publication. Title. Country of Publisher: Publisher.James, Henry. 2003. The Turn of the Screw. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.
E-Books
Author’s Last and First Name. Year of Publication. Title. Country of Publisher: Publisher. Retrieved Month Day, Year {link}.James, Henry. 2003. The Turn of the Screw. New York: Penguin Books Kindle Version. Retrieved January 18, 2017. {link}
Journal Articles
Author’s Last and First Name. Year of Publication. "Title." Journal Name issue #: inclusive page numbers.Feekins, Bo. 2008. “Chasing Tree Frogs.” National Geographic #182. 6-10.
Magazine Articles
Author’s Last and First Name. Year of Pub. "Title." Magazine Name, Month Year, pp. Inclusive page numbers.Geary, Rachel. 2012. “The Issue with Mastery Learning.” New York Times, April 2002, pp. 15-23.
WebsitesAuthor’s Last and First Name. Date of Publishing. Title. Publisher. Retrieved Month Day, Year {link}.Lee, Bruce. 03.09.2004. Birth of a Nation. Retrieved 18.01.2017. {link}.

Read this complete ASA format and citation guide to know more about the citation style.

IEEE Style Research Paper Format

IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Style is primarily used in engineering and technology fields for research papers and reports.

General Formatting Guidelines for Citation:

  • Use 1-inch margins on all sides.
  • Use a readable 10-12 point font, often Times New Roman.
  • Single-space the text, but leave a space between paragraphs.
  • Number citations consecutively in square brackets [1].

IEEE Citation Formats for Different Kinds of Source

Source TypeFormat

Example

BooksJ. K. Author, "Title of chapter in the book," in Title of His Published Book, xth ed. City of Publisher, (only U.S. State), Country: Abbrev. of Publisher, year, ch. x, sec. x, pp. xxx–xxx.[1] W. K. Chen, Linear Networks and Systems. Belmont, CA: WadsworthPress, 2003.
Conference PapersJ. K. Author, "Title of paper," presented at the Abbreviated Name of Conf., City of Conf., Abbrev. State, Country, Month and day(s), year, Paper number.D. Caratelli, M. C. Viganó, G. Toso, and P. Angeletti, "Analytical placement technique for sparse arrays," presented at the 32nd ESA Antenna Workshop, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, Oct. 5–8, 2010.
PeriodicalsJ. K. Author, "Name of paper," Abbrev. Title of Periodical, vol. x, no. x, pp. xxx-xxx, Abbrev. Month, year.M. Ito et al., "Application of amorphous oxide TFT to electrophoretic display," J. Non-Cryst. Solids, vol. 354, no. 19, pp. 2777–2782, Feb. 2008.
Software ManualsJ. K. Author (or Abbrev. Name of Co., City of Co. Abbrev. State, Country). Name of Manual/Handbook, x ed. (year). Accessed: Date. [Online]. Available: http://www.url.com 
L. Breimann. Manual on Setting Up, Using, and Understanding Random Forests v4.0. (2003). Accessed: Apr. 16, 2014. [Online]. Available: http://oz.berkeley/xyz


To gain a comprehensive understanding of the IEEE style, start by thoroughly reading the comprehensive IEEE citation and format guide.

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In-Text Citations vs. Bibliography/References 

If you are wondering how to cite a research paper in text then you should pay attention to the figure below. It demonstrates in text citation and reference bibliography and shows how in-text citations are different from bibliography: 

In-Text Citations vs. Bibliography References - MyPerfectWords.com

How to Cite a Research Paper with Multiple Authors

Citing a research paper with multiple authors in APA, MLA, and Chicago styles involves some differences in formatting. Here's how to cite a research paper example in each of these citation styles:

Citation Style

In-Text Citation 

Reference Entry (Bibliography/Works Cited)

Notes

APA (7th edition)

First citation: (Smith, Johnson, & Brown, 2021)

Subsequent citations: (Smith et al., 2021)

Smith, J. A., Johnson, R. B., Brown, M.,... (2021). Title of the Paper. Journal Name, volume(issue), page numbers. DOI (if available).Use "et al." for subsequent citations with more than two authors.
MLA (8th edition)
(Smith et al. 78)Smith, John, et al. "Title of the Paper." Journal Name, vol. 7, no. 2, 2021, pp. 76-89.

Use "et al." for papers with three or more authors.

Chicago (17th edition)

Full Note:
First: (John A. Smith, Robert B. Johnson, and Mary C. Brown 2021, 76)
Subsequent: (Smith, Johnson, and Brown 2021, 77)
Short Note:
First: (Smith, Johnson, and Brown 2021, 76)
Subsequent: (Smith, Johnson, and Brown 2021, 77)

Smith, John A., Robert B. Johnson, and Mary C. Brown. "Title of the Paper." Journal Name 7, no. 2 (2021): 76-89.Choose between full and short notes for in-text citations based on your preference or your institution's guidelines.

Common Citation Mistakes to Avoid

Citation errors can undermine your research. Be mindful of these mistakes:

  • Missing Details: Omitting author names, publication dates, or page numbers leaves citations incomplete. Always verify and include these essentials.
  • Formatting Errors: Incorrectly formatting author names, titles, or journal names can lead to inaccuracies. Use style guides for consistency.
  • Plagiarism: Failing to attribute ideas to their authors constitutes plagiarism. Cite sources accurately and paraphrase when needed.
  • Inconsistent Styles: Mixing citation styles or lacking consistency confuses readers. Stick to one style for clarity and coherence.

Tips to Avoid Citation Mistakes

Let’s take a look at tips to avoid mistakes while citing your paper: 

  • Use Citation Management Tools: Tools like EndNote, Zotero, or Mendeley can help you organize, format, and keep track of your citations.
  • Proofread and Edit: Carefully proofread your citations for accuracy and consistency. Check against style guides or manuals.
  • Paraphrase and Quote Properly: When using someone else's ideas, paraphrase or place quotation marks correctly, and provide proper attribution.
  • Double-Check Facts: Verify information, including publication dates and author names, to ensure accuracy.

 

Expert Tip

Explore our blogs for a comprehensive understanding of citation styles beyond the basics. Learn about NLM Citation, APSA Citation, AAA Citation, and AMA Style Citation.


To sum it up, we've taken a comprehensive journey through the ins and outs of citing a research paper in this guide. You've learned the various citation styles and the importance of proper referencing. With the knowledge you've gained, you're now well-equipped to cite your sources effectively and ethically. 

But if you still find citing sources difficult seeking professional help is always an option. MyPerfectWords.com provides a custom paper writing service for your writing needs. We are dedicated to delivering quality work while adhering to your specified deadlines.

Contact now and get research papers for sale at affordable prices from expert writers!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules for citing figures, tables, and images from research papers?

When citing these elements from research papers, use a caption beneath each, including a figure or table number, title, and source citation. In the text, refer to them by their respective numbers (e.g., "Figure 1" or "Table 2").

What is the consequence of not citing a research paper properly?

Improperly citing a research paper can lead to accusations of plagiarism, academic penalties, and damage to one's credibility. Proper citation is essential for giving credit to original authors and maintaining academic integrity.

What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?

A bibliography includes all sources consulted during research, whether cited in the paper or not. A reference list, on the other hand, contains only the sources cited within the text. The key difference is what gets included—everything consulted versus only what's cited.

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Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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