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Citation and Formatting Assistance

Looking for citation help? Need your formatting questions answered? Look no further!

Citation Styles
Why Cite?
Avoiding Plagiarism
Citing Scripture: Handout
Come to the RWC

Citing sources is a key part of any research paper, primarily for two reasons: 1). To help readers
follow your research, and 2). To give your sources the proper credit for their ideas, words, or research.

These handouts and videos should get you started:

Main Three Styles:

APA: The Sciences and Social Sciences

Chicago and Turabian: The Social Sciences

MLA: The Humanities

Unusual Citation Styles:

ASA (American Sociological Association)

AMA (American Medical Association)

ASM (American Society of Microbiology)

GSA (Geological Society of America)

IEEE (Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers)

CSE (Council of Science Editors)

What's the big deal?

Properly citing your source material is vital to cultivating good research habits. It lets readers know where you found your material in case they want to follow in your research footsteps. It helps you recognize the valuable contributions of the authors and organizations you’re citing (and thereby avoid plagiarizing). It reinforces the mindset that writing is a conversation—both with the reader and the other writers whose work you’re engaging. And it protects you in the (hopefully rare) case the research you’re citing is wrong or misguided.

The most common style guides students use are MLA and APA, but there are hundreds of publishers with their own rules and requirements, from what to include in the citation to how to format the bibliography page.

Nonetheless, every style guide generally has the same expectation: writers need to signal

  • Where they found source material somewhere in the text (typically called “in-text citations”) and
  • Writers need to include “full publication information” in some form of bibliography (endnote, footnote, or works cited page).

For example, a paper following MLA guidelines would use parenthetical in-text citations in the body of the text to let readers know where the material came from:

  • “According to a study from educational psychologists, 85% of college students expect to learn critical thinking skills over memorizing facts and figures” (Smith 45).

At the end of the paper, the MLA research would then include this source’s full publication information as part of a works cited page:

  • Smith, Jane. The Modern College Student. Intelligent Press, 2021.

APA is a little different, in that in-text citations include the year of the source’s publication and the paper itself must follow a different format (not to mention what must be included in the “references” page).

The good news is, you shouldn’t feel pressure to memorize these style guides—just know how to find and use them. The key is that you’re documenting your material to help your readers follow along, to give credit where credit is due, and to engage in conversation.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Failure to properly credit the work of others is called plagiarism. Plagiarism gives a false impression of originality and is considered dishonest. This handout provides general concepts related to plagiarism, but always tailor your work, including the inclusion and citation of sources, to your audience and assignment.

Citing Sources

There are many citation styles, but they all function in similar ways. An in-text citation or footnote directs readers to a section at the end of your work that lists full citations for each source used (i.e., a bibliography, references, or works cited). The partial citation included in the text and the full citation included at the end of the work signals where your work ends and the work of others begins and directs readers to the sources used to inform your work.

Incorporating Sources

Sources are used within academic work to show how your work fits into a larger conversation on a topic and as evidence to support your own ideas. Sources can be quoted, summarized, paraphrased, or included visually (e.g., figures, tables, etc.). Avoid plagiarism by clearly acknowledging where your work ends and another's work begins. In addition to citing sources, you can effectively incorporate sources by introducing the source, providing context for the source, fairly representing original ideas of the source.

  • Introducing the Source: According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) ...
  • Providing Context: In the wake of the 2018 measles outbreak, the CDC announced that
  • Representing the Original Idea: "Young people have a higher risk" (represents the original idea) vs "People have a higher risk" (misrepresents the original idea)

Common Knowledge

Information does not need to be cited if it is common knowledge. A few types of common knowledge include commonly known general facts and popular opinion.

  • General Fact: George Washington was the first President of the United States.
  • Popular Opinion: The ideals of democracy can be seen throughout the U.S. Constitution.

Becoming more familiar with writing in your discipline will help you to develop an understanding of what is considered common knowledge for your audience.

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Are you ready to talk with one of our consultants about your own citations? If so, here are some questions you might bring to the consultations:

  1. Am I properly citing my sources? What key pieces of information might I be missing?
  2. Have I effectively introduced my material?
  3. Is my paper formatted correctly?
  4. If you wanted to, could you follow my sources?