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Research and Writing (RaW): 7. Check Your Citations

Guiding you through the process of finding information - from knowing that you need certain locating, evaluating, and effectively using said information.

Detailed Citation Guide

With examples and detailed information to guide you through the process.

A citation indicates to people viewing your work that certain arguments, quotes, or ideas originated from another author's work. Together, your in-text citations and your reference list, show readers how you built your argument.

*It's important to note that all in-text citations should point to an item in the reference list...and that all items in your reference list should be utilized in-text at some point.


  • Supports your ideas and provides evidence
  • Protects intellectual property rights
  • Ensures the accuracy of scientific and scholarly knowledge
  • Enables others to follow the progression of knowledge over time (if they like your paper, they can consult the works you cited to further research relevant topics that helped you frame your argument)
  • Prevents you from plagiarizing, which is a serious offense in the scholarly and academic fields.

If you're ever in doubt about whether or not to cite, CITE!

Citing is imperative for anything that is not your own, original thought and for facts that are not common knowledge.

What is common knowledge? Any fact that is widely known.
-George Washington was the first president of the United States.
-Hawaiʻi is the 50th state in the USA.
-Queen Liliʻuokalani was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

There are three ways to cite in-text: quoting, summarizing, and/or paraphrasing.

Consider the following example passage and consult with the table below:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.

from pp. 46-47 of:

Lester, J. D. (1976). Writing Research Papers (2nd ed.). Glenview, Illinois: Scott Foresman.

  What? Why? How? Example:
Paraphrase Restating, in your own words, the author’s words or ideas

-To simplify or clarify the original text

-To demonstrate comprehension of original source

-Reflect on what the author has written, then rewrite it using your own words and sentence structure

-Be sure to accurately represent the author

In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester, 1976).

Quote Using the author’s exact words

-To support or add credibility to your arguments.

-When the original is difficult to rephrase

-When the author's original wording is succinct and needs no improvement.

-Use “quotation marks” to mark someone else’s words

-Ensure the quote is identical to the original

-In his book, Writing Research Papers, James Lester (1976) asserts that "students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes" which leads them to then use too many quotations in their papers (pp. 46-47).

-Students tend to use too many quotations in their research papers because they "frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes" (Lester, 1976, pp. 46-47).

Summarize Condensed/distilled version of the author’s words or ideas

-To include only main points of the original text

-To give a broad overview of the source material

-A summary is shorter than a paraphrase and covers main points only.

-Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester, 1976).

-To minimize the amount of quoted material in research papers, Lester (1976) suggests that students avoid utilizing direct quotations when taking notes.

Each of your in-text citations should then point to the item's full citation in your Reference list or Bibliography. Review the guidelines for the citation style you're required to use. More information about the various citation styles can be found in the box below.

There are various citation styles; to illustrate the elements for the citations of different items, I will be utilizing the American Psychological Association (APA) style.


Author, A. A. (year). Title of work. Location: Publisher.

Shotton, M. A. (1989). Computer addiction? A study of computer dependency. London, England: Taylor & Francis.

Journal Article:

Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C.  (year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume(issue), pp-pp. doi:xx.xxxxxxxxxx

Herbst-Damm, K. L., & Kulik, J. A. (2005). Volunteer support, marital status, and the survival of terminally ill patients. Health Psychology, 24, 225-229. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.24.2.225

Each of the item's in your Reference list should be cited in-text at some point. Review the guidelines for the citation style you're required to use. More information about the various citation styles can be found in the box below.

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) is the style manual of choice for writers, editors, students, educators, and professionals in psychology, sociology, business, economics, nursing, social work, and justice administration, and other disciplines in which effective communication with words and data is fundamental. In addition to providing clear guidance on grammar, the mechanics of writing, and APA style, the Publication Manual offers an authoritative and easy-to-use reference and citation system and comprehensive coverage of the treatment of numbers, metrication, statistical and mathematical data, tables, and figures for use in writing, reports, or presentations.

The official style guide for the American Sociological Association (ASA) aims to establish uniformity and consistency in style among ASA publications, to provide an authoritative reference source on style issues for authors who are writing for ASA journals, and to summarize basic issues on effective writing for authors in general.

The Chicago Manual of Style is a style guide for American English published since 1906 by the University of Chicago Press. Its seventeen editions have prescribed writing and citation styles widely used in publishing.

The MLA Handbook is published by the Modern Language Association, the authority on MLA documentation style. Widely adopted in high schools, colleges, and publishing houses, the MLA Handbook treats every aspect of research writing, from selecting a topic to submitting the completed paper. The seventh edition is a comprehensive, up-to-date guide to research and writing in the online environment. It provides an authoritative account of MLA documentation style for use in student writing, including simplified guidelines for citing works published on the Web and new recommendations for citing several kinds of works, such as digital files and graphic narratives.

Citation Generators & Managers

Remember that citation generators can make mistakes. It is imperative that you always double-check each citation for accuracy.