8.3 How to Cite

Now that we know when we have to cite our sources, let’s talk about how we cite our sources. Citation styles are sets of rules to follow for  citing sources and formatting research papers.  Professionals in different disciplines or subject areas have put together these styles to help writers in their field write well, convey important information, and organize their research. Depending on the course that you are taking, your instructor will assign a citation style for you to use, often one associated with the subject you are taking. MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association) are some of the most commonly used citation styles. Some subject areas may have their own specific citation styles, so check with your instructor if you areList of citations on a reference page unsure of which style to use. 

Regardless of which style you are using for your research assignment, there are generally two parts to a citation in academic writing. The first part tells the reader when you have included information from a source in your paper. This is done through an in-text/parenthetical citation (MLA, APA styles).  In this first part of the citation, you are signaling to the reader that you’ve just provided information or ideas that you gained from somewhere, and you give them a brief description of who’s responsible for the information, including things like the author’s last name, title, date of publication and/or page number.

The second part of a citation is generally a full description of the source organized in a list at the end of your paper. This list may be called a Works Cited List (MLA style) or a References list (APA style). Include a citation for each source that you’ve referenced in your paper. This full citation will allow the reader to find the source easily.


Scientific citations by Mike Thelwall, Stefanie Haustein, Vincent Larivière, Cassidy R. Sugimoto (paper), Finn Årup Nielsen (screenshot), licensed under CC BY 4.0