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Proper Citing of Sources.

When you use some information from a book, journal, or web page in your academic writing, you need to cite a source to avoid the accusation of plagiarism. You should be attentive to the citation style required by your academic institution and know well how to do citing following it. The most widely used styles are MLA and APA, though there are a few others.

So, how should you cite sources? It depends on several factors, such as what type of academic writing you are doing and how you use the material. If you want to mention some ideas important for your research, you need to mention their author and the work they are taken from. You can also use footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references. The format of citations can also differ in different subjects. You need to talk to your professor to ensure the citation form is fully appropriate.

Here, we have compiled the most crucial information about citation formats and style, which will be quite useful for your essay writing process.

When Should You Cite Sources?

Remember that citation is necessary for all types of academic writing when you refer to the ideas, make a summary of the information or arguments, or provide examples found in the sources.

There are two basic ways to do citation - by direct quoting and paraphrasing the initial text.

  • If you insert a direct quote, copy it and use quotation marks.
  • If you paraphrase the source, write it in your own words but indicate the source.

Proper citing will help your reader find an original source and make your writing more credible. Alongside journal articles and scientific books, you can also cite websites or videos.

When you cite a source for the first time in your paper, you need to mention the author and title in the introduction to your citation:

  • For example, John Simpson, in his book 'The Art of Styles' argues that...,' and then, put the word-by-word sentence in parentheses or just say the idea in your own words.

You can also add some information about the author if you feel it is useful for your reader's understanding, especially if the author is not well-known.

You can say whether they are scientists, analysts, economists, etc., or where you have found the source you are citing:

  • For example, in the report presented at the Ohio University annual conference, Sheron Mild, an Ecology analyst, speaks about the importance of understanding the dramatic outcomes of the greenhouse effect.

If you have done this presentation once, you will not need to repeat the same information if you cite the same work further on. However, you will have to mention the author's name again to avoid plagiarism and confusion.

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Which Citation Style to Use?

Most academic institutions and universities all over the world always require a specific citation style that is used inside their communities. This style is usually indicated in your assignment. If the style is not specified, you need to choose one on your own and strictly follow its requirements throughout the entire paper.

The choice may depend on the subject or field of study.

  • Humanitarian subjects often use MLA, while social sciences require MLA.
  • Engineering or physics may require some other styles.

You can always check your choice with your supervisor or look at the styles commonly used in the papers in your field.

What Is the Difference between In-text Citations and Full References?

Any citation style always means the two essential components - the in-text citation (quoting and paraphrasing) and a full reference with precise information about the source. The latter is needed to find this source easily later on.

Peculiarities of In-text Citations

Most in-text citations are word-by-word copies of the text from sources, which are placed in parentheses. You have to indicate the author's name, the year of publishing, and/or a page number following the citation style requirements. Some styles also require endnotes, footnotes, and/or bracketed numbers for reference entries.

Every style also has specific rules about sources belonging to multiple authors, sources without an author, or without the publication date. You can also get confused about how to cite multiple sources from the same author or sources without page numbers.

What Is Quoting?

When you take a word-by-word text from the source, it is called quoting. You can do this if you see that the way the author explains the ideas is the clearest and most convenient.

If you do not feel that the way of expressing things is quite important, you can use paraphrasing instead. However, remember to cite the source anyway. Summarizing and paraphrasing can be sufficient, but in some cases, you may need direct quoting.


Never make your writing based on quotes only. For one direct quote, you should add one or two sentences of analysis or comments to make your writing interesting.

Every time you do not use the direct quotation, try to consider how you can properly change the sentence while keeping to the content the author was writing about. Or you can risk arguing that the author used an idea they have never actually used. That is why you need to be as concise as possible. Use the words relevant to your paper and your own ideas.

On the other hand, avoid taking just one final sentence from the original text because it may not make sense without the previous ones. If you need to skip some part of the sentence, use ... instead of the omitted phrase. If you need to insert some words which are not in the initial sentence, use [...].

You may also need some 'embedded quotes,' meaning that there is a quotation within a quotation. In this case, you can use single quotation marks ('...') instead of doubled ones ("...") to make a difference.

How to Insert Long Quotes?

To insert long quotes in your paper, you will need to follow some specific requirements due to the citation style. Long quotes are those that include more than three lines of text. The general rules for inserting such quotes are the following:

  • The font of such a quote should be smaller than that of the whole text (change 12 to 10 font, for example).
  • The margins should also be one inch smaller than the main body of the paper (double indent the quotation).
  • The left side of the quotation should be straight, with each line beginning at the same place (left-justifying) if your processor has this option.
  • Quotation marks are normally not used in such quotations because you have made some graphic changes here already.
  • The line spacing can also be changed according to the citation style, especially before and after this long quotation.

Peculiarities of Full References

According to the citation style, full references are placed at the end of the paper under the title Works Cited, Bibliography, or References. They should contain the author's name, the source's title, the date of publication, and some other information that helps to find the source.

The type of source matters a lot for the format of a reference. For instance, if you make it for a book, it should include the publisher and edition. Though, if you make a reference for a journal, it will contain the volume and number of issues.


It is a complete list of all the sources you have used in the process of research. Usually, it includes:

  • - the names of the authors;
  • - titles of sources;
  • - names and locations of publishers;
  • - dates of publishing;
  • - numbers of pages.
  • - numbers of pages.

Some other information is included due to the citation style required.

Annotated Bibliography

This differs from a bibliography. Apart from all the points indicated above, it contains a brief description of the sources' content and usefulness for your research.


These are placed at the bottom of the page. They contain information about the source and comments on the text used in the paper. The latter is used when the comment does not refer exactly to the content of the paragraph you use your source in, but you feel it is important for the overall understanding. You can also explain some terms or notions there. Using footnotes is quite convenient for readers, so most citation styles require making them.

How to create a footnote?

The footnote mark is usually put at the end of the sentence, after the period or other punctuation mark. You should skip two spaces before the beginning of the following sentence after the footnote mark to make it more visible. The sentence should not have more than one footnote mark because it may seem rather confusing. However, if you need a footnote mark for only one part of the sentence, skip one space and continue writing your sentence.

Footnotes vs. Endnotes

The difference, as it is obvious from the names, is in the place where you put these notes. The footnotes are located at the end of the corresponding page, while the endnotes can be placed at the end of the entire paper. Footnotes are usually more convenient for readers because they can find additional information right away. On the other hand, the endnotes are less intrusive because they do not distract readers' attention from your paper.

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How to Check Your Citations

There are many minor differences in any citation style, so it is important to follow all the requirements thoroughly. However, it is sometimes rather difficult to pay attention to all the details, especially when you deal with capitalization, italicization, or punctuation. That is why it makes sense to use an online citation generator. You can insert a DOI, URL, or some other details of your source, and the generator will provide you with the in-text citation or reference entry in the correct format. While working on your paper, you can save all the generated entries and use them for making your reference page at the end.

You may not know how to cite your sources properly, so automated tools and services will save you a lot of effort and time. The most widely used tools are plagiarism checkers. Such tool will show you whether you have used your citations correctly and in proper places and if you have not skipped any citing while dealing with many sources. When you check your paper yourself, you can always add missing citations where necessary before the paper submission.

Final Thoughts

You can see now how it should be done and considered to make your academic paper consistent and perfect in terms of citation style. The tips provided here will help you to cite your sources properly and avoid plagiarism. You need to be attentive to your academic institution's and your supervisors' requirements to get the highest score and make further progress in your academic studies.

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