How to Effectively Add Citations to your Academic Paper


It’s an undeniable fact: writing academic papers requires sufficient time and effort. This is why students always drag their feet when they have been assigned a writing task. Even those who excel at writing, still moan and groan at the sight of a written assignment. Do you know what’s worse than a writing assignment? Making citations for your writing assignment. 

Most students can write and make up stuff just to complete an assignment. It might not be 100% factual or accurate, but they get the job done nonetheless. But once a teacher tells you that you must do research and cite your information, that’s where the problems really begin. Students aren’t able to create citations out of thin air, and they actually have to do some research to finish this task. Students think this a complete waste of time, but once you’re in university, citing your paper will be very important. 

Why do I need citations?

As useless as you may think citations may be, citing your academic papers will be proof that people should trust the words you are writing. Instead of pulling ideas and reasons out of thin air, you’ll be supported by others who have similar ideas as you. Think of this as fact-checking; to avoid and sift through all the lies and false information, people use trusted papers that use citations from reputable sources. 

Citations are also used to prevent plagiarism, as any idea you come across will be compared to your actual words. It’ll be very clear if you have copied word-for-word or if you paraphrased someone else’s work. There are websites that can track plagiarism and lots of experienced teachers and professors are able to sniff out dishonest work a mile away. There are serious penalties for plagiarised work such as expulsion and even lawsuits. So if you think citations are a waste of time, it may actually help you in the long run. 

How can I properly add citations?

Depending on the format your paper needs to be submitted in, citing papers have different requirements and uses. Here are some common citation styles.

•  APA Style (American Psychological Association)

This type of citations is usually used by Education, Psychology, and Science papers. They are used to make reading comprehension easier, with lots of research and references to past texts.

The text citation should look like this : The authors last name, Year of Publication (Harmon, 2014).

•  MLA (Modern Language Association) 

This citation style is used by the Humanities. They are used to cite mainly the sources used for information, instead of direct references.

The citation will have a separate page at the end of the paper, instead of in-text citations. 

•  Chicago

Chicago citations are generally used by Business, History, and the Fine Arts. They are used to cite in-text information or quotes, similar to APA style. It will also have the same format (Last Name of Author, Year Published) 

There are more ways to cite your papers, so it’s best to clarify with your teacher which one you should use. 

Okay great! But how can I effectively use citations in my paper?

Having proper citations are one thing, using them effectively is an entirely different thing. Citations have a function to reference information that you’ve used and it also simplifies some reading comprehension by showing the reader where to find this information. You don’t want to throw out citations when they’re unnecessary or inappropriate, it can break the reader’s train of thought, ruin the flow of your paper, and complicate rather than simplify the structures. Instead of randomly inputting citations, follow these effective tips on how to cite your paper:

•  Set your primary and secondary resources

You will probably be using lots of resources for your academic paper, and not all of them will carry the same importance as another. Organizing them into primary and secondary sources allow you to make the right references at the right time. Usually primary sources are where the majority of your information is drawn from, the important ideas. These should be cited whenever there is information that isn’t common knowledge, and usually takes form at the end of an example or an argument point. Quotations are also a primary source, and those should be cited as such. 

Secondary resources usually are referenced at the end of a paragraph, once information has been established. These sources are still important, but not the driving point of your arguments or ideas. 

•  Balance your citations and your original ideas 

Sources and citations are here to support your ideas, not become them. Your writing should be primarily your ideas and sentences that are original, the citations will just be there to fact-check and provide proven examples. It would almost be considered plagiarism if most of your work is cited materials, without much original content. One way to make sure you don’t overuse citations is to keep your citations down to 1 or two per paragraph – if necessary. 

•  Pick good resources 

Resources should be from trusted websites and books. Wikipedia is NOT a good resource, as the information there can’t be checked and users are able to change it whenever they want. Look for websites that end in .gov .edu .org as they are official websites with information that has been checked thoroughly. 

You also want to choose resources that have plenty of information that you will use. If you find a source and only take 1 piece of information away from it, it probably isn’t a good source for your paper. The resources should strongly relate to the topic you’re writing about, so that readers can take your information seriously. 

•  Paraphrase information instead of quoting

Although quoting is a good way to give examples and cite your information, it should be used sparingly as quotations can usually break the focus of a paper if chosen incorrectly. If this information absolutely needs to be in your paper, but the quote doesn’t exactly fit, paraphrase it in a way that you are able to effectively explain your information rather than lead your readers off track. But remember, when you paraphrase, you still should cite your sources. Whether you’re still in school or you’ve moved on to university, or even are doing academic research, citations are important for writing your academic papers. There are plenty of websites that can help you create citations like EasyBib and if you need any help with writing, you can ask Assignment Expert for all your needs.

Filed under English, Writing.
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