How to Write Citations
by Kurt Reymers, PhD
Morrisville State College


A citation in academic writing is an acknoledgment of where the information you are using in your paper has come from. YOU MUST CITE A SOURCE FOR ALL INFORMATIONAL FACTS, STATISTICS, FIGURES/CHARTS/TABLES, STORIES, etc., basically any source you use to help make the argument that is your paper's thesis. Here are some tips for doing APA STYLE CITATION (note that the guidelines are different for doing MLA or Chicago style citation for your English and/or History papers).

Collect all of the citations found in doing research that you will use in your paper and make a References page. There are basically two places where you want to make reference to your research -- in the body of the paper itself and collectively at the end.

APA citation style format should be used for citation writing in the text of your paper (body citation) and for the References page. Other APA style formatting (abstract, running head, etc.) is optional. Here is an example of APA citation style:

In-text (body) citation: If you directly quote the author of an article you found online titled “Clocking the First Americans” from the periodical Annual Review of Anthropology written by D.J. Meltzer published in 1995 to emphasize the idea from the article that “The antiquity of the first Americans is one of the most controversial issues in American archaeology” (Meltzer 1995), you should cite the source right there in parentheses after the quote, noting the last name of the author of the article (D.J. Meltzer) and then noting that the article was published in 1995. That’s all the reference you need in the body. This serves as an indicator of what to look for on the References page.

Reference page citation: Now, you must make sure that on your References page you have a complete APA style citation to Meltzer’s article from Annual Review of Anthropology. Here’s an example of what it should look like:

Meltzer, D. J. (1995). Clocking the First Americans. Annual Review Of Anthropology, 24(1), 21-45. Retrieved on Feb 1, 2015, from Ebscohost Academic Search Complete database.

Note all the parts of a full APA citation: Author, Year of Publication, Title, Journal name (in italics), Volume# (Issue#), page numbers, and retrieval date and source. You can get this information from the Ebscohost database page from which you retrieve the article (look to the right of the page for the link titled “Cite”, then choose “APA”).

Next, alphabetize your list of references. Also, note the “hanging indent” of the second line (this feature is available in MS Word, under the “Paragraph” menu); this allows for authors’ names to be easily seen alphabetically along the left margin of the References page.

One last good practice is to annotate your source, particularly focusing on the parts that will be most useful to your paper. To annotate, for each source:
1) Copy the most important two sentences in the text or abstract from the source content (what is the usefulness of this source to your paper?). Be sure to use quotes if necessary (if you're not paraphrasing ion your own words). Write the name of the author of the source and the date (year only) of the source in parentheses before you end the sentence with a period.
2) Write a brief description about where the source was found (library stacks, database, Internet) and the name of the source.
a. Also, if it was found using a library database, include the name of the database, the search term you used to find it and the source of the text (journal name, magazine name, etc.) Use the term “Retrieved from…”.
b. Also, if it was found on the Internet (library databases not included), write the complete website address, the webpage title (found at the top of the browser window the page is located on) and give a clear reason why you think this is a good source of information. Understand that a web site address alone is NOT a complete citation!
3) Write a complete reference citation for each source.

See these APA guidelines for more examples and instruction.


Once you have your citations annotated, you're ready to start the outline of your paper.

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