What is a citation system?
There are several different style and citation systems which are used in academia. These systems include MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and CBE (Council of Biology Educators), among others. Generally, MLA is used in English and non-technical courses. APA is used in behavioral and social sciences. Once you know how to look up the rules for one style system, you should be able to look up the rules for any style system. Basically, you need to know how to cite (give credit) sources in the paper (in-text citations) and how to list them at the end of the paper.
What is the point of a citation system?
The point of a citation system is to have a uniform way of giving credit to and in order to avoid plagiarism. You must cite your source whether you quote the information or put information from the source into your own words. When you put information into your own words, you either reword the information from a sentence or sentences which is called paraphrasing or abstract out the general key ideas which is called summarizing. In either case, you must also give credit to the source.
Research papers include your own analysis along with information from the sources. Each sentence with a quote, a paraphrase, or a summary must give credit to the source; otherwise, it is considered plagiarism. It is not all right to have several sentences with information from the source and then cite the source at the end. The reader has no way of knowing which, if any at all, of the previous sentences have information from the source.
How to cite when a person is named as an author
In APA, the general rule is to use the last name of the author, the year of publication and the page numbers to give credit to the source. APA is called an author-date documentation system because of the use of author and date. Here’s a sample quotation:
“While tattoos may be popular today, few realize that tattooing was also popular in some ancient societies” (Anderson, 2002).
Anderson is the name of the author of the source. The source was published in 2002.
Here’s the information from the source paraphrased instead of quoted.
Tattoos are popular today and were common even in old civilizations (Anderson, 2002).
Here’s a combination of a quote and a paraphrase. See how the parenthesis goes at the end of the sentence, not the end of the quote.
“While tattoos may be popular today,” they were common in some old civilizations (Anderson, 2002).
Note that there is no p. or pg. or anything else that refers to page. Note also that it is only the last name of the author. The end quotation mark goes after the words quoted, not the parenthesis. The documentation is part of the sentence, but it is not part of the quote. There is no punctuation before the parenthesis except for the end quotation mark: no comma or period goes before the parenthesis.
You can tell the reader the name of the author in the sentence. If you do, you should not put the name in the parenthesis.
Signal tags with quotes
According to Anderson (2002), “While tattoos may be popular today, few realize that tattooing was also popular in some ancient societies.”
I could have put the reference to the author at the end of the sentence.
“While tattoos may be popular today, few realize that tattooing was also popular in some ancient societies,” according to Anderson (2002).
See that I did put a comma after at the end of the quote to separate out the signal phrase according to Anderson (2002). Signal phrases, also called identifying tags, tell the reader who says the quote. They have to be separated from the quote with a comma. Note that the comma goes before the end quotation mark.
The addition of the word that changes a signal phrase to just the beginning of a sentence so that what is in the quotation marks is a continuation of the sentence and is not considered a separate sentence.
Use of the word that before a quote
Anderson’s (2002) research that “[w]hile tattoos may be popular today, few realize that tattooing was also popular in some ancient societies”.
Now the quoted words are part of a sentence which begins outside the quote. I put the letter w in brackets since I changed something in a quote. Changing a quote is allowed as long as you show the reader by putting brackets around the change and the change does not alter the meaning of the quote.
If there is more than one study by the author on that point, list the year of the other studies.
Anderson (2002, 2000) shows that …. (p. 32).
To cite more than one study that shows the point, list the other authors and years of study.
The incidence of spontaneous combustion in the external layers is insignificant (Anderson, 2002, p. 33; Xiu, 1998, p. 56). Note: this list should be alphabetical.
More than one author
If there are two authors, use both last names. The authors should be listed in the same order as they are listed in the source.
“There is increasing evidence that birds descended from dinosaurs” (Simpson & Bernini, 2002, p. 43).
According to Simpson and Bernini (2002), “There is increasing evidence that birds descended from dinosaurs” (p. 43).
If there are three authors, use all three last names as follows:
According to Simpson, Bernini, and O’Reilly (2002), “There is increasing evidence that birds descended from dinosaurs” (p. 43).
“There is increasing evidence that chickens did not come from chicken eggs (Simpson, Bernini, & O’Reilly, 2002, p. 67).
See how the word and is used when the source is reffered to in a sentence and an & is used when parenthetical documentation is used.
After the first time mentioned for references with three or four authors, use the first name with et al.
Simpson et al (2002) also found that some chickens did not have feathers (p. 43).
If there are more than four authors named, use the first name with et al consistently except for the Referencess page which should list all authors.
How to cite sources in the paper when there is no person named as an author
Sometimes, a source has no named author. This is common when a document or study is produced by a governmental agency or corporation.
“The most accepted theory of dinosaur extinction is that a comet or asteroid hit the earth causing megatons of debris to be hurled in to the air blocking the sunlight” (US Department of Dinosaur Studies, 2004, p. 15).
The reference to the source could be in the sentence.
“Dinosaur Extinction” explains that “[t]he most accepted theory of dinosaur extinction is that a comet or asteroid hit the earth causing megatons of debris into the air blocking the sunlight” (587).
How to List a Title
When referred to in the paper, titles of short published works such as articles should be in quotation marks and titles of long, published works should be in italics or underlined. All words of more than four letters and all proper nouns should have the first letter capitalized.
(Note: In the References page, quotation marks should not be used for short published works, and only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns should be capitalized.)
Quoting a Quote from a source – indirect quotes
Sometimes, an author quotes another author in his or her paper. Just the standard way to refer to those sources.
Here’s a couple of ways to cite that information:
According to Smith (2005) the results of the Maloney (2004) study showed a “significant difference in traveling time for the Norwegian geese” (p. 23).
Length of Quotations
Quotes longer than 40 words should be indented 1/2″ from the left and should not have quotation marks.
The theory that dinosaurs became extinct as a result of climate changes from a huge meteor impact has far reaching implications. There is always the possibility such an impact will happen again. There are many meteors that come close to earth’s gravitational pull. Scientists closely watch to identify potential problems. There is some discussion about an organized effort to launch a missile to either explode such meteors or defect them away from our orbit. (Jones, 1997, p. 277)
Paraphrasing and Summarizing Also Requires Citation
Quoting is only one way of bringing information into a paper from a source. You can also paraphrase or summarize which is to put the source’s ideas into your own words. Quotation marks are not used, but you still have to give credit to the source the same way as with quotes. It is still plagiarism if you don’t use APA or other documentation for paraphrased information.
Use of Ellipsis to Show Omitted Words or Sentences from a Quote
You may remember seeing a series of three periods … in a quote. This is called an ellipsis and is used to represent an omission. Even though you may omit something from the beginning of a sentence you quote from, the general rule is not to use an ellipsis at the beginning of a quote. They are generally used in the middle of a quote to take out unnecessary words in a sentence or between sentences which are being quoted. You may use an ellipsis at the end of a quote if you don’t complete the sentence.
You may also use an ellipsis between quoted sentences to indicate that a sentence or sentences were omitted.
Identifying Internet Sources
Increasingly, the Internet is being used for research. Because everything looks the same on the screen, it is important to figure out what exactly you are looking at. Sometimes, a website is limited to a group of pages that are written for the site. There is no named author, and you are using the whole site even though there may be separately named pages. In that case, you are using the entire site, and if there is no person named as author of the site, then we refer to the source by the name of the website.
Sometimes, websites have many pages and you are using just one page or article, also called a document in a website. In that case, the source is the page (article) in the website, just like an article in a newspaper. If there is a seperate author, refer to the source by the author’s last name and year or publication. If there is no person named as an author, refer to the source by the title of the page in quotation marks.
There are situations where articles from various authors are posted in a specific website. If you are using one of those articles, the source is that article.
When you don’t know the actual page number
The last important point about APA citations in the paper is that sometimes we don’t know the page number the information was originally printed on. This commonly happens when we access a source through the Internet which was originally published in hard copy. There are also no page numbers for sources published only on the Internet. If you do not know a page number, APA says not to use one.
If an Internet source has paragraph numbers, you can use the paragraph number: (Jones, 2002, par. 35). However, you should not start counting paragraphs to use a paragraph number. The custom is that if you know a page number, you should not repeat the author’s name if you are using information from the same source in the same paragraph unless you use information from another source in between. However, if you don’t have a page number to use, you’ll have to repeat the author’s last name or title for all references to that particular source. Since sometimes there is no page number or paragraph number to reference, you might not have a parenthesis at all if the source is referred to as part of the sentence. The Internet has created situations where we don’t use parenthesis for citing sources.