Formatting rules: how to cite in a research paper

Research papers are typically written in either APA or MLA format and differ slightly in their citation methods. This article will discuss the rules on how to cite sources in a research paper for both styles.

Citing in APA format

For papers that fall under a category in the social sciences you will use APA formatting. Citations include the author’s name and year of publication. In-text citations are always closed off with parentheses. If you are citing a book you should also include the page number. In some cases, you can omit the author’s name in the citation if the name is used properly in text. At the end of the paper, APA dictates that you have a reference page. On this page, you will include all of your sources and include the following information in order: author’s last name, first name, publication year, journal name, volume number, page number and the digital identification number (DOI). Here is an example reference demonstrating the formatting rules:

Last, First (2016). The title of the article. Name of the Journal, 23, 102-104. Doi:XXXX

Citing in MLA Format

Papers written in MLA format typically deal with the humanities. Similar to in-text citations in APA, you will include the author’s last name however, instead of the publication year, you will include the page number being referenced. At the end of your paper you will have a “works cited” page that will list the complete citation for all of your sources. There are some subtle differences between MLA and APA for formatting a reference; for MLA, you will include the following information in order: author’s last name, first name, title, journal name (if applicable), volume number (if applicable), issue number (if applicable), publication month and year, page numbers, URL or DOI (if applicable). Here is an example citation:

Last, First. “Title of Source.” Name of Journal, vol. #, no. #, November 2016, pp. ##-##, Publisher, doi:XXXX

Additional information

It is important to note that for online resources, you might not be able to find certain pieces of information needed for a citation; that is okay. The purpose of a citation is so someone other than you can go back and view the source you referenced. As long as you include enough information for your reader to track down your reference you should be fine. At a bare minimum, you should include the title, publication year, and the URL. If you are using APA it is unlikely you will run into this issue often because you will be citing empirical articles with digital identification numbers. All the information you will need for your reference can be found at the beginning of an article in most cases. MLA style papers reference literary works more often which can be more difficult to obtain all of the information for.