Citing References in Scientific Research Papers: Best Practices and Guidelines

Citing References in Scientific Research Papers: Best Practices and Guidelines

Whether you’ve just started your research paper or are in the final stages of writing, citing your sources is one of the most crucial steps. Researchers across various fields, be it biology, transnational studies or even scholarly articles published in journals, frequently turn to citation styles to help them document their references accurately.

Citations not only prevent plagiarism but also help readers locate the sources of information that you’ve included in your paper. With so many citation formats available, such as MLA, APA, Chicago, and many others, choosing the right format can sometimes be a daunting task.



In this guide, we will take you through the basic steps of citing references and provide you with the best practices to follow. We’ll explore different citation styles, including the author-date format used in the Chicago style and the numbering format used in the MLA style.

While the contents and format of citations may vary among different citation styles, there are certain guidelines that you should always follow. For example, always include the names of the authors, the title of the work, the publication year, and relevant page numbers. Italicizing or putting book and article titles in quotation marks, both ways are acceptable depending on the style guidelines you are using.

Citing References in Scientific Research Papers: Best Practices and Guidelines

The American Psychological Association (APA) style is the most commonly used citation style in scientific research papers. It follows the author-date format, where the author’s last name and the year of publication are included in parentheses within the text. For example, (Ingmanson, 2009).

APA style also requires a list of references at the end of the paper, where all the sources cited in the text are listed in alphabetical order. Each reference should include the author’s name, publication year, title of the work, publication city, and publisher. It is important to italicize the title of books and journals to distinguish them from other elements.



While APA style is widely used, there are other citation styles such as MLA and Chicago that are also frequently used in scholarly research. MLA style, for example, uses the author-page format, where the author’s last name and the page number are included in parentheses within the text. Chicago style, on the other hand, follows the footnotes and endnotes system, where the full citation is included in a note at the bottom of the page or at the end of the paper.

When choosing a citation style, it is important to consider the specific requirements of your field and the guidelines provided by your institution or publisher. The contents of your research paper will also influence the choice of citation style. For example, if you are writing a paper in the humanities, MLA style may be more appropriate, while APA style is commonly used in social sciences.

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It is important to cite all the relevant sources that you have used in your research to give credit to the original authors and to prevent plagiarism. Citing sources accurately and consistently also helps other researchers to locate and verify the information you have used in your paper.



Citing an article in MLA Style

Step 1: Basic format

The basic format for citing an article in MLA style includes the author’s last name, first name. “Title of the Article.” Title of the Journal/Periodical, volume number, issue number, year, pages. Medium of publication.

Step 2: Choosing the right information

When citing an article, you need to gather the necessary information such as the author’s name, the title of the article, the title of the journal or periodical, volume and issue numbers, publication year, and the page numbers of the article.

Step 3: Citing the article

  1. List the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the first name. If there are multiple authors, separate their names with commas.
  2. Enclose the title of the article in quotation marks. Capitalize the first word of the article title and any subtitles.
  3. Italicize the title of the journal or periodical where the article was published.
  4. Include the volume number, issue number, and the year of publication in parentheses, separated by commas.
  5. Provide the page numbers of the article, preceded by “pp.” to indicate multiple pages.
  6. Finish the citation by specifying the medium of publication (e.g., print, web).

For example, a citation for a scholarly journal article in MLA style would look like this:

Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Article.” Title of the Journal/Periodical, vol. XX, no. XX, Year, pp. XXX-XXX. Medium of Publication.

It is important to note that MLA style is constantly evolving, and the current edition is the 8th edition as of 2021. Researchers are frequently asked to consult the official MLA Handbook or online resources for the most up-to-date information on citing sources in MLA style.

While MLA is widely used in the humanities, other citation styles such as APA (American Psychological Association) and Chicago/Turabian are also relevant for citing sources, especially in scientific and transnational research papers.

To help ensure proper citations and prevent plagiarism, many researchers use tools like Turnitin, which automatically checks the citation format and compares the content to a vast database of scholarly works. Turnitin can be a helpful assistant in getting your citations right.

Citing an article in Chicago Style

Step 1: Choosing the appropriate citation format

Chicago Style offers two citation styles: notes and bibliography (NB) and author-date. For scientific research papers, it is common to use the author-date style, which includes in-text citations as well as a reference list at the end of the document.

Step 2: Getting started with the citation

To cite an article in Chicago Style, start with the names of the authors, followed by the title of the article in quotation marks. If the article has a specific title, include it immediately after the article title in italics. Next, write the name of the journal or magazine in italics, the volume number in italics, and the issue number in parentheses. Finally, include the pages on which the article is published.

Step 3: Including specific information

Chicago Style provides specific guidelines for citing different types of articles. For example, if the article is from an online source, you need to include the DOI or URL. If the article is from a database, include the name of the database. If the article is from a newspaper, include the publication date and section/page number.

Step 4: Examples of Chicago Style citations

Here are a few examples of how to cite articles in Chicago Style:

  • One author: Ingmanson, Joyous. “Citations and Plagiarism: Prevent Your Word from Getting Out.” Journal of Transnational Research in Genetics and Evolution 6th ed., vol. 5, no. 2, 2019, pp. 134-150.
  • Two authors: Ingmanson, Joyous, and John Smith. “The Impact of Climate Change on Biology.” Journal of Environmental Science 4th ed., vol. 2, no. 3, 2018, pp. 21-38.
  • Three or more authors: Ingmanson, Joyous, et al. “Citing Sources in Scientific Papers.” Journal of Biology 7th ed., vol. 10, no. 1, 2020, pp. 45-60.
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These examples demonstrate the basic Chicago Style format for citing articles. Make sure to consult the official Chicago Manual of Style for more specific cases and for further guidance on formatting your citations.

Step 5: Cite

Why do we cite?

Choosing the right citation format

There are several citation formats available, including APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and Chicago. Each format has its own set of rules for citing, and the format you choose will depend on the subject of your research paper. For example, APA is commonly used in psychology and social sciences, while MLA is frequently used in humanities and literature.

How to cite in different formats

Each citation format has its own specific rules for citing different types of sources. For example, in APA format, the author-date citation style is used, where the author’s last name and the year of publication are included in parentheses within the text. On the other hand, MLA format uses parenthetical citations with the author’s last name and page number, while Chicago format uses footnotes or endnotes.

To cite a book in APA format, you would include the author’s last name and the year of publication in parentheses. For example: (Ingmanson, 2015). In MLA format, the author’s last name is included in parentheses with the page number: (Ingmanson 46). In Chicago format, a footnote is used with the author’s full name, the title of the book, the city of publication, the publisher, and the year: ^1 Ingmanson, Joyous. Biology of Transnational Research. New York: Scribbr Publishers, 2015.

Checking your citations

Once you have created your citations, it is important to check them for accuracy. Make sure that all the necessary information is included and that the formatting is correct. Double-check the spelling of the author’s names, the titles of the works, and the page numbers. You can also use online citation generators or style guides to help you with the formatting.

Examples of citations

Here are some examples of citations in different formats:

FormatExample
APA(Smith, 2018)
MLA(Smith 23)
Chicago1 Smith, John. “The Importance of Citing Sources.” Journal of Research, vol. 14, no. 2, 2018, pp. 45-56.

By following these guidelines and using the appropriate citation format, you can ensure that your research paper is well-cited and credible.

Frequently asked questions about citations

  1. What citation style should I use?

    The choice of citation style depends on the requirements of your institution or the journal you are submitting your paper to. The most commonly used styles in scientific research papers are APA, MLA, and Chicago. It’s important to check the specific guidelines and use the style that is most relevant.

  2. How do I cite an article or a book?

    When citing an article or a book, the basic information you need to include is the author’s name, the title of the article or book, the title of the journal or book, the publication year, and the page numbers. There are specific formats for citing different types of sources, so it’s important to check the guidelines for the citation style you are using.

  3. Can I use automated tools to help with citations?

    Yes, there are several automated tools available that can help with generating citations. Tools like Zotero, EndNote, and Scribbr are popular among researchers. They can automatically format your citations according to the chosen citation style and even generate a bibliography or reference list for your paper.

  4. How do I cite sources with multiple authors?

    When citing sources with multiple authors, you usually list all the authors’ names in the order they appear on the source. For more than two authors, you can use “et al.” after the first author’s name. For example: Smith, John, et al.

  5. What is the difference between footnotes and endnotes?

    In some citation styles, such as Chicago, you have the option to use either footnotes or endnotes. Footnotes are placed at the bottom of each page, while endnotes are placed at the end of the document. Both formats are used to provide additional information or commentary on the cited sources.

  6. How do I prevent plagiarism when citing sources?

    To prevent plagiarism, it is important to cite all the sources you have used in your paper. Make sure to give credit to the original authors and provide the necessary citation information. Using plagiarism detection tools like Turnitin can also help you identify any unintentional plagiarism in your work.

  7. Where can I find examples of citations in different styles?

    You can find examples of citations in different citation styles, such as APA, MLA, and Chicago, in style guides or online resources. Websites like Purdue OWL and the APA Style Blog provide step-by-step guides and examples for citing different types of sources.

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Citing references in scientific research papers can be a joyous and rewarding process. By following the correct citation format and guidelines, you can ensure that your paper is well-referenced and serves as a valuable contribution to the scholarly community.

Citing an article in APA Style

Basic Format

The basic format for citing an article in APA Style is as follows:

Author(s)Last name, Initials.
(Year)Year of publication.
Title of article.Italicize the title of the article and capitalize only the first word and any proper nouns.
Journal NameItalicize the title of the journal and capitalize all major words of the title.
Volume numberItalicize the volume number.
Issue numberItalicize the issue number.
Page numbersInclude the page numbers of the article (e.g., 123-145).

Examples

Here are a few examples of how to cite different types of articles in APA Style:

Journal article with one author:

Smith, J. D. (2018). Effects of climate change on biodiversity. Journal of Environmental Science, 10(2), 45-67.

Journal article with two authors:

Johnson, R. S., & Davis, M. G. (2017). The role of microorganisms in soil health. Journal of Soil Biology, 5(3), 78-91.

Journal article with more than two authors:

Brown, A. L., et al. (2019). Gene expression patterns in cancer cells. Journal of Cancer Research, 15(1), 32-43.

Getting help with APA Style

Remember, citing your sources is an essential part of writing a scientific research paper. By properly citing the articles you use, you not only avoid plagiarism but also give credit to the original authors and help readers find the relevant references for their own research.

FAQ

What are citations?

Citations are references to sources that are used in a research paper to give credit to the original authors and to allow readers to find the source material.

How do I cite an article in Chicago Style?

To cite an article in Chicago Style, you need to include the author’s name, the title of the article, the name of the publication, the date of publication, and the page numbers. The format for the citation may vary depending on whether it is a footnote or a bibliography entry.

Which citation style should I choose?

The choice of citation style depends on the requirements of the specific field of study or the preference of the instructor. It is important to follow the guidelines provided by the journal or the institution where the research paper will be submitted.

How do I cite a journal article in APA Style?

To cite a journal article in APA Style, you need to include the author’s name, the year of publication, the title of the article, the name of the journal, the volume number, and the page range. The citation should be formatted with hanging indentation and double spacing.

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