Research paper citations — From tricky to unique

Research paper citationsYou’ve been assigned a research paper. Time to brush up on how to use citations! Proper use of citations not only shows that you actually did some research (key to a “research” paper), but they also help you avoid any issues of plagiarism. Certain citations are fairly straightforward (i.e. those for books). But what about more tricky or unique types, such as interviews, blog comments or text messages? Believe it or not, there are even citation rules for these. So read on to find out how to include even the most unique research paper citations.

Why cite?

A bit rusty on why you even need to list citations in your research paper? Emory University’s Emory Libraries Oxford College Library website advises students in “Citing Your Sources” that the only time you don’t need to cite a source is when “you are writing your own words, ideas, or original research. You also do not need to cite information that is considered common knowledge.” They provide the following verbatim examples of information that falls into the common knowledge category:

  • Facts that are found in many sources (example: Marie Antoinette was guillotined in 1793.)
  • Things that are easily observed (example: Many people talk on cell phones while driving.)
  • Common sayings (example: Every man has his price.)

The site adds that research paper citations are a great way to:

  1. Avoid plagiarism by properly crediting the person whose words or ideas you used as a source.
  2. Make sure your professor knows which ideas presented are yours and which are not.
  3. Create a more powerful argument in your paper.
  4. Let your professor double check the ideas you are offering and make sure they are accurate.
  5. Give people who are interested access to more information about the topic you are writing on.

Unusual citations

Not sure how to properly cite a personal interview or an oral presentation? What about citing a sculpture or a digital file, such as a MP3 or JPEG? There are rules about all of these types of sources when it comes to writing a research paper, regardless if you are writing in APA, Chicago or MLA style.

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab offers assistance to properly cite these kinds of unusual sources. Their MLA Works Cited: Electronic Sources (Web Publications),  MLA Works Cited: Other Common Sources and Reference List: Other Non-Print Sources (for APA style) detail how to handle unique citations for research papers.

You may also be called upon to list your research paper citations using The Chicago Manual of Style. Their website details the rules for formatting bibliographic information according to their terms on the Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide page. Here you can find out about unusual citations, too, including how to credit a chapter of an edited volume originally published somewhere else, email, and text messages.

Utilizing sources other than traditional books can be a bonus for your research paper in many ways. For some topics, these unusual citations may be your best source of information and show your professors a willingness to be creative in your work and thought processes. So don’t shy away from using a different source, so long as it is valid.

The ultimate research tool

So where do you go when you need to find that essential information for your upcoming research paper? Questia, of course! Our search engine contains more than 70,000 online books and more than 6 million quality, citable journal, newspaper and magazine articles. Questia can even help by creating and formatting your research paper citations for you. Simply highlight the text you want to cite and a drop down menu appears asking you if you are using MLA, APA or Chicago style. Should you need any help, Questia also offers experienced, on-staff librarians who are available to answer your questions. Now get going. Questia can help, but it can’t type that paper for you!

5 replies
  1. Etim Anim says:

    Very interesting, timely and helpful. It comes at a time when I’m laboring to get oral exam grad students to understand the importance of citing sources and citing them properly. I will make this available to them.


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