term paper writing tips

10 Basic Rules for Citing Sources in Research Papers

Research papers require a ton of, well, research. This means that the bibliography is just as important as the actual content of your paper. For those who haven’t written many documents of this sort, citing things correctly can be overwhelming and confusing. Professors and teachers can often be nitpicky about bibliographies, so when you have a strong paper, you don’t want something like that to hurt your grade. Here are 10 rules you should always apply to your papers when writing them:

  1. Start a new page: Your bibliography should always be on its own page. Never begin writing this section at the end of another page, and make sure that the page is formatted correctly. This means that the margins are the same, page numbers still listed, and last name or headers still at the top.
  2. Label: Always label the page to indicate what the reader will find, and make sure to center the title.
  3. Format: When listing your sources, it’s important that they have the correct indentation and spacing. It’s normal for your first line to have regular spacing, but the other second line and all lines that follow should be indented .5 inches. This will create a hanging indent that will make it easier for the reader to follow each individual work.
  4. Medium: It’s required to always specify what medium the text or source has been published. If you gathered the information online or in a book, be sure to list where you got it from. This will allow your reader to follow up and verify your sources.
  5. Capitalize: Every word in the title of the book, article, or document you’re citing, with the exception of articles. Articles include the words “the” and “an.”
  6. Alphabetize: Organize your bibliography in alphabetical order. Don’t list your sources based on the order in which they appear; always write the individual’s name last name and then first.
  7. Double space: All citations should be double-spaced. With research papers, a lot of information is present, which means that you’re likely to have a lot of articles to mention. Double-spacing will make it easier for the reader to follow.
  8. MLA or APA?: The two different types of styles have different rules and conditions. Be sure you know which you’re supposed to follow.
  9. Italicize: A 2009 change to the MLA format now requires for titles of major works to be italicized rather than underlined, while poems and short stories’ titles be enclosed in quotation marks.
  10. No author?: If the piece doesn’t have a specified author, list it by the title instead.

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