When we write academically, we are instructed to cite our sources and follow specific APA formatting guidelines. Although APA seems to be a pretty black and white world, it certainly has its gray areas, which naturally causes questions to arise.
As the Minnesota School of Business-Elk River campus librarian, I’m one of the first people students run to with APA-related questions. Because of this, I have become quite knowledgeable in proper APA formatting.
Here are answers to 7 of the most frequently asked questions on this topic:
- Why do I need to cite sources? We cite information for academic honesty. By citing a source, you are giving credit to the person who deserves it. It also allows the reader, if they so wish, to find where certain information came from. Using someone else’s work without a citation is considered theft (plagiarism) and is taken quite seriously.
- When do I need to cite a source? You must cite a source whenever you include information in a paper that you physically didn’t think of yourself. For example, if you read a peer reviewed article and then write a paper that includes pieces of paraphrased information from that article, you MUST cite the paraphrased material in your paper.
- How often should I cite? If you have three sentences in a row that contain information from someone else, each sentence should be cited. In general, if a sentence includes someone else’s thoughts, cite the sentence. Sometimes students cite the end of a paragraph, but that’s incorrect. Your reader can’t decipher what sentences are your own and what sentences include thoughts from someone else.
- What is the difference between paraphrasing content and quoting it? Paraphrasing is simply putting information into your own words while keeping the message of the content the same. And yes, you still need to cite paraphrased content. If you do need to directly quote something, remember to include a page or paragraph number in your citation.
- What does a correct citation look like? This answer depends on what type of source the information is coming from. Different types of resources will look slightly different. An example of a book reference would look like the following:
Author’s Last Name, First Initial. (Date of publication). Title of book in italics here. City of Publication: Name of Publishing Company.
- What’s the difference between in-text citations and references at the end of a paper? In-text citations appear throughout a paper within sentences that include information that didn’t originate with you. They require at least the author and the date. An example would be (Schneider, 2013). These refer the reader to the correct resource on your reference page, which comes at the end of your paper and includes the full citation of your source. Remember, if you didn’t use an in-text citation for a source, they shouldn’t be included on your reference page.
- What elements are needed for a properly formatted APA paper? An APA paper should be double-spaced; have one-inch margins; a running head on each page on the left; a page number on each page in the upper right corner; a title page with your name, school, class, instructor’s name and date; and lastly a reference page with sources alphabetized and hanging indents used.
By guest blogger, Michael Schneider, Campus Librarian