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How to Cite a Research Paper in the Most Popular Academic Styles

cite a research paper

One of the things that strike students the most about college is the rigidity of citation rules in one's written work. You can't just say, "As Abraham Lincoln famously said, 'Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?'" and leave it at that. You must tell where you have found that phrase: the book, the year, the page, and all.

Some may find it redundant and question the validity of all this busywork. However, proper citation is one of the staples of academia. Every piece of information must be traced back to the original research, historical document, or other credible sources. It's the information's ID if you like. How do you tell a state official from an imposter? Will you take their word for it, or will you ask for legal identification? When you properly cite your sources, you make sure that your research isn't based on false claims. This article will look at how to cite research papers in some of the most widespread citation styles.

However, if your school requires formatting in one particular style, the easier solution will be to order a sample research paper. Ask us to format it in that style and get a hands-on example of citation and bibliography layout all in one!

How to Cite a Research Paper in APA

The most popular one on this list, APA style is a set of standards described in The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, first published in 1952. The main focus of APA style is bias-free language and clarity. There are also comprehensive instructions on how to cite in a research paper almost any conceivable source: from an article in a scientific journal to a live interview.

You must discriminate between two basic citation cases: short in-text citation and a complete citation in the References. The first is meant as a quick note inside your paper, while the second gives full details about your source. The general APA recommendation is the author-date in-text citation given in parentheses after the quotes, for example, (Smith, 2018).

Please note that you must always cite the source, even if you paraphrase it or refer to the entire book. For example:

  • According to the latest findings, alcohol abuse leads to synaptic transmission deficits in both humans and animals. (Socodato et al., 2020)

If you quote the source directly, you must also include the page number in the parentheses. If you cite the work with no pages, you may pick a substitute. For example, use verses, paragraphs, chapter numbers, or any other structural units that make sense for your source:

  • "Deficits in synaptic transmission and in microglial function are commonly found in human alcohol abusers and in animal models of alcohol intoxication." (Socodato et al., 2020, abstract)

Also, note that et al. instead of the full list of authors is only acceptable in-text. In the full bibliography (called References in APA), you must list everyone, unless the work cited was written by a committee or a group of authors that exceeds 20 individuals. For example:

  • Socodato, R., Henriques, J. F., Portugal, C. C., Almeida, T. O., Tedim-Moreira, J., Alves, R. L., Canedo, T., Silva, C., Magalhães, A., Summavielle, T., & Relvas, J. B. (2020). Daily alcohol intake triggers aberrant synaptic pruning leading to synapse loss and anxiety-like behavior. Science Signaling, 13 (650). https://doi.org/10.1126/scisignal.aba5754

The above example follows the general APA-recommended template for a research paper published in a periodical:

  • Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of the article. Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number), pages. https://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy

How to Cite a Research Paper in MLA

MLA format is a set of prescriptions presented in The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing issued by the Modern Language Association. It is widely used in the United States and Canada, mainly in the field of humanities, such as English studies, literature, media studies, cultural studies, and the like.

For in-text citation, MLA uses an author-page style without a comma. MLA is more flexible than APA when it comes to in-text citations. For example, the author's name that you are quoting may appear in the parentheses or in a sentence itself. However, the page number should only be given in the parentheses. For example, you can write:

  • Ellis critically examines "a number of options for bridging the divide" between the theory/practice nexus of Second Language Acquisition. (182)

Alternatively:

    The article critically examines “a number of options for bridging the divide” between the theory/practice nexus of Second Language Acquisition. (182)

Both citations indicate that a quote is found on page 182 from Ellis' work you give in the full bibliography list (titled Works Cited in MLA):

  • Ellis, Rod "Second Language Acquisition, Teacher Education and Language Pedagogy." Language Teaching, 43, 2. 2010, pp. 182-201.

The above example follows the general MLA-recommended template for a research paper that appears in a periodical:

  • Author, First Name, Author, First Name, & Author, First Name "Title of Article." Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages.

How to Cite a Research Paper in Chicago Style

Chicago style is a set of standards given in The Chicago Manual of Style, which is sometimes abbreviated to CMOS or CMS. The manual was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1906 and is currently used for research papers in literature, history, and arts.

This style focuses on American English and gives directions regarding grammar and usage, formatting, and the citation for published works. For class papers, there are Supplemental Turabian Style Guidelines, primarily based on Chicago style.

Chicago style allows two different ways to reference the sources: author-date or notes-bibliography. The author-date system is in-text parentheses citation, similar to APA. Whereas, notes-bibliography uses numbered footnotes. The footnotes appearing at the bottom of the page contain a shortened version of the full citation. The full version is presented on a Bibliography page.

For example, here is how you can refer to your sources in Chicago, author-date:

  • Blair argued that, based on archeological findings, "English pagan cult did have structural shrines" (Blair, 1995). Whereas Thurlby attributes a "surge in church-building" on the cusp of millennia to apocalyptic expectations rather than the conceptual difference between paganism's and Christianity's attitudes towards architecture as such (Thurlby, 2003).

Alternatively, you can use notes-bibliography:

  • Based on archeological findings, Blair argued that "English pagan cult did have structural shrines." 1 Whereas Thurlby attributes a "surge in church-building" on the cusp of millennia to apocalyptic expectations rather than the conceptual difference between paganism's and Christianity's attitudes towards architecture as such 2.

Footnotes to this text will look the following way:

  • 1. John Blair, "Anglo-Saxon Pagan Shrines and Their Prototypes," Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History no. 8 (1995) p. 12.
  • 2. Malcolm Thurlby, "Anglo-Saxon Architecture beyond the Millennium: Its Continuity in Norman Building," The White Mantle of Churches (2003) p. 119.

Note examples above follow this template:

  • Note's number, Author's Full Name, "Title of Article," Title of Journal Issue, no. Volume, (year): page(s).

The full bibliography entries in Chicago will look the same for both ways of citation:

  • Blair, John. "Anglo-Saxon Pagan Shrines and Their Prototypes." Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History no. 8 (1995) pp. 12-35.
  • Thurlby, Malcolm. "Anglo-Saxon Architecture beyond the Millennium: Its Continuity in Norman Building." The White Mantle of Churches (2003) pp. 119-137. https://doi.org/10.1484/M.IMR-EB.3.2803

Bibliography examples above follow this template:

  • Author, Name(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Issue, no. Volume, (year): pages. DOI or URL.

Citing Research Papers in ASA format

ASA style is a set of standards prescribed by the American Sociological Association and aimed at authors who write research papers in the field of sociology. It is very similar to the more widely known APA style, with its parenthetical in-text author-date citation. The only difference is that the author's name and the year publication aren't separated with any punctuation in ASA. Also, like MLA, ASA is flexible and allows the author's name directly in the text, immediately followed by the date in parentheses.

For example, here is how you can format the same quote in ASA:

  • When Slopen et al. (2016) studied ethnic and socioeconomic patterning of childhood adversity, they have found that "income disparities in exposure were larger than racial/ethnic disparities."

Alternatively:

  • The study has found that income disparities in childhood adversity exposure were larger than racial/ethnic ones. (Slopen et al. 2016)

The emphasis on the date is one of the prominent features of the ASA style, as it is maintained in the bibliography (in ASA titled "REFERENCES"):

  • Slopen, N., Shonkoff, J. P., Albert, M. A., Yoshikawa, H., Jacobs, A., Stoltz, R., Williams, D. R. 2016. "Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S.: Interactions with Family Immigration History and Income." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 50(1):47-56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2015.06.013

The REFERENCES example above follows this template:

  • Author, A. A., Author, B. B., and Author, C. C. Year. "Title of article." Title of Periodical, volume number(issue number):pages. https://doi.org/xx.xxx/yyyy

Need a Perfect Research Paper Citation Example? We Can Make You One!

That's about the gist of it. I know it looks very confusing. Especially when you try to spot the differences, which boil down to "this citation style uses quotation marks for titles, and that one does not." Indeed, putting your bibliography straight is the stuff of nightmares. Italicize or not? Parenthesize or not? Commas or periods?

Why not ask professional paper writers for help? They can explain and demonstrate how to cite in a research paper examples and all. You can order annotated bibliography from us, but guess what? If you order a sample paper, you get a free bibliography along with it. Moreover, we can format it in any style you want – à la carte! In-text citations will also be done in the manner you have requested. This way, you will see how various sources (such as books, periodicals, electronic editions, videos, interviews, etc.) are formatted within the same citation style. Most instructive!

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