APA Citations in a Research Paper

In research, the quality of data is paramount. Finding and citing reliable, up-to-date sources is necessary for establishing the quality of your data. For this reason, in-line APA citations always include a source's year of publication as well as the author's name. Examples of such citations can be found in the sample research paper and in the citation guides we recommend.

While direct quotations, often long ones, are common in literary analysis, paraphrase is almost always the best way to incorporate other people's findings into a research paper. Quoting directly from all of your sources would be cumbersome. However, you may find it useful to quote specific terms from other authors, especially if they will strike a chord with your audience. Consider these two examples:

Laughter-like vocalizations have been observed in chimpanzees, close relatives of humans, during play (Pearce, 2004).

Gervais and Wilson (2005) suggest that the presence of laughter in other animals indicates that the phenomenon existed prior to humans and was evolutionarily "co-opted" (p. 5) for other uses in mankind.

The first sentence consists of a paraphrase followed by a citation. The second sentence contains the same elements, but it differs from the first in two respects.

  • It quotes a term of interest ("co-opted") directly from the source.
  • It presents the authors' names within the paraphrase. Therefore, the closing parenthetical citation mentions only the source's year of publication.

Given the prevalence of paraphrase in a research paper, some students are not sure when to cite sources. Here are the basic guidelines:

1. If an idea is the product of someone else's research, it must be cited.

2. If an idea is common knowledge or the product of your own analysis, it does not need a citation. In general, you can consider something common knowledge if you knew it before starting the bulk of your research.

Although you run the risk of cluttering up your paper, it is probably better to over-cite than to under-cite. With some clever arrangement of sentences, you can minimize the sense of clutter, but every additional supporting citation lends credibility to your ideas.

Research Paper

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