All You Need to Know About Research Papers References

A research paper is an objective academic essay aimed at analysing a field, highlighting knowledge gaps, and conducting research to cater to the noted gaps. Research papers thus need evidential support for various claims within your paper. 

If poorly cited, the sources used in your work might be flagged as plagiarism, exposing you to dire consequences. It is thus vital to learn how you can cite various sources within your work, avoiding plagiarism claims.

This guide will analyse various styles for references in a research paper, helping you overcome confusion regarding various referencing styles.

What are references in a research paper?

References are the total of information included in your paper to acknowledge the authors behind the work cited within your writing. Research paper references can be classified either as in-text citations or bibliographies (often termed as the works cited). 

The research references are crucial for your paper as they help you avoid plagiarism and guide your reader on the sources from which they can investigate various ideas further.

How to write references for a research paper

The format for references in a research paper is crucial to master as you write your work. When you are preparing to write your paper, refer to your faculty/ tutor’s instructions to determine the recommended referencing style for your paper.

Besides overcoming plagiarism, the referencing style dictates your paper format. If these are done poorly, you may be penalized, losing a substantial amount of the credits you worked so hard to secure.

Here, we’ll look at the format of research references in APA and MLA as they are the most common referencing styles for research papers.

APA referencing format

Intext citations in APA

Intext citations are crucial to attribute the cited work to the bibliographies in the work cited section. An APA intext citation comprises the last name of an author and the date in parenthesis. Some of the ways you could add an intext citation into your work include:

e.g., 1. Recent studies also indicate that this hypothesis may bear truth on the matter (Dennis and Zacharia, 2017). 

e.g., 2. Dennis and Zacharia also support this hypothesis in their recent study (2017). 

Note: page numbers should be indicated in your citation if quotations are used. The page numbers may be quoted as:

(Dennis, 2017, p.56).

Bibliographies in APA

While the in-text citation points to the reference, your bibliography should guide the reader to the document/ chapter on which your argument is based. This allows readers to search for various sources for a further investigation of tackled ideas. 

Here are some templates to help you cite various sources used within your work. 

Citing a book:

The surname of the author, initial of the first name. initial of the second name. (Publication Year). Title of the book. Publisher.

Citing a journal:

The surname of the author, initial of the first name. initial of the second name. (Publication Year). Article title: Subtitle. Journal Title, Volume(issue), page range. URL or DOI

Citing a website:

Name of the author or organization. Year, Month, and Day of Publication Title of the page. The site's title. URL 

MLA referencing format

Intext citations in MLA

MLA in-text citations should feature the author’s last name and the page number. Although the author’s name can be part of the text, the page number should always be in parenthesis. 

e.g., 1. These results are per a recent study in the field (Hendricks, 265).

e.g., 2. The study by Hendricks supports these findings (265). 

Bibliographies in MLA

Citing a book in MLA:

Author’s Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year Published.

Citing eBooks in MLA: 

Author last name, first name. Title of Book. City of publication: Publisher, copyright year. Name of database (if electronic). Publication medium (Web). Date of access.

Online article

Last, First M. “Article Title.” Website Title. Web. Date Month Year Accessed

How many references should a research paper have?

If it's your first time writing a research paper, you might be confused about how many references to include in the research. Although a substantial number of references in research indicates a proper understanding of the subject, falling within either extreme (too little or too many references) could dilute the relevance of your original arguments.

Although there is no ideal number of references for a research paper, your faculty might have provided information in the guidelines. If not, gauge paper’s that were submitted for your faculty and approximate the range of references for various word counts.