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Citing Sources and Listing References

For some, citing and referencing can be the most painstaking part of a paper. In particular if you first worked on your literature review prior to your findings section. Remember what your professors told you? A correct and full list of sources, both in your text and in your reference list, is important.

You’ve done your research, tested your hypothesis, put your findings through SPSS, arranged everything in neat tables and figures. And yet, you now need to compare your research findings with those of others who’ve undertaken studies similar to yours.

Here’s why citing is important:

A well-executed literature review helps other scholars (your readers) with their research. It also gives a good picture of the kind of effort you did to research your own topic. By citing, you acknowledge that your hypothesis, your ideas and purpose for having written a paper are based on ideas of others. Lastly, a reference list shows that you respect the intellectual property of other researchers by giving them due credit.

Paraphrasing and Citing
Paraphrasing is to write someone else’s ideas in your own words. You need to give the reference to the article from which you are taking ideas / information.
Citing is to copy someone’s words directly or indirectly.

You can decide to cite for two main reasons:

(i) you want to give your own opinion after having cited another researcher, or

(ii) you want to show a certain citation to support your own research.

In any case, by citing, you strengthen your article in a significant way. As long as you avoid unnecessary or less original citations. Don’t just cite to achieve a certain word count for your article. And don’t cite another author for something trivial or obvious not in need of further comments.

How to cite? The ‘basics’:

  • Place a citation between quotation marks (“…”). Or paraphrase indirectly (The author claimed that …) but make sure to provide the page number from the original source article.
  • If you cite an author’s words, you agree with that author’s opinion unless you clearly mention otherwise. But even if you agree, it’s appropriate to explain the link or importance of the citation for your own research.
  • Your citation or paraphrase needs to mention the author and publication title/year.
  • A citation shorter than 3 lines or a paraphrase can be put between quotation marks inside the body of your text. If the citation is longer, use a small indent (left and right margins).
  • A citation should be an identical copy of the original text. Don’t leave out any parts of the text you cite from without showing it by using […]. If you decide to additionally underline or highlight parts of the original text, mention this. For a paraphrase, retain key words from the article you cite from but feel free to use your own words.
  • In case a citation contains a spelling error, you need to copy the error with the mention “sic” (after the mistake) to show that you did notice the error.
  • In case you are not citing from the original source article but from a source that is also citing someone else’s words, you add the mention “cited in …” to your references. Don’t do this too often, however, because it would show reluctance on your behalf to spend sufficient time on your literature review.

Full Reference List

Alas, gone are the uniform APA/MLA days.

Different academic journals will mention different ways to list references. Higher-ranked journals tend to stand out more than others in this regard. This might just drive you up the academic wall.

When in doubt about listing references, consult the journals’ author guidelines. If you’re a PhD student, ask your supervisor for guidance.

The basics:

  • Your reference list has to be complete. Meticulously complete, actually. An editor will spend considerable time checking and crosschecking your list. After all, someone consulting a journal’s article has to be able to easily find the source by using the information you provided in the reference list.
  • A book you listed needs the name of the publisher + the place it was published + the year of publication. A journal article you listed needs the year + issue number + page numbers. An article found online needs the date you consulted read/used the article + the mention “accessed (online)”.
  • Your reference list needs to be consistent: the information on each article or book needs to be written in exactly the same way. Also pay attention to commas and periods.

In-Text References

You use references within the body of your text in any of these 3 ways:

  • Immediately after the sentence you cite or paraphrase: write the name of the author and year between brackets (for example: … this is the end of a sentence (Matthews 2013).
  • With footnotes: at the bottom of the page, write the name of the author, title, place of publication, name of publisher, year of publication and page number. In the text, point at the footnote by using a number in superscript (for example: … this is the end of a sentence1). If you use footnotes, don’t forget to once again list all footnotes in the alphabetical reference list at the end of your article or thesis.
  • With endnotes: at the end of a chapter, write the name of the author, title, place of publication, publisher, year of publication and page number. In the text, point at the endnote by using a number in superscript.
  • For MA and PhD students: don’t rely on online APA guidelines only. Follow the reference method preferred by your supervisor / department. Each department or even individual supervisor might have a preference different from APA style.

So where do you put those references? The most common place for references within the body of your text is at the end of a sentence – just before the period: (author, year) or (author, year, page number).

  • One author: (Fishman 2010), with or without a separating comma
  • Two authors: (Ashley and Cooper 2016)
  • More than two authors: (Jennings et al. 2008)
  • Articles by the same author in the same year: (Gates, 20010a); (Gates, 2010b)

For references in the list at the end of your article, order authors alphabetically using the first letter of the last name of the first author. List all authors, so don’t use “et al.” First names are usually abbreviated with a first letter. In case an author has several names preceding a last name, mention all initials. Remember that commas may replace periods in an APA reference list.

Listing a book or report
  • Author(s) or editor(s) + year, with or without a, b + title + publisher + place of publication
  • Example: Smith P.B., Okoye S.E., Deskingkar D. 2011. The world at the crossroads. Earthscan. London
Listing a PhD thesis
  • Author + year + title + university + place
  • Example: Moll H.C. 2016. Energy counts and materials matter in models for sustainable development. PhD thesis of the University of California, Berkeley.
Listing an article
  • Author(s) + year + title + name of journal + journal issue (number) + page(s)
  • Example: Hoevenagel R., Colins J.S. 2007. Economic appreciation of environmental changes: possibilities and limitations. Environment and Nature 5(3), pp. 65-73.
Listing a chapter from a book with editors (Edited Work)
  • Author(s) + year + title of chapter. In: title of book (ed: editor) + publisher + place of publication + page numbers (pp)
  • Example: Biesiot W., Mulder H.A.J. 2013. Energy constraints on sustainable development paths. In: The world at the crossroads (ed: P.B. Smith). Earthscan. London, pp. 57-66.
Listing a source from the Internet
  • Author (if known) + organization + title of the page (or a part of it) + URL + the words “accessed online” + date of first time you accessed the webpage.
  • Example: Ree K., University of Leuven, Science shops in the Low Countries: success or survival?,, accessed online 27 June 2016.
APA-Examples of Listings

Appel, René & Pieter Muysken. 2005. Language contact and bilingualism. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Chan, Hui-chen. 1994. Language shift in Taiwan: Social and political determinants. Georgetown University PhD dissertation. jmmd/022/0502/ jmmd0220502.pdf (accessed 8 December 2014)

Cheng, Robert L. 1979. Language unification in Taiwan: Present and future. In Murray A. Rubenstein (ed.), The other Taiwan: 1945 to the present, 557-591. New York: M.E. Sharpe.

Cheshire, Jenny. 2002. Sex and gender in variationist research. In Jack Chambers, Natalie Schilling-Estes & Peter Trudgill (ed.), The handbook of language variation and change. Ch. 17: 423-443. Oxford: Blackwell.

Parasher, S. N. 1980. Mother Tongue English Diglossia: A Case Study of Educated Indian Bilinguals’ Language Use. Anthropological Linguistics 22 (4): 151-168.

UNESCO. 2003. A Methodology for Assessing Language Vitality and Endangerment. Retrieved from:

Van De Craen, P. 2001. Multicultural, Multilingual and Peace Education in Multilingual and/or Multireligious Situations. International Seminar Foyer. Brussels: Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Accessed Online 29/6/2017:

For citing online sources, I recommend this page in the APA style guide: