Once you’ve located and found your sources and are ready to use the information for your arguments, you need to know how to properly cite and format that information. This step is extremely important
because you always need to make sure you’re giving credit wherever necessary. Formatting is so important that you could even fail your paper if you don’t do it properly.
This part can be tricky, so this will guide you through the process of finding good evidence, using it in your paper, and citing it properly according to the required formatting style.
Plagiarism is defined as the act of taking someone else’s idea, work, or discovery and passing it off as your own. This is a pretty big trigger word when it comes to universities and colleges. It is considered a
form of academic dishonesty. Getting caught plagiarizing could get you a failing grade, put on academic probation, and even expelled.
So how do you avoid plagiarism in your paper? It’s not as difficult as it sounds. The key is to make sure you’re citing all of your sources properly and giving credit wherever credit is due. Any time you use an idea that belongs to someone else, you must make sure that you indicate this was not your original idea. This goes for both direct quotations and paraphrasing.
Quotations vs. Paraphrasing
There are two main ways that you can incorporate evidence in your paper: direct quotations and paraphrasing.
A direct quotation is the act of taking the author’s exact words and putting them in your paper, surrounded by quotation marks and properly cited. When you paraphrase, you take the author’s quote and rewrite it in your own words. Now, paraphrasing doesn’t mean you can steal credit for someone else’s ideas. You still need to cite your sources even when you paraphrase, especially when discussing an author’s original point of view.
So how do you know when you should use a direct quotation and when you should paraphrase? This will depend on the type of paper you’re writing and the specific evidence you’re using. If you’re writing a literary analysis, for example, you’ll want to use mostly direct quotations from the text so you can provide a detailed examination. For a research paper, you will likely rely on paraphrasing to keep your
essay flowing smoothly. Anytime you write over five exact words in a row from a source, you need to make a direct quotation and cite it properly.
Ultimately, the less direct quotations you use, the better. This shows your professor you really understand the source material and your topic, and can reiterate your supporting arguments in your own words. Whenever you can restate something it shows that you can understand and explain it thoroughly. Sometimes a professor will specifically request that you do not use direct quotations, so make sure you pay attention to your paper instructions.
Formatting Your In-Text Quotations
No matter what citation style you’re using, you’ll have to make sure your quotes are properly cited and formatted when used within the text of your paper. Follow the basic rules:
- If you use the author’s name in the sentence, it doesn’t need to be included in the in-text citation. Here’s an example: “William Smith argues that social interactions are the true dividing factor in elementary schools (45).”
- The punctuation always goes after the citation parentheses.
- You don’t need to use in-text citations for information that is considered to be common knowledge.
- For poetry or play quotations longer than one line but shorter than three lines, use a slash (/) to separate breaks between lines.
Longer quotations need to be formatted differently. This is a common situation when writing literary analysis papers or quoting from Shakespeare, but applies anytime you’re using a longer quote.
If the lines you’re quoting are longer than three lines or sentences, you’ll need to break up your paragraph and centre it. These go as block quotes, with the citation placed after the last word of the quote. Don’t indent this block quote. You will continue your paragraph on the next line.
Formatting the Bibliography
Depending on the type of citation style your professor has requested, you’ll need to pay close attention to your formatting when listing your sources at the end of your paper.
All bibliographies need to be organized in alphabetical order with an indent for each additional line of the same citation. It should start on a new page, even if the last page of your paper only has a couple of lines, and each entry should have at least one corresponding citation within the paper.
It’s important to note that the bibliography page does not count toward your total page count. That means you can’t stuff your paper with a bunch of sources and use them all to add an extra few pages to
your paper to meet the count.
For academic sources with multiple authors, the authors should be listed in the bibliographical entry in the order they appear in the source. They are listed this way based on which author has led the research study or contributed the majority of the information. For example, if the journal is written by Edward Salamander, Marsha Ronan, and Alexander Abbett, your entry would begin with Salamander and be shortened to “Salamander et al.” in your in-text citation because Salamander is the most prominent contributor. Don’t rearrange this in alphabetical order.
Make sure you maintain the same spacing in your bibliography as you do in the rest of your paper. For example, if your paper instructions require double spacing, make sure your bibliography entries are also