Adding Citations to Your Research Paper Help (page 2)
Introduction to Citations
This lesson will explain why it is so important to cite your sources. It will also show you how to document your sources using footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical citations. In addition, samples will be given for you to use as models.
Citations—either in the form of footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical citations—provide your reader with key information about the material you used for your research. As mentioned earlier, any legitimate piece of analytical or research writing—whether it is a book or paper—must accurately list all sources that were consulted, and it must give credit for information used in the text or the writing. If you do not credit your sources, you are plagiarizing another's ideas or words. Citations are also important because they add credibility to your work. If, for example, you repeatedly refer to a set of speeches by John F. Kennedy and quote from these speeches word for word—without acknowledging your source—you would be plagiarizing, or in effect, "stealing" this information. In addition, if your paper provides controversial information or facts that are not well known to most people and you do not document the source of this material, readers might doubt the authenticity of your work and your credibility as a writer. Citations assure your reader that all of your information—controversial or not, well known or divulged for the first time—comes from a specific source that can be referenced easily. Without citations, an analytical and historical paper might as well be a well-written story or work of fiction.
Statements That Need Proper Citation
Usually, there are four basic categories of statements that need documentation in order for your work and analysis to be considered legitimate and professional. These types of statements are:
- Direct quotations—any parts of speeches, segments, or passages quoted or taken from other sources
- Any statistics—numerical data, tables, graphs, charts, illustrations, and photographs
- Little known or obscure facts that go against accepted belief
- Ideas or philosophical perspectives that are not your own or are taken from other sources
If you are writing your paper about President John F. Kennedy, it might be important for you to include his personal statements about his final days in the White House. Maybe, he mentioned privately to one of his aids just before his assassination that he was "worried" about security. Perhaps, he had been warned about his trip to Dallas beforehand, and in a speech to White House staff, he acknowledged security worries. With strong confidence though, he vowed to undertake a trip that could mean danger. Direct quotations and statements from experts—witnesses who were alive at the time, or even from the person about whom you are writing—are excellent firsthand sources of information. While your own analysis is always important, any information that comes directly from the source itself is always critical. Just be sure that any statements you quote—even if they are only segments or parts of a speech—are credited to the proper source, and attributed to the correct writer or speaker. As an example, read the following:
President Kennedy was well aware of the security risks that his trip to Dallas posed for both himself and his staff. However, in a briefing to his cabinet on the day before he left he said, "I thank you all for the detailed information you have provided for me, and I am grateful for the work that you have all undertaken in keeping me up to date about current security concerns. However, after evaluating all the facts at hand and openly acknowledging the risks involved in such a campaign trip at this moment, I have decided to go to Dallas. Ultimately, it is in the best interests of the American people if I go."1
As a writer, you can analyze why President Kennedy chose to follow through on his trip despite security concerns, but even though you can argue that he did it for the good of the American people, the direct quote from his speech proves this fact to the reader beyond a doubt. Just be sure to provide a footnote or parenthetical citation at the end of the speech that informs the reader of the book and the source of your information. Therefore, your reader, curious about this speech and its origins, will find:
1James Barber, White House Security: An Examination of the Dilemmas that Confronted Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. (New York: Little House Press, 1995) p. 213.
Any time that you refer to statistics, precise numerical information, charts, tables, graphs, illustrations, or photographs to legitimize your points and analysis, you should always include a footnote or citation and credit your source. Numerical statistics are often subject to dispute. For instance, if you state:
Twelve key members of the CIA knew about the risks of Kennedy's trip. These twelve advisors, however, did not share their information with the rest of the staff until it was too late. (Fitzpatrick 13)
A reader might legitimately ask, "Were there only 12 staff members who knew? Wasn't the number larger? Shouldn't important security issues require more staff members?" Providing the reader with the precise source from which you learned this information ends the confusion and controversy. Statistics are also common, particularly in historical papers. If you are writing a paper on World War II, for example, you might state:
At the end of World War II, approximately 50 million human lives were lost; over 12 million of these lives alone came from the Soviet Union.3
Different historians often have conflicting interpretations of events, collections of facts, and points of view. Providing a note ends any dispute on a particular fact or issue. Similarly, it goes without saying that if you include in your writing any charts, tables, graphs, illustrations, or photographs that are the work of other people, you must formally acknowledge them and give them credit for their work.
Little Known or Controversial Facts
As you read through your paper and format your citations, it's important to be sure that any conclusions you have made that go against accepted belief or previously established facts, or that are highly obscure and not well known, are supported by a note or citation. Again, if you are writing a paper about World War II, a good example of this might be:
Contrary to popular belief, Adolf Hitler was a liberal and a humanitarian. He welcomed many different beliefs and the practice of different religions within Germany. In addition, the Third Reich championed the human rights of all peoples and in particular, of minorities. (Smith 42)
Obviously, this statement requires a citation because it goes against all previously established beliefs and factual evidence. A reader coming across this statement in a paper would immediately want to know, "Where did the writer get this information? I've never heard this before." Again, if there is a fact or opinion that is highly obscure or that has not been mentioned in other places or in other sources, it is important to provide the reader with a citation. For instance, in a paper about John F. Kennedy, a statement like this would require a citation:
There was one member of President Kennedy's security team who strongly urged the President not to ride through the streets of Dallas that fatal day. He was a member of the Dallas police force, a little known, obscure and neglected figure that has faded into history. Captain Arthur Brown, whom no one on the police force remembered after his fatal warning, whispered to President Kennedy before the motorcade began, "be careful. Look ahead of you and don't let the driver linger." (Hanson 176)
Again, because this information reveals new data or provides information that the reader has most probably not come across elsewhere, it is important to document it.
Ideas or Interpretations from Other Sources
Any good paper on any topic is full of ideas and provides a reader with all kinds of interpretations about a particular subject matter. Since each human being is different, every book or paper that is written is obviously unique. No two writers write in exactly the same way. Sometimes, however, when people analyze the same information, the same data, or statistics, they are liable to draw the same conclusions. Do you have to footnote every idea that you have just because others have also had the same idea? In other words, if you state in your paper:
It is reasonable to assume that President Kennedy knew about the security problems involved in his trip but chose to ignore them.
Does this idea or analysis require a footnote? No, because it is a reasonable idea or assumption that anyone might make based on the evidence that was provided. However, what if you have read the same thought expressed by another writer and the two of you happened to draw the exact same conclusions? Do you have to credit every single author you read for providing you with an idea? The answer to this question is tricky and less clear than the other examples that have been mentioned. In short, no, you do not have to "footnote" your ideas—even if another writer had the same idea or another writer's work prompted you to form an opinion on your own. However, if you "use" an idea from another writer that is absolutely not your own or an idea, interpretation, or analysis—in other words, if an author has provided you with a thought that you did not come up with on your own, then it is common courtesy to credit that writer, which also ensures that you will not be accused of representing another person's idea as your own. For example, if you are writing a science paper and you state:
The key to understanding the transformation of energy and matter in the universe is simple. It can be stated in this simple equation: E=MC2.6
Obviously, the scientist who derived this complex theory after many years of thorough and difficult investigation is Albert Einstein, and he deserves the credit for this discovery.
How to Write Footnotes, Endnotes, and Parenthetical Citations
Two frequently consulted style manuals and style procedures for research papers are the Modern Language Association (MLA) style of documentation and the American Psychological Association (APA) style of documentation. There are several specific differences between the two style manuals and their procedures, so it is very important to find out the preferred style policy for your paper. Some professors and professionals prefer MLA style, while others prefer the APA style of documentation. However, no matter which style guide you use, all three types of documentation—footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical citations—follow specific and standard formats.
The most current method of documenting sources is with parenthetical citations. This format lists the book the statement or information was taken from and the page number in parentheses immediately following the statement. This method is becoming standard practice because it is relatively easy to follow and immediately informs your reader of the source you have used. The best guide to consult if you have questions about how to cite a particular source using parentheses is the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. However, here is the basic format for parenthetical citations:
"In the White House, contrary to public belief, security staff always followed a strict procedure to the letter." (Barber 16).
This statement is documented with the author's last name and the page number from the book in parentheses. In the bibliography (also known as the list of Works Cited), the book's title, publisher, place of publication, and publication date is included and follows standard bibliographic format. If you have included several works by the same author, include the title in the parentheses in order to avoid confusion. Here's an example of this format:
"In the White House, contrary to public belief, security staff always followed a strict procedure to the letter." (Barber, White House Security 16).
If you are using sources by two different authors with the same last name, use the author's first initial in the citation in order to avoid confusion. In the unlikely event that you are citing two authors with the same first and last name, include the middle initial. When in doubt, it's always a good idea to consult the MLA Handbook or other style guide.
Any source—whether it's a book, a multivolume series, an article, or an electronic source—can be documented using this form of citation. For example, if you are citing a web article by a specific author, simply list the author's name and the page or paragraph number, if it is available. If there is no page or paragraph number, just use the author's name. If there is no author listed, use the title. Later in this chapter, you will learn the proper way to list electronic sources in your bibliography, and this will help you to figure out which information is available for you to use in your parenthetical citations. To refer to a page in a work that consists of more than one volume, simply list the author's name, followed by the volume number and page number, separated by a colon—(Smith 2:45).
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