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How to cite a research paper in a paper

All sorts of academic papers need to be cited using citation styles like MLA, APA, Chicago, and others. Citation/reference styles such as those mentioned above can be used as rules for writing various academic papers and other literary pieces. Therefore, it is very necessary to understand the citation/reference style needed for each essay or any other academic writing before you start crafting. Such an understanding will help you avoid things like wrong formatting, plagiarism and low grades, or even outright failure.

This article discusses how to cite a research paper in a paper as well as other style formatting tips. Note that this is not a comprehensive presentation. More details can be obtained by consulting each of the mentioned style guides.

APA research paper format

The American Psychological Association (APA) research format is commonly used in papers related to social sciences and psychology. There is a general pattern in referencing through footnotes or endnotes, reference pages, and in-text citations in this style. There are also general writing guidelines when citing academic papers in APA format.

  • Papers should be typed, double-spaced on a standard-sized paper, 8.5 by 11 inches with a margin of 1 inch on either side.
  • Use a vibrant font that is highly readable. In APA, format font size 12 and Times New Roman font type are mainly used.
  • You can also include a page header at the top of every page.
  • On the page header, insert the page numbers on the top right.
  • Write the title of your paper in the header level left using UPPER CASE.
  • The page header is a condensed version of a paper’s title and should not exceed 50 characters, including punctuation and spacing.
  • The cover page may include the paper’s title, the author’s name, and institutional affiliation. Additional information may be of need, like the instructor name, course title, and date.

APA format research paper has four major parts, namely:

  • Title page
  • Abstract
  • Main body.
  • References.

Quoting a research paper in APA

Source: APA 7th Referencing: Journal Articles. Victoria University.

There are particular guidelines to follow when citing a paper in APA format. The following are a selection of some specific formats to follow:

  • When citing a book in print format: Author, (Publication Year). Work title. Publisher City, State: Publisher.

Example: Jerry A. (1970). Science and technology. New York, NY: John and Stresser.

  • Magazine (print): Author, A.A… (Year, Publication Month). Article Title. Magazine Title, Volume (Issue), pp.-pp.

Example: Kimani, A. (2006, April). To vote, or not to vote? Time 121(9), 7-16.

  • Website: Author, A.A. (Year, Month, Publication Date). Article title. Retrieved from URL.

Example: Peter, B. (2011, March 9). The city of God. Retrieved from (link).

MLA research paper format

The Modern Language Association (MLA) format was originally designed for researchers, students, and other academics in disciplines like literature and languages.  Since then, its usage has expanded significantly in scope to include the entire Humanities, Liberal arts, and beyond. The 8th edition of the style guide (the most current) was published in 2016.

Some MLA formatting guidelines

  • 8.5 × 11 inches standard white paper
  • 1inch margins on all sides
  • Times New Roman 12-point font
  • Double spacing.
  • page numbers should appear on the upper-right side
  • The student’s name, course of study, date, and instructor’s name should appear on the upper-left side of the first page
  • The title should be centered (on the first page). It should neither be bold nor italicized. All the words should be capitalized.
  • The header should appear 1.5 inches from the top on all pages. It should include the student’s name – one space – page number.
  • Indented paragraphing (1.5 inches or five spaces)

Citing a research paper in MLA style

Below are some selected formats used to follow when citing a research paper in MLA format.

  • Books: Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Publisher City: Publisher Name, Year Published. Medium.

Example: Stephen, Wolf. The Long Journey. New Jersey: Huskers, 2019. Print.

  • Magazine: Last Name, First Name. Article Title. Magazine Name Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.
  • Example: Stephen, Wolf. “Another War in Iraq.” Time 19 Jan. 2017: 13-27. Print.”
  • Website: Last Name, First Name. Page Title. Website Title. Sponsoring Institution/ Publisher. Publication Date: Page Numbers. Medium.

Example: Stephen, Wolf. “Another War in Iraq.” British Broadcasting Corporation, 28 Aug. 2001. Web. 3 Sep.2001.”

Research papers in Chicago style

This citation style is commonly used in humanities. It needs writers to cite sources in footnotes or endnotes. It provides the Author with a path to express creditability to related associated references or literature used in written material. It helps an academic writer give quotations in a research paper, and it is also commonly used for book bibliographies. Chicago style recommends the following format:

  • Times New Roman font type and 12 font size
  • Texts should be double-spaced, excluding Table Titles, Figure Captions, Block quotes, and Due Dates
  • 1 inch margin on all four sides
  • Page numbers should be written in the header of the first page of the text, starting with one, and should continue till the end of your bibliography

Citing a research paper in Chicago

The following are different Chicago style formats with some examples:

  • Book Citation: Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher City: Publisher Name, Year Published.

Example: Boyd, William. The Digital World. Stockholm: Ebert, 2013.

  • Magazine citation: Last Name, First Name. Article title. Magazine Title, Month Date, Year of publication.

Example: Cherry, Tom. Flights and Safaris. Travel Magazine, Oct 1, 1991.

  • Website: Last Name, First Name. Page Title. Website Title. Web Address (retrieved Date Accessed)”

Example: Stephen, Wolf. “Another War in Iraq.” (Link) (Accessed January 7, 2006).

ASA research paper format

The American Sociological Association (ASA) format is a leading American system of quotation and referencing. Scholars and sociology students use the ASA citation format to write university research papers in sociology or articles to ASA journals.

The following is the recommended ASA Format:

  • Times New Roman font type and 12 font size
  • The whole paper should be double-spaced, including footnotes
  • Margins should be at least 1-1/4 inches on all sides or as needed by the course instructor
  • Page numbers should be in the top right corner of every page

Citing a research paper using ASA format

  • Book: Author’s last and first Name. Year of Publication. Title. Country of publisher: Publisher.

Example: Ana, Sock. 2013. Screws and Bolts. Manchester: Glory Books.

  • Magazine Article: Author’s last and first Name. Year of Publication. ‘Title.’ Magazine Name, Month Year, pp. Inclusive page numbers.”

Example: “Glenn, Richard. 2012. ‘The “Driving Challenge.” Women’s Magazine, November 2001. Pp. 11-19.

  • Website citing: Author’s Last and First Name. Date of Publishing. Title. Publisher. Retrieved Month Day, Year (link).

Example: “Stanley, Paul. 08.13.2009. Whispers in the Dark. Retrieved 03.17.2011. (Link).


Proper citations are a sine qua non for success in your academic pursuits. When you cite accordingly, it portrays you as a disciplined, serious and articulate scholar. Failure to cite appropriately can lead to unpleasant consequences for the student and must be avoided completely.