Format For Sources In Research Paper

Term Paper: Format of Citations and References

1. Introduction

As you write your term papers, it will be important for you to document where you obtained the information cited in your report. Many of the references you use will come from published sources. Some may come from electronic sources such as the World Wide Web, Melvyl and Harvest databases available through the UC Davis library, CD references and the like, and some may come from interviews. An important component of your writing will be the effective use of reference material. This skill will serve you well in writing papers of all types, not just those required for classes.

For this class, we will be using the documentation style of the American Psychological Association (APA, 2001) modified with italics substituted for underlining. This format is very similar to that of the Modern Language Association, and these are the most commonly used styles for publishing in the social and natural sciences. The general form of citations in the body of the text is to include the author and date in parentheses (as above) and optionally include the page number(s) after the date. If the author's name was just mentioned in the text, it is not necessary to repeat it in the citation. The rules are described in more detail, with examples, in section 3.

2. Basic Guidelines

The purpose of the term paper in ECS 15 is for you to learn how to do effective research on a subject and then write it up clearly, showing where you got your information.

A research paper requires searching for information pertinent to a given subject, organizing it, and presenting it effectively in written form. Oral research reports are also useful, but this course does not cover them.

In the following sections, we will present the way that we want you to cite your references in the term paper for this course. The required format meets the accepted practices cited in Li and Crane (1993), a reference that is currently considered the best authority on citing electronic sources. This book in turn follows the basic format for the American Psychological Association (APA, 2001), which is a good format (though by no means the only acceptable one in technical publications). You may be required to use slightly different formats for other papers, such as papers submitted for publication to refereed journals, each of which typically have their own styles. Learning how to follow one such set of rules is a worthwhile exercise. You will therefore be expected to use the format set out below.

3. In-text Citation to References

When citing a reference from your reference list, please use the following conventions. Put in parentheses the author(s) last names, the year, and optionally the page number(s) separated by commas.

For one author, use the author's last name and year separated by a comma. For example: (Walters, 1994) or (Austin, 1996).

For two to five authors, use their last names separated by commas and with an ampersand "&" before the very last name in the list, then the year separated by a comma. For example: (Li & Crane, 1993) (Charniak, Riesbeck, McDermott & Meehan, 1994).

For more than five authors, use the first author's last name and "et al." For example: (Walters, et al., 1992).

For the date, use the year. If there are two references by the same author(s) for the same year, use letters after the year: (Walters, 1993b).

If there are specific page numbers for a citation, add them after the year (Walters, 1994, pp. 31-49).

If you include the author's name(s) in the text of a sentence in the paper, you may omit their names from the parentheses as follows: "Austin (1996) includes valuable references to ...." or "The examples given by Li and Crane (1993) on web addresses ...".

Do not use footnotes in this class for citations. You can use them for explanatory text, but not for references. Have the citation make it easy to find the reference in the "References" section. All references in that section should be complete enough for readers to obtain a copy for themselves.

4. Your List of References

Create a list of references, one for each item cited in the paper, in a section called "References". This section goes at the end of your paper. The references are to be alphabetized by the fist author's last name, or (if no author is listed) the organization or title. If you cite more than one paper by the same first author, sort them by year of publication, earliest year first. Do not use footnotes for citations.

Single-space the entries in your list of references. Start at the left margin for the first line of each bibliography entry. Each additional line of each entry should be indented a reasonable amount. Separate the entries with a blank line. Do not number the references. Doing so means you have to renumber all the references whenever you insert a new reference.

4.1. Author, Date, and Title

The general format for the author, title, and date in your reference list is as follows:

    Author. (date). Title. [the full reference, which follows, is discussed below]

The following explains these fields.


First author's last name, followed by the initials. If there are two authors, separate their names with "and". For three or more authors, separate all but the last author's name with commas, and use "and" before the last author's name in the list. If published by an agency with no author given, list the name of the agency. End with a period. For example:

    Walters, R.F.

    Walters, R.F. and Reed, N.E.

    Walters, R.F., Bharat, S. R. and Austin, A.A.

    Charniak, E., Riesbeck, C., McDermott, D. and Meehan, J.

    National Bureau of Standards.


Enclose the date in parentheses. Use a date sufficiently specific for the item. For example, give the year of publication for a book, the year and month of publication for a monthly magazine or journal, and the year, month, and day for a newspaper or daily periodical. End with a period. For example:


    (1992, October).

    (1995, August 30).


If the title is that of an article, use the regular font; if it is the title of a book, italicize it. Capitalize only the first letter of the first word and proper nouns. If there is a subtitle, it too should begin with a capital letter. End with a period. For example, an article's title would look like:

    Computer-based systems integration.

and a book's title would look like:

    The abc's of MUMPS: An introduction for novice and intermediate programmers.

4.2. Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers

The following apply to citing the name and identifying information for journals, magazines, newspapers, and periodicals in general.


When citing the name of a journal, magazine or newspaper, write the name in italics, with all words capitalized except for articles, prepositions and conjunctions.

Volume, number, and page numbers

Give the volume number in italics, followed by the issue number in parentheses (if there is an issue number), and the page number(s). For magazines, precede page numbers with "p." (if the article is on a single page) or "pp." (if the article is on multiple pages). For example:

    Communications of the ACM, 27(2), 141-195.

    Journal of Advertising Research, 32, 47-55.

    Time, 146, pp. 42-44.

Publisher and Location

Give the city and state (if in the United States), followed by a colon and the publisher name, followed by a period. For example:

    Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    London: Edward Arnold

4.3. Interviews

If you choose to include any personal interviews, reference them with the person's name, their professional title and employer, and the date, time, and place of the interview. For example:

    Albert Einstein (1935, January 5), Professor of Theoretical Physics, Princeton University, 3:00pm, Princeton, NJ.

4.4. References Found in Electronic Form

Many resource materials are available through Melvyl and Harvest, which are the electronic access points for the UC Davis library. More are on CDROM, or on the Internet. These can serve as appropriate references for research reports and term papers. It is important, however, to acknowledge the sources of these documents, even though you may never have seen "hard copy" (printed versions) of the file(s) you wish to cite. This section describes how you are to cite references that you have obtained from electronic repositories.

The basic form of your reference will be similar to printed references, but you will need to add some important additional information: the type of medium used, and the material's availability.

In general, if you wish to cite an electronic file, you should include either the term "[Online]" or the term "[CDROM]" (enclosed in square brackets) before the closing period terminating the title of the work cited. If you are citing a part of a larger work, you should give the title, followed by a comma, the word "In" followed by the larger work, and then add "[Online]" or "[CDROM]" as appropriate, followed by a period.

Citing the availability of an electronic document should give the reader enough information to know where to locate the file and, if necessary, the specific portion of the file cited. Electronic documents can come from several types of locations:

    ftp: identify the ftp server, location (path), and file name

    Internet (e.g., world wide web): give the location and file name; the URL is sufficient

    mailing lists, newsgroups: identify the server, method of access, and file name; do not cite personal email

    databases (e.g., computer database in Melvyl): identify access method

In each case, you should give enough information to let the reader know how to access the information electronically. Generally, giving the site (Internet-style server name) on which the information resides, the name of the file, and the complete path (list of directories) showing how to get to it is sufficient.For example:

    [Online]. Available: email: Message: Get POETICS TODAY.

    [Online] Available: FTP:, Location: /usenet/bionet/neuroscience, File: 9512.newsm.

    [CDROM]. Available: UMI File: Business Periodicals Ondisk Item 91-11501.

    [Online]. Available:

5. Samples of Complete References

All of the examples given above may be summarized by citing a few references in the form we would like you to use. Here are some examples that would be cited in the text as (Crosley, 1988), (Essinger, 1991, May 28, pp. 97-99), (Armstrong & Keevil, 1991, p. 103), and so forth.

5.1. Printed Book

Crosley, L.M. (1988). The architects' guide to computer-aided-design. Toronto: John Wiley & Sons.

5.2. Magazine Article

Essinger, J. (1991, May 28). Just another tool of your trade. Accountancy 108, pp. 91-125.

5.3. Journal Article

Armstrong, P. and Keevil, S. (1991). Magnetic resonance imaging-2: Clinical uses. British Medical Journal 303(2), 105-109.

5.4. Interview

Computer, Christopher C. (1996, January 10) Professor, Computer Science Department, University of California - Davis, 3:00 pm, Davis, California.

5.5. World Wide Web Address

Austin, A. (1996) Annotated List of World Wide Web Technical Writing and Computer-Aided Composition Resources [Online]. Available:

Burke, J. (1992, January/February). Children's research and methods: What media researchers are doing, Journal of Advertising Research, 32, RC2-RC3. [CDROM]. Available: UMI File: Business Periodicals Ondisk Item: 92-11501.

5.7. FTP

Blood, T. (1995, November 30). Re: Brain implants: the Chinese made it! [Online] In Newsgroup: bionet.neuroscience, Available FTP:, Directory: /usenet/bionet/neuroscience, File: 9512.newsm, Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 20:39:35.

Watson, L, and Dallwitz, M.J. (1990, December). Grass genera of the world-interactive identification and information retrieval. Flora Online: An Electronic Publication of TAXACOM (22). [Online]. Available FTP:, Directory: pub/newsletters/, File:022gra11.txt.

6. References

American Psychological Association (APA) (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, (Fifth Edition).Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Li, X. and Crane, N.B. (1993). Electronic style: A guide to citing electronic information. Westport, CT: Mecklermedia.

Here is a PDF version of this document.

If your instructor has specific requirements for the format of your research paper, check them before preparing your final draft. When you submit your paper, be sure to keep a secure copy.

The most common formatting is presented in the sections below:


Except for the running head (see below), leave margins of one inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the text. If you plan to submit a printout on paper larger than 8½ by 11 inches, do not print the text in an area greater than 6½ by 9 inches.

Text Formatting

Always choose an easily readable typeface (e.g., Times New Roman) in which the regular type style contrasts clearly with the italic, and set it to a standard size (e.g., 12 points). Do not justify the lines of text at the right margin; turn off any automatic hyphenation feature in your writing program. Double-space the entire research paper, including quotations, notes, and the list of works cited. Indent the first line of a paragraph half an inch from the left margin. Indent set-off quotations half an inch as well (for examples, see 76–80 in the MLA Handbook). Leave one space after a period or other concluding punctuation mark, unless your instructor prefers two spaces.

Heading and Title

Beginning one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin, type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spacing the lines. On a new, double-spaced line, center the title (fig. 1). Do not italicize or underline your title, put it in quotation marks or boldface, or type it in all capital letters. Follow the rules for capitalization in the MLA Handbook (67–68), and italicize only the words that you would italicize in the text.

Do not use a period after your title or after any heading in the paper (e.g., Works Cited). Begin your text on a new, double-spaced line after the title, indenting the first line of the paragraph half an inch from the left margin.

A research paper does not normally need a title page, but if the paper is a group project, create a title page and list all the authors on it instead of in the header on page 1 of your essay. If your teacher requires a title page in lieu of or in addition to the header, format it according to the instructions you are given.

Running Head with Page Numbers

Number all pages consecutively throughout the research paper in the upper right-hand corner, half an inch from the top and flush with the right margin. Type your last name, followed by a space, before the page number (fig. 2). Do not use the abbreviation p. before the page number or add a period, a hyphen, or any other mark or symbol. Your writing program will probably allow you to create a running head of this kind that appears automatically on every page. Some teachers prefer that no running head appear on the first page. Follow your teacher’s preference.

Placement of the List of Works Cited

The list of works cited appears at the end of the paper, after any endnotes. Begin the list on a new page. The list contains the same running head as the main text. The page numbering in the running head continues uninterrupted throughout. For example, if the text of your research paper (including any endnotes) ends on page 10, the works-cited list begins on page 11. Center the title, Works Cited, an inch from the top of the page (fig. 3). (If the list contains only one entry, make the heading Work Cited.) Double-space between the title and the first entry. Begin each entry flush with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines half an inch from the left margin. This format is sometimes called hanging indention, and you can set your writing program to create it automatically for a group of paragraphs. Hanging indention makes alphabetical lists easier to use. Double-space the entire list. Continue it on as many pages as necessary.

Tables and Illustrations

Place tables and illustrations as close as possible to the parts of the text to which they relate. A table is usually labeled Table, given an arabic numeral, and titled. Type both label and title flush left on separate lines above the table, and capitalize them as titles (do not use all capital letters). Give the source of the table and any notes immediately below the table in a caption. To avoid confusion between notes to the text and notes to the table, designate notes to the table with lowercase letters rather than with numerals. Double-space throughout; use dividing lines as needed (fig. 4).

Any other type of illustrative visual material—for example, a photograph, map, line drawing, graph, or chart—should be labeled Figure (usually abbreviated Fig.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Fig. 1. Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child, Wichita Art Museum.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the illustration and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 5). If the caption of a table or illustration provides complete information about the source and the source is not cited in the text, no entry for the source in the works-cited list is necessary.

Musical illustrations are labeled Example (usually abbreviated Ex.), assigned an arabic numeral, and given a caption: “Ex. 1. Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky, Symphony no. 6 in B, opus 74 (Pathétique), finale.” A label and caption ordinarily appear directly below the example and have the same one-inch margins as the text of the paper (fig. 6).

Paper and Printing

If you print your paper, use only white, 8½-by-11-inch paper of good quality. If you lack 8½-by-11-inch paper, choose the closest size available. Use a high-quality printer. Some instructors prefer papers printed on a single side because they’re easier to read, but others allow printing on both sides as a means of conserving paper; follow your instructor’s preference.

Corrections and Insertions on Printouts

Proofread and correct your research paper carefully before submitting it. If you are checking a printout and find a mistake, reopen the document, make the appropriate revisions, and reprint the corrected page or pages. Be sure to save the changed file. Spelling checkers and usage checkers are helpful when used with caution. They do not find all errors and sometimes label correct material as erroneous. If your instructor permits corrections on the printout, write them neatly and legibly in ink directly above the lines involved, using carets (⁁) to indicate where they go. Do not use the margins or write a change below the line it affects. If corrections on any page are numerous or substantial, revise your document and reprint the page.

Binding a Printed Paper

Pages of a printed research paper may get misplaced or lost if they are left unattached or merely folded down at a corner. Although a plastic folder or some other kind of binder may seem an attractive finishing touch, most instructors find such devices a nuisance in reading and commenting on students’ work. Many prefer that a paper be secured with a simple paper or binder clip, which can be easily removed and restored. Others prefer the use of staples.

Electronic Submission

There are at present no commonly accepted standards for the electronic submission of research papers. If you are asked to submit your paper electronically, obtain from your teacher guidelines for formatting, mode of submission (e.g., by e-mail, on a Web site), and so forth and follow them closely.

Designed to be printed out and used in the classroom. From the MLA Handbook, 8th ed., published by the Modern Language Association.

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