Three Tips for Citing References like a Researcher

“One author says this about wolves: ‘in Scotland the species certainly lasted much longer’ (Yalden 1999).”

Oh dear! Do your citations look like this one?

Sometimes citations can be technically right, but still look bad, and make it obvious that you are new to Academic Writing. Never fear! There are three tips which will have you citing like a researcher in no time.

1.    Paraphrase, Don’t quote
After you have left school, the rule is don’t quote in essays. You need to explain ideas in your own words. Don’t worry if you can’t use the same high level of language as your source, the important thing is to show you understand:

“One author argues that the wolf was killed off earlier in England than it was in Scotland (Yalden 1999, p.168).”

This will get you more marks than the reference at the top of the article, because you are proving that you understand what the source says.

2.    Use Off-hand Citations
The next most important thing is to try to incorporate citations into your discussion as much as possible:

“Pluskowski (2006) argues that the wolf was extirpated to protect deer in royal forests.”

Here instead of the citation being separate from the sentence, we have completely integrated it. Because we have used the surname of the author in the discussion, we don’t need it in the citation. All we need there is the publication date in brackets. A casual reader might not even realise that they are seeing an academic citation here.

3.    Think about page numbers
The rules for page numbers in academic writing are complicated.

In a citation, you need to include a page number for a book, but not for an academic article in a journal, or for a website. You use p. for one page (e.g. p.14), or pp. for multiple pages (e.g. pp.15-29).

“The wolf probably became extinct in England during the fourteenth century (Yalden 1999, p.168; Pluskowski 2006).”

Here we included a page number for Yalden (a book) but not for Pluskowski (an article).

Just to confuse you however, in the List of References section, you never include the page numbers for a book, unless it is a book made up of articles by different scholars. However, articles in journals do always need to include page numbers:

List of References
Pluskowski, A., 2006. Where are the wolves? Investigating the scarcity of European grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus) remains in medieval archaeological contexts and its implications. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology, 16(4), pp.279–295.

Yalden, D., 1999. The history of British mammals, Cambridge: T & A D Poyser Natural History.

If you need to improve your Academic Writing skills, consider taking a distance learning course with us at ADL. Our Research Project course gives you all the support you need to research and write a professional dissertation on a subject of your choice.




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