5 Tips for Making Perfect Citations

When you’re in a rush to meet a deadline and hand in your paper ASAP, it can be all too easy to make a mistake that can cost you big time. Citations are an often-overlooked component of a research paper that, when done correctly, can help you get your best grade yet. So how can you be sure that your citations are helping you achieve success? Here are some tips to take your research paper to the next level.

1. Include In-text or Parenthetical Citations When Paraphrasing

It can be tempting to just re-write a sentence from a source to include in your paper. But neglecting inclusion of a parenthetical, or in-text citation can lead to accusations of plagiarism. Being accused of committing plagiarism can not only impact your grade, but can put your enrollment in jeopardy as well. To avoid making this error, be sure to paraphrase carefully, and include a parenthetical or in-text citation in your paper each time you reference an outside source.

2. Periods (Almost) Always Go After the Parenthesis

Something as minor as an incorrectly placed period after a reference can lead to losing major points on your paper. In nearly every citation style with parenthetical citations, the period comes after the parenthesis, not before. Here is an example of a correctly placed period after a reference in APA format:

(Smith, 2005).

3. Be Consistent with Your Citation Style

Some classes require you use MLA format, while others require APA, while still others require Chicago Manual of Style. These specifications can be difficult to keep track of, but being consistent with your style is perhaps the easiest thing you can do to make sure you have well written citations. Double-checking your citations at the end of your paper before handing it in can lead to good last minute improvements.

4. All In-text and Parenthetical Citations Should Correspond with a Reference List Entry

In-text and parenthetical citations can be done while you are writing your paper, and are included each time you include information from an outside source. It is important to remember, however, that each time you do this, you should bear in mind that at the end of your paper in the works cited, bibliography, reference list, etc., there should be a corresponding longer reference to that same source that matches the in-text or parenthetical reference. When you are finished making your in-text and parenthetical references, use them to make a list of full citations you will need to include at the end of your paper.

5. Cite Properly, Not in Excess

While it is important to include citations in your paper, you shouldn’t be including them after each and every sentence you write. The important thing to remember is to cite only if you are including information from an outside source. This information should only be included if you feel that it backs up your claim effectively enough to the point where another researcher could potentially find that source and identify it as being related to your argument. If all the information in one paragraph you write refers to the same source, you only need to include one in-text or parenthetical citation in that paragraph, not after each individual sentence.


Finished with your citations and paper? Check out Citation Machine’s handy grammar checker! It can help you spot errors and polish your paper. There’s also a free grammar guides library where you can learn what is a verb, an adjective definition, relative pronoun examples, and other grammar-related topics.