Skip to Main Content

Writing a Research Paper: Citations and References

This guide will teach you how to write a research paper, find reliable resources, and site your sources appropriately.

When writing a research paper, citations are essential for crediting all sources used. There are three main types of citations: Chicago, MLA, and APA. Each with its own requirements. There are some overlapping aspects, however: double-spaced lines, 1-inch margins, and readable fonts. 

Whoever you are writing your paper for will usually have a preferred style they want you to use, so make sure to ask if it's not provided!

Chicago Style


Chicago style has two different styles for citations: parenthetical and footnote. Each has its own requirements.


  • In-text citations are in the Author-Date format.
  • Each citation corresponds to an entry in the bibliography or references section.


  • Uses numbered footnotes in the text.
  • Directs to a shortened citation at the bottom of each page.
  • Shortened citations correspond to full citations in the references section.
  • The citations are formatted differently from the Author-Date format.

As each style has its own build and requirements, it's important to double-check which is preferred by your employer or professor. (Please note both styles use hanging indents on the references page)

MLA Style


MLA style has some of the most complex types of citations, as they are affected by the type of media the citation is coming from. However, there are some overlapping aspects:

  • In-text citations are in the parenthetical Author-Page format. 
    • If the author's name is included in the sentence before the quote, the name is not needed in the in-text citation.
    • If there is no known author, the first distinct word of the citation can be used.
  • In-text citations should correspond with full Works Cited citations.
  • Hanging indent for works cited citations.

Being one of the most difficult-to-cite styles, it's important to remember the origin or media of a source when citing in this style. It's often recommended to use a citation generator for this style, but knowing the basics of a citation is important.

APA Style


APA style is in many ways a mix of Chicago and MLA styles and is thus pretty complicated as well. There are specific citation styles for several common types of sources, however, it is not as extensive as MLA.

  • In-text citations are in the parenthetical Author-Date format.
  • If directly quoting from a work, include the page number as well.
  • Reference List should use hanging indentation.
  • In-text citations should correlate with a citation on the reference list.

Using citation generators is useful for this style, however, there are hiccups as some media isn't included in the style formats. For items not specified, finding the most similar format to them is essential for proper citation.