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Citing sources in an essay can seem complicated at first, but it gets easier the more you do it. Properly citing sources is an important part of academic writing, as it shows you have done research to support your ideas and allows readers to verify the information you provide. In the competitive landscape of academic writing, students often turn to essay writing services UK to receive tailored support and expertly written essays that meet the rigorous standards of British educational institutions.

Why Citing Sources is Important

There are a few key reasons why properly citing sources in an essay is so important:

  • It gives credit to the original creator of the work or idea you are referencing, whether that is an author, artist, researcher, etc. Failing to cite sources amounts to plagiarism, which can have serious consequences.
  • It allows your reader to find the sources you used in order to verify, learn more, or check for accuracy. A proper citation includes all the information someone would need to locate your source.
  • It demonstrates that you have done research to support your essay’s thesis. Academic essays aim to make an argument, not just state opinions, so citing relevant sources gives your work credibility.
  • It can help strengthen your thesis and add depth to your work by incorporating expert opinions and factual research.
  • It shows you understand proper research and citation methods, an important skill in many fields.

In other words, citing sources matters because it can help make your writing more persuasive, credible, and intellectually honest.

Citing Sources in the Text of Your Essay

There are two main ways to cite a source in the actual text of your essay. Let’s look at each one:

1. Parenthetical citations

This method uses parentheses within the sentence itself to indicate the source. For example:

Recent studies (Johnson 123) show that ocean pollution has continued to rise over the past decade.

Here, “(Johnson 123)” is the parenthetical citation, pointing the reader to the full source information in your bibliography or works cited page. The key pieces of information needed for the parenthetical citation are the author’s last name and the page number where you found this information in the original text.

This allows the reader to quickly see where you got a particular piece of information without them needing to divert their attention down to footnotes or endnotes. Parenthetical citations are common in APA format and some other citation styles.

2. Footnotes or endnotes

This method uses numbered footnotes (at the bottom of the page) or endnotes (at the end of the essay) to cite sources. For example:

Recent studies have shown that ocean pollution has continued to rise over the past decade.^1

^1 Johnson, Lisa. “A Decade of Rising Pollution in Our Oceans.” International Journal of Science 12.5 (2019): 123-134.

The note points the reader to the full citation at the bottom of the page or essay. Footnotes and endnotes allow the reader to see the source information immediately if desired, but do not interrupt the flow of reading as much as parenthetical citations might. They are common features in Chicago/Turabian format.

What to Include in a Citation

So what information should be included in a citation? While the exact format depends on the citation style you are using, typically you need to include:

  • Author name(s)
  • Title of work
  • Publication details like publisher, publication date, and page number
  • For online sources, the URL and access date

Again, the specifics vary based on the assigned citation format, but these core elements give your reader enough information to locate each source you reference.

When faced with the intricate task of creating compelling case studies, students often seek the expertise of top case study writing services, ensuring meticulous research and analysis for comprehensive and high-quality academic projects. Make sure citation information is complete, accurate, and consistent to demonstrate your attention to detail.

Citing Different Source Types

You may need to cite different types of sources in your essay, depending on your topic and research. Here are some tips for citing common source types:


Cite both the author(s) and the publisher/publication year, like:

(Doe 21)


^1 Doe, John. Ethical Dilemmas. Ace Publishing, 2017.

For e-books, include the publisher and URL or DOI (digital object identifier).


Include the author(s), article title in quotes, publication name, issue/volume, and page numbers, like:

(Smith 34)


^2 Smith, Jane. “Consequences of Urban Sprawl.” City Journal 12.2 (2015): 32-40.

For online articles, include the DOI or URL after the page numbers.


Cite the author (if known), website title in italics, publisher or sponsor (if available), and access date, like:

(“Climate Change”)


^3 “Climate Change Solutions.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 15 Sept. 2019, Accessed 5 Jan 2020.

Interviews or Personal Communications

Cite the name of the person you communicated with, type of communication, and full date, like:

(John Doe, telephone interview, January 5, 2020)

Online Images

Cite the artist/creator (if known), image title in quotes, the website where it was found, and access date, like:

(“Close Up of Green Turtle”)


^4 “Close Up of Green Turtle.” Flickr, uploaded by NPS Photo, 11 Dec. 2016, Accessed 25 Dec. 2019.

Using a Citation Generator

Wondering how you’ll keep track of all these sources while writing and then correctly cite them? Using a citation generator is a smart idea. Citation generators allow you to simply input source details like URLs or titles and will auto-generate a properly formatted citation you can copy and paste into your essay.

Some good citation generators to try are:

  • EasyBib (for APA, MLA, and Chicago formats)
  • Son of Citation Machine (for APA, MLA, and Chicago formats)
  • Cite This For Me (covers lots of formats including APA and MLA)

These tools take the guesswork out of citing and help ensure accuracy. Just keep track of important source details as you do your research so you have the info needed to use the generators.

Creating a Bibliography or Works Cited Page

At the end of your essay you’ll need a bibliography (MLA format) or works cited page (APA format) listing the full details of all sources cited. This gives your reader the information needed to find each source.

Make sure bibliographic entries are arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name (first name, middle initial). Double space the entries with no extra line space between. Follow the required format for margins, fonts, etc.

The bibliography or works cited page adds a polished look to your essay while giving due credit to others’ work.

When to Cite a Source

Wondering when you need to cite? The general rule is to cite anytime you reference someone else’s work or quote from a source directly. Specifically, aim to cite sources:

  • When directly quoting a source word-for-word, even if it’s just part of a sentence – always cite when quoting!
  • When paraphrasing or summarizing key information from a research source
  • When mentioning an idea, theory, finding, or data point that originated somewhere besides your own brain
  • When incorporating charts, images, or other graphics created by others
  • When quoting or paraphrasing a distinctive term or concept coined by another person
  • When referring to facts that aren’t considered common knowledge

As a rule of thumb, if you obtained information from somewhere outside your own thinking, cite the source. This shows the reader where your ideas end and others’ begin.

Common Citation Styles

There are different citation formats with slightly different rules for each. Some common ones you may need to use are:

  • APA – Used in psychology, education, and other social sciences. Cites sources in parenthetical in-text citations corresponding to an alphabetized works cited list at the end.
  • MLA – Used for literature, arts, and humanities papers. Uses parenthetical in-text citations pointing to an alphabetized bibliography.
  • Chicago/Turabian – Common for history and humanities papers. Utilizes footnotes or endnotes linked to a bibliography.
  • AMA – Used in medical and scientific papers. Numbered in-text citations are superscripted and link to a references page.

Your instructor will advise you which format to use. Each style has specific rules so review their guidelines. Using a citation generator preset for your required format helps ensure accuracy.

Avoiding Plagiarism

One final word of caution: Be sure you understand what constitutes plagiarism and take steps to avoid it! Plagiarism refers to presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own without proper citation. Here are some key ways to steer clear of accidental plagiarism:

  • Always cite direct quotes verbatim from sources. Putting quotation marks around the words shows they are not yours.
  • When paraphrasing or summarizing, cite the original source and its ideas even though you write the information in your own words.
  • If you incorporate images, charts, diagrams, etc. from sources, cite the creator/source.
  • Submit your paper through plagiarism checking software if required, or use a free plagiarism checker like Grammarly.
  • Do not copy and paste text from sources without directly quoting and citing it. This is plagiarism even if you change some words around.

With careful attention to citing sources completely and accurately in the required citation style, you can avoid plagiarism in your essay writing.

Tips for Citing Successfully

Citing sources properly may feel tedious at first, but forming good citation habits will serve you well in academic writing. Here are some top tips:

  • Start by gathering source information carefully while doing research so it’s on hand when needed.
  • Use helpful tools like citation generators to create citations in the required format.
  • Ask your instructor if you’re unsure whether a source needs to be cited. Better safe than sorry!
  • Organize sources as you go so you can easily create bibliographies, works cited pages, etc.
  • Proofread citations carefully at the end to catch any errors before submission.
  • Make sure in-text citations match up with correctly formatted bibliographic entries.

With practice over time, you’ll become comfortable citing sources fluidly in your essays. Just stay organized, use handy citation tools, and always cite when in doubt as you strengthen this important academic skill.

Following proper citation methods allows you to credit others for their ideas while demonstrating your own research efforts. Use these guidelines to confidently cite sources in any essay you write!



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