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How to write your references quickly and easily

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Table of Contents

Every scientific paper builds on previous research – even if it’s in a new field, related studies will have preceded and informed it. In peer-reviewed articles, authors must give credit to this previous research, through citations and references. Not only does this show clearly where the current research came from, but it also helps readers understand the content of the paper better.

There is no optimum number of references for an academic article but depending on the subject you could be dealing with more than 100 different papers, conference reports, video articles, medical guidelines or any number of other resources.

That’s a lot of content to manage. Before submitting your manuscript, this needs to be checked, cross-references in the text and the list, organized and formatted.

The exact content and format of the citations and references in your paper will depend on the journal you aim to publish in, so the first step is to check the journal’s Guide for Authors before you submit.

There are two main points to pay attention to – consistency and accuracy. When you go through your manuscript to edit or proofread it, look closely at the citations within the text. Are they all the same? For example, if the journal prefers the citations to be in the format (name, year), make sure they’re all the same: (Smith, 2016).

Your citations must also be accurate and complete. Do they match your references list? Each citation should be included in the list, so cross-checking is important. It’s also common for journals to prefer that most, if not all, of the articles listed in your references be cited within the text – after all, these should be studies that contributed to the knowledge underpinning your work, not just your bedtime reading. So go through them carefully, noting any missing references or citations and filling the gaps.

Each journal has its own requirements when it comes to the content and format of references, as well as where and how you should include them in your submission, so double-check before you hit send!

In general, a reference will include authors’ names and initials, the title of the article, name of the journal, volume and issue, date, page numbers and DOI. On ScienceDirect, articles are linked to their original source (if also published on ScienceDirect) or to their Scopus record, so including the DOI can help link to the correct article.

A spotless reference list

Luckily, compiling and editing the references in your scientific manuscript can be easy – and it no longer has to be manual. Management tools like Mendeley can keep track of all your references, letting you share them with your collaborators. With the Word plugin, it’s possible to select the right citation style for the journal you’re submitting to and the tool will format your references automatically.

Like with any other part of your manuscript, it’s important to make sure your reference list has been checked and edited. Elsevier Author Services Language Editing can help, with professional manuscript editing that will help make sure your references don’t hold you back from publication.

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How To Write References for Academic & Scientific Research Papers

How To Write References for Academic and Scientific Research Papers Writing accurate & appropriate references is an essential aspect of preparing a research paper for successful publication, examination or any other kind of serious dissemination or evaluation. This article explains exactly how to write perfect references in two widely used scholarly styles: the parenthetical author–date system recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA) & the sequential numerical or Vancouver system frequently used in the sciences. The post also includes several clear examples of in-text citations & complete bibliographical references formatted in both styles. Neither of these documentation styles is inherently complex, though each does have its characteristic pitfalls, and the utmost accuracy is essential when using either. Accusations of plagiarism or misrepresentation of the work of other scholars can be the unpleasant result if authors are not absolutely correct and scrupulously thorough in providing citations and references when they should to acknowledge the research of others. In addition, publication attempts can prove unsuccessful and grades lower than expected if instructions and guidelines for references are not observed with precision and consistency. The discussion and examples offered below outline exactly how to provide scholarly references for articles and books in one version of an author–date documentation style – APA – and one of a numerical style – Vancouver – but do be aware that various versions of these two basic styles exist, so consulting the guidelines, instructions or manual specific to the research paper you are writing is always imperative before finalising formats for in-text citations and complete references. PhD Thesis Editing Services Writing APA Author–Date References for a Research Paper Writing an accurate and appropriate APA author–date reference is a two-stage process involving 1) the creation of an in-text citation in the main body of the paper and 2) the addition of a complete bibliographical entry about the source in a list of references at the end of the paper.

1. The in-text citation should contain the last name of the author (or last names of the authors if there is more than one) who wrote the article, book or other document followed by the document’s date of publication. This information most frequently appears in parentheses immediately after the statement related to the paper, as in this example: • A recent study of the text presents a similar argument (Wilson & Bond, 2016). Alternatively, the names of the authors or the date of publication can be integrated into the main text, with the remaining information presented in parentheses: • Wilson and Bond present a similar argument in their recent study of the text (2016). • A 2016 examination of the text presents a similar argument (Wilson & Bond). Rewording of the main text is obviously necessary, but the only difference (beyond arrangement) in the citation information itself is that the word ‘and’ is used between the author names in the main text, whereas an ampersand (&) is used between those names when they appear in parentheses. The parentheses can sometimes be eliminated altogether by writing both author names and publication date in the main text: • Wilson and Bond’s 2016 study of the text presents a similar argument. Page numbers can be used for referring to specific information in particular parts of a publication, but they are usually only required in APA style for direct quotations when a passage or other part of a published document is reproduced word for word in a new research paper. In such cases, the page number is separated from the publication date by a comma and preceded by the abbreviation ‘p.’ for ‘page’: • As Wilson and Bond explain, ‘the political reading of the text, even the most personal of its episodes, seems universal until the book falls into a woman’s hands’ (2016, p.88).

When two or more sources are cited in the same set of parentheses, semicolons are used to separate the sources: • Both studies consider the poem in relation to urban culture (Samuel & Watson, 2013; Wilson & Bond, 2016). The normal arrangement when multiple sources are cited in a single set of parentheses is to observe alphabetical order according to the author names, as I have done above (with ‘Samuel’ preceding ‘Wilson’). Notice that the in-text citation takes the same form whether the source cited is a book or an article, with ‘Samuel & Watson’ referring here to a monograph and ‘Wilson & Bond’ to a journal article. PhD Thesis Editing Services 2. Every source cited in the text of an academic or scientific research paper using APA style should also be included in a list that is entitled ‘References’ and presented at the end of the paper. An APA list of references should be arranged alphabetically based on author names, and all the bibliographical information required for readers to find each source must be provided in a specific format. The author names for a publication come first and are inverted, with the last name of the first author of each document opening the bibliographical entry. Author names are followed by the date of publication (in parentheses), with these two pieces of information serving readers by connecting the complete reference to the in-text citation. It is therefore vital that the last names of authors and the publication dates provided in both places are checked against each other for errors and inconsistencies and then carefully corrected to agree with precision.

For the complete reference to a journal article, the title of the article follows the date of publication. The name and volume number of the journal come next, both of them in italic font, though do be aware that special fonts may not be displayed in this post. The pages on which the article can be found come next, and if there is a doi or url for an online version of the paper, that should be the last item in the entry, which would take this form: • Wilson, S., & Bond, F. (2016). Political and personal readings of the earliest zone poem. Urban Poetry, 12, 72–94. doi:00.0000/00000000000000 For the complete reference to a book, the information, and thus the format, is a little different. The title of the book follows the publication date and appears in italic font, with the place of publication and publisher’s name completing the reference: • Samuel, H., & Watson, M. (2013). Political poetry and modern urbanity. London: Big City Press.

Writing Sequential Numerical References for a Research Paper The same two-step process is necessary when writing the sequential numerical references used for Vancouver style documentation, but in-text citations are notably simpler, a different arrangement is used for the list of references and a somewhat different format is required for the complete bibliographical entries included in the list.

1. For a numerical in-text citation, a single Arabic numeral is all that is required. Each source is assigned a number when it is first cited, so the sources used in a research paper are numbered sequentially according to the order of first citation, with each source retaining throughout the paper the number it was originally assigned. The first source cited would therefore be reference 1, the second reference 2 and so on. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends placing these reference numbers in parentheses, with a citation taking this form: • A recent study of the text presents a similar argument (1). As is the case with author–date citations, information about sources can also be added in the main text: • Wilson and Bond present a similar argument in their recent study of the text (1). • A 2016 examination of the text presents a similar argument (1). • Wilson and Bond’s 2016 study of the text presents a similar argument (1). Unlike author–date citations, however, this additional information in the text does not negate the need for the reference number, which is always required.

If you need to cite a specific page of a document to point readers to a particular piece of information or indicate the location of a quoted passage, the page number should be added after the reference number, usually with a comma to separate it from the reference number and a preceding ‘p.’ to avoid confusion: • As Wilson and Bond explain, ‘the political reading of the text, even the most personal of its episodes, seems universal until the book falls into a woman’s hands’ (1, p.88). When two or more sources are cited at the same time, commas are generally used to separate the reference numbers, usually without intervening spaces: • Several studies have taken this approach to the text (1,2,5–8). PhD Thesis Editing Services 2. The reference list for sequential numerical citations is arranged, not surprisingly, by the numerical sequence of the citations. This means that the first source cited in a research paper (reference 1) is also the first source listed in the References section of the paper, the second is the second source in the list and so on. The following two sample references follow ICMJE guidelines and would serve as the opening entries in a numerical list of references: • 1. Wilson S, Bond F. Political and personal readings of the earliest zone poem. Urban Poetry. 2016;12:72–94. doi:00.0000/00000000000000. • 2. Samuel H, Watson M. Political Poetry and Modern Urbanity. London: Big City Press; 2013.

As these examples show, the information required for a complete reference varies according to the nature of the source cited, just as it does with author–date references. In addition, the names of journals (but not books) are often abbreviated when preparing numerical references. It is essential, however, that the correct or standard abbreviation for each journal be used when shortening journal titles, which can easily be confused in their abbreviated forms, so a little research may be necessary to determine the right abbreviation. Use of the complete journal title is recommended when there is any doubt or there is no standard abbreviation. A cautionary note is in order when writing sequential numerical references. Adding or deleting sources from a numerical list of references that has been arranged according to the order in which sources are first cited can necessitate changes in subsequent list entries as well as in the in-text citations, and the same is the case with any changes to those in-text citations. The reason is simple: if, for example, you remove reference 3 from the text or list, what was reference 4 becomes reference 3, what was reference 5 becomes reference 4 and so on. If you add that removed reference back in elsewhere more alterations will ensue. It is therefore wise to check and finalise the order of the reference list very carefully indeed after all the in-text citations are in their final places, and to ensure that the assigned reference numbers agree with the utmost accuracy between in-text citations and the list of references.

Why Our Editing and Proofreading Services? At we offer the highest quality journal article editing , phd thesis editing and proofreading services via our large and extremely dedicated team of academic and scientific professionals. All of our proofreaders are native speakers of English who have earned their own postgraduate degrees, and their areas of specialisation cover such a wide range of disciplines that we are able to help our international clientele with research editing to improve and perfect all kinds of academic manuscripts for successful publication. Many of the carefully trained members of our expert editing and proofreading team work predominantly on articles intended for publication in scholarly journals, applying painstaking journal editing standards to ensure that the references and formatting used in each paper are in conformity with the journal’s instructions for authors and to correct any grammar, spelling, punctuation or simple typing errors. In this way, we enable our clients to report their research in the clear and accurate ways required to impress acquisitions proofreaders and achieve publication.

Our scientific proofreading services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript proofreading services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical proofreading services , and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading , offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.

If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication , which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.

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It provides practical advice on planning, preparing and submitting articles for publication in scholarly journals.

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If you are in the process of preparing a PhD thesis for submission, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in the book, How to Write a Doctoral Thesis , which is available on our thesis proofreading website.

PhD Success: How to Write a Doctoral Thesis provides guidance for students familiar with English and the procedures of English universities, but it also acknowledges that many theses in the English language are now written by candidates whose first language is not English, so it carefully explains the scholarly styles, conventions and standards expected of a successful doctoral thesis in the English language.

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To improve the quality of papers.

Effective proofreading is absolutely vital to the production of high-quality scholarly and professional documents. When done carefully, correctly and thoroughly, proofreading can make the difference between writing that communicates successfully with its intended readers and writing that does not. No author creates a perfect text without reviewing, reflecting on and revising what he or she has written, and proofreading is an extremely important part of this process.

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A Beginner’s Guide to Citations, References and Bibliography in Research Papers

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As an academician, terms such as citations, references and bibliography might be a part of almost every work-related conversation in your daily life. However, many researchers, especially during the early stages of their academic career, may find it hard to differentiate between citations, references and bibliography in research papers and often find it confusing to implement their usage. If you are amongst them, this article will provide you with some respite. Let us start by first understanding the individual terms better.

Citation in research papers:  A citation appears in the main text of the paper. It is a way of giving credit to the information that you have specifically mentioned in your research paper by leading the reader to the original source of information. You will need to use citation in research papers whenever you are using information to elaborate a particular concept in the paper, either in the introduction or discussion sections or as a way to support your research findings in the results section.

Reference in research papers:  A reference is a detailed description of the source of information that you want to give credit to via a citation. The references in research papers are usually in the form of a list at the end of the paper. The essential difference between citations and references is that citations lead a reader to the source of information, while references provide the reader with detailed information regarding that particular source.

Bibliography in research papers:

A bibliography in research paper is a list of sources that appears at the end of a research paper or an article, and contains information that may or may not be directly mentioned in the research paper. The difference between reference and bibliography in research is that an individual source in the list of references can be linked to an in-text citation, while an individual source in the bibliography may not necessarily be linked to an in-text citation.

It’s understandable how these terms may often be used interchangeably as they are serve the same purpose – namely to give intellectual and creative credit to an original idea that is elaborated in depth in a research paper. One of the easiest ways to understand when to use an in-text citation in research papers, is to check whether the information is an ongoing work of research or if it has been proven to be a ‘fact’ through reproducibility. If the information is a proven fact, you need not specifically add the original source to the list of references but can instead choose to mention it in your bibliography. For instance, if you use a statement such as “The effects of global warming and climate changes on the deterioration of environment have been described in depth”, you need not use an in-text citation, but can choose to mention key sources in the bibliography section. An example of a citation in a research paper would be if you intend to elaborate on the impact of climate change in a particular population and/or a specific geographical location. In this case, you will need to add an in-text citation and mention the correct source in the list of references.

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Now that you have understood the basic similarities and differences in these terms, you should also know that every journal follows a particular style and format for these elements. So when working out how to write citations and add references in research papers, be mindful of using the preferred style of your target journal before you submit your research document.

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How Many References in a Research Paper?

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Junior researchers frequently wonder how many references should be included in their research papers. The common response? “As many as you need.” What exactly does that mean? While we admit there are very few hard-set rules regarding this issue, in this article, we will try to provide more concrete guidelines that will help you assess whether you have enough references in your paper.

Before we do so, let us briefly explain why references matter and whether the number of references you include can project certain perceptions about the quality of your work. There is such a thing as having too many or too few.

Why are research paper references and citations necessary?

References show that you have carefully reviewed the relevant literature and are now contributing something  novel  to the academic community. You establish authority and credibility when you can critically assess other literature and distinguish your findings from previous works (if any exist). We emphasize “critically assess” in the last sentence because references are only as good as you apply them to your research. Therefore, the famous adage “quality over quantity” is the key to deciding how many references are sufficient.

Likewise, citing your references within the research paper itself (in the form of academic citations ) is crucial in any academic work that makes assertations based on external studies. Failing to cite your sources can result in plagiarism, which even if accidental can still have some devastating consequences for academic researchers hoping to publish their work or finish graduate school.

Number of Sources Used Can Impact Perceptions of Quality

We would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that being at either extreme (having too few or too many references) can reflect poorly on your intellectual aptitude and your study’s validity. Here’s why:

  • If you don’t have enough references, particularly on a topic familiar to a wide audience, readers may think that you haven’t done enough research into existing literature. Surely someone else has thought about related topics or used similar techniques. If you’re sloppy in conducting your diligence, readers will wonder whether your paper is worth reading. What’s novel and valuable about your paper? Were you just as sloppy with conducting your study? The answers to these questions need to be evident.
  • Additionally, readers might be concerned that you may have plagiarized by failing to properly cite information. Unless you’re John Nash, who cited only two texts in his seminal  26-page PhD thesis  (one of which was to his prior work), ensure that you’ve properly researched the relevant papers and included appropriate citations! Especially, make sure that you have found, read, and included all the latest publications on your topic before finalizing and submitting your own paper—if the drafting process took some time, new literature might have come out in the meantime, and you don’t want to give the editor the impression that you are not on top of the newest developments.
  • If you have too many references, readers may wonder if you did any original research at all. Unless you’re writing a literature review, your paper’s primary focus should be on your investigation and findings. Don’t bury your hard work under strings of citations and discussion regarding other works. Show your readers what you’ve discovered and how the new information you present fits into or departs from the academic community’s current understanding of your topic.

Additionally, let us highlight the difference between the number of references versus citations. References are the source materials; therefore, each reference should be listed only once in your references section. Citations are meant to identify the source of the information you use in your paper. You can cite a reference multiple times. Therefore, the number of citations you have is typically larger than the number of references an average paper includes. The opposite situation should never happen!

Key Factors Influencing the Number of References You Use

The following are some of the many factors that may influence the number of references you use:

  • The number of references required for a paper will depend largely on your work’s purpose . For example, literature and systematic reviews are surveys of existing studies. Therefore, their reference lists will be more exhaustive than those of research papers whose primary focus is the current authors’ findings. Indeed, if you examine many journals’ author guidelines , you’ll note that journals have a higher maximum reference limit for review articles than original research papers.
  • The length of your reference list will also depend on your research paper’s subject matter . For example, if you are writing about a field that is less studied (such as a subfield of neuroparasitology) you may discover that there aren’t many papers to cite. Similarly, newer fields will have fewer published papers that can be referenced. If you find yourself in this situation, review the references used by relevant current literature and see if you can expand your research, and thus your reference list, with valuable content from there.
  • Another factor will be your  institution or journal’s requirements . If you are preparing a dissertation or thesis, double-check your department’s requirements. While rare, they may have specific limits. More commonly, journals restrict the number of references due to printing constraints.
  • It may happen that you don’t have  access to certain literature  that could have served as a reference. In such a situation, you may wish to look for an institution that may be able to provide you access to that literature for the purposes of reviewing the content or contact one of the authors directly and ask for a copy.
  • Given that more papers are being published than ever before in most fields, it is likely that reference lists will grow longer simply because there are more data and discussions of existing data available to cite . Keep track of changes to the size of reference lists in publications related to your field.
  • Finally, a paper’s length bears some correlation to the number of references.

So how many references should be included?

Below, we provide tips on how to decide if you have enough resources. We also provide some general reminders on how to effectively use references. After all, references are meant to enhance your paper while still maintaining your research as the focal point.

Use academic journals as a guide

  • One way to gauge how many references you should have is to survey academic journals for your article type in your field. Review their author guidelines for limits on the number of references for your article type, and make sure your reference list complies with those journal restrictions.
  • Read recent articles relevant to your topic; check how many references other authors have included in their papers for the same article type as yours, and how frequently those works were cited per page.
  • Keep in mind that the above methods will give you an estimate of how many references you should include overall but will not tell you how many citations you’ll need per page. The latter is impossible to state simply because certain sections may have no citations at all (the results section , for example).

Statistics regarding the number of references and citations

To give you a general idea, the following are some estimates from a couple of studies that examined the citation characteristics of articles published in various disciplines.

According to  Milojević’s study  encompassing research in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, robotics, ecology, and economics, the highest and average number of references per article page were as follows:

  • Ecology: highest, ~58; average reference per page, 6;
  • Math and robotics: highest, ~28; average reference per page, <1; and
  • Economics: highest, ~ 32; average reference per page, >1 but <2.

The above findings were based on data compiled from the first 20 years of the author’s research. Since then some fields have increased the number of references. Thus, make sure to examine your target journal’s most recent and relevant publications for a better idea of how many references to include based on the specific type of article you plan to write.

In another study by Falagas et al. (2013),  medical journals averaged  29 references for articles that were 7.88 pages long (as printed in journals).

Finally, although the sample size was small (63 journals), Gali Halevi observed the following citation trends of a broader range of disciplines.

  • The average number of references per article was the highest for the social sciences, physics, and astronomy, and arts & humanities (roughly 54 references per article).
  • On the other hand, health professions and earth and planetary sciences had the fewest references per article at an average of 8 and 17 references, respectively.
  • Math and engineering averaged at roughly 29 references per article.
  • Biochemistry, genetics and molecular and other biological sciences averaged at 51.
  • Hard and natural sciences more frequently cited recent literature while social sciences and math were likely to include older sources.

Note that the Halevi study is limited in size, fails to factor in article type and does little to account for variances across different fields and journals. For example, it is possible that more review articles could have been reviewed for certain fields than others. With that said, we provide the above information to provide a rough estimate.

At the end of the day, please keep in mind the requirements of your institution or target journal and the general trends for your specific article type (by examining the most recent relevant publications).

For additional information regarding journal restrictions on the number of references, read this article on ways to grow your publication list .

Some Dos and Don’ts for Reference Citation

  • Don’t repeat references within a reference list.
  • Don’t repeatedly cite yourself. Make sure to balance your discussion with external literature citations.
  • Be careful about citing old references. The rule of thumb is to go back at most five to six years. Exceptions to this rule should be reserved for “seminal” works relevant to explaining what prompted your research. Roughly 85% of all cited works should be less than five years old.
  • Be careful not to cite several references in one place  without  discussing the relevance of each work to your research. In other words, don’t say, “We referred to previous studies in this field (1-7)” unless you later explain how each of reference #s 1-7 apply to your discussion.
  • Confirm the quality of the work you cite. Are there any ethical issues regarding the paper that would disqualify it as a good source? Do your references come from reputable sources such as respected journals rather than random blogs and website links? Remember that your analysis is only as good as the verifiable information you use to conduct your research.
  • One of the main purposes of citing existing literature is to show the “knowledge gap” regarding your topic. Therefore, make sure the works you reference naturally lead readers to wonder about the research question you address in your paper. To explain further, think about your favorite fictional story. A successfully written story only reveals the background information needed for the reader to follow along in the story. You’ll rarely see an author waste time writing about how the main character stubbed his toe one day while going to work unless that event relates to an important aspect of the story. Similarly, the references you cite should support the story building you create in your research paper.
  • Don’t completely ignore the paper that could disprove your hypothesis. You want to show objectivity and that you took a balanced and unbiased approach to conducting your research. Mention the potentially conflicting evidence and explain why you believe it is flawed or inapplicable to your research.
  • In qualitative research papers, you may have fewer references.
  • Anything you cite in your paper should be listed in the references section (or reference list). Anything listed as a reference should have been quoted or paraphrased in the text. If either rule is violated, something is wrong.
  • Finally, remember that a paper will typically have more citations in the Introduction section and Discussion section than in other parts.

Wordvice Academic Resources

If you need help with paraphrasing text from the sources you cite to avoid plagiarism, with different citation styles , or with finding the perfect journal to submit your paper to, then have a look at our collection of articles on the Wordvice academic resources website . We also recommend our professional English editing and proofreading services , including paper editing and academic editing services to ensure that your writing is free of errors before submitting your manuscript to a journal.

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How to Cite a Research Paper

Last Updated: June 7, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was reviewed by Gerald Posner and by wikiHow staff writer, Jennifer Mueller, JD . Gerald Posner is an Author & Journalist based in Miami, Florida. With over 35 years of experience, he specializes in investigative journalism, nonfiction books, and editorials. He holds a law degree from UC College of the Law, San Francisco, and a BA in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley. He’s the author of thirteen books, including several New York Times bestsellers, the winner of the Florida Book Award for General Nonfiction, and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History. He was also shortlisted for the Best Business Book of 2020 by the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 400,506 times.

When writing a paper for a research project, you may need to cite a research paper you used as a reference. The basic information included in your citation will be the same across all styles. However, the format in which that information is presented is somewhat different depending on whether you're using American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago, or American Medical Association (AMA) style.

Citation Help

references paper on

  • For example: "Kringle, K., & Frost, J."

Step 2 Provide the year the paper was published.

  • For example: "Kringle, K., & Frost, J. (2012)."
  • If the date, or any other information, are not available, use the guide at .

Step 3 List the title of the research paper.

  • For example: "Kringle, K., & Frost, J. (2012). Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer."
  • If you found the research paper in a database maintained by a university, corporation, or other organization, include any index number assigned to the paper in parentheses after the title. For example: "Kringle, K., & Frost, J. (2012). Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer. (Report No. 1234)."

Step 4 Include information on where you found the paper.

  • For example: "Kringle, K., & Frost, J. (2012). Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer. (Report No. 1234). Retrieved from Alaska University Library Archives, December 24, 2017."

Step 5 Use a parenthetical citation in the body of your paper.

  • For example: "(Kringle & Frost, 2012)."
  • If there was no date on the research paper, use the abbreviation n.d. : "(Kringle & Frost, n.d.)."

Step 1 Start with the authors' names.

  • For example: "Kringle, Kris, and Jack Frost."

Step 2 List the title of the research paper.

  • For example: "Kringle, Kris, and Jack Frost. "Red Noses, Warm Hearts: The Glowing Phenomenon among North Pole Reindeer." Master's thesis."

Step 3 Provide the place and year of publication.

  • For example: "Kringle, Kris, and Jack Frost. "Red Noses, Warm Hearts: The Glowing Phenomenon among North Pole Reindeer." Master's thesis, Alaska University, 2012."

Step 4 Include any additional information necessary to locate the paper.

  • For example: "Kringle, Kris, and Jack Frost. "Red Noses, Warm Hearts: The Glowing Phenomenon among North Pole Reindeer." Master's thesis, Alaska University, 2012. Accessed at"

Step 5 Follow your instructor's guidance regarding in-text citations.

  • Footnotes are essentially the same as the full citation, although the first and last names of the authors aren't inverted.
  • For parenthetical citations, Chicago uses the Author-Date format. For example: "(Kringle and Frost 2012)."

Step 1 Start with the authors of the paper.

  • For example: "Kringle, Kris, and Frost, Jack."

Step 2 Provide the title of the research paper.

  • For example: "Kringle, Kris, and Frost, Jack. "Red Noses, Warm Hearts: The Glowing Phenomenon Among North Pole Reindeer.""

Step 3 Identify the paper's location.

  • For example, suppose you found the paper in a collection of paper housed in university archives. Your citation might be: "Kringle, Kris, and Frost, Jack. "Red Noses, Warm Hearts: The Glowing Phenomenon Among North Pole Reindeer." Master's Theses 2000-2010. University of Alaska Library Archives. Accessed December 24, 2017."

Step 4 Use parenthetical references in the body of your work.

  • For example: "(Kringle & Frost, p. 33)."

Step 1 Start with the author's last name and first initial.

  • For example: "Kringle K, Frost J."

Step 2 Provide the title in sentence case.

  • For example: "Kringle K, Frost J. Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer."

Step 3 Include journal information if the paper was published.

  • For example: "Kringle K, Frost J. Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer. Nat Med. 2012; 18(9): 1429-1433."

Step 4 Provide location information if the paper hasn't been published.

  • For example, if you're citing a paper presented at a conference, you'd write: "Kringle K, Frost J. Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer. Oral presentation at Arctic Health Association Annual Summit; December, 2017; Nome, Alaska."
  • To cite a paper you read online, you'd write: "Kringle K, Frost J. Red noses, warm hearts: The glowing phenomenon among North Pole reindeer."

Step 5 Use superscript numbers in the body of your paper.

  • For example: "According to Kringle and Frost, these red noses indicate a subspecies of reindeer native to Alaska and Canada that have migrated to the North Pole and mingled with North Pole reindeer. 1 "

Community Q&A


  • If you used a manual as a source in your research paper, you'll need to learn how to cite the manual also. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • If you use any figures in your research paper, you'll also need to know the proper way to cite them in MLA, APA, AMA, or Chicago. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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About This Article

Gerald Posner

To cite a paper APA style, start with the author's last name and first initial, and the year of publication. Then, list the title of the paper, where you found it, and the date that you accessed it. In a paper, use a parenthetical reference with the last name of the author and the publication year. For an MLA citation, list the author's last name and then first name and the title of the paper in quotations. Include where you accessed the paper and the date you retrieved it. In your paper, use a parenthetical reference with the author's last name and the page number. Keep reading for tips on Chicago and AMA citations and exceptions to the citation rules! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Harvard Referencing

  • Journal articles

Harvard Referencing: Journal articles


  • Getting started with Harvard referencing
  • Books & e-books
  • Internet/websites
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  • Sample Reference List

On this page

  • Harvard Referencing: journal articles (video)
  • Basic format to reference a journal article

Referencing journal articles: Examples

  • Video Transcript

Harvard Referencing: journal articles

Harvard Referencing: journal articles from Victoria University Library on Vimeo .

Basic format to reference journal articles

The basics of a Reference List entry for a journal article:

  • Author or authors.  The surname is followed by first initials.
  • Year of publication of the article.
  • Article title (in single inverted commas).
  • Journal title (in italics).
  • Volume of journal.
  • Issue number of journal.
  • Page range of article.

Example: Gray, L 2018, 'Exploring how and why young people use social networking sites',  Educational Psychology in Practice , vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 175-194. 

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How to Reference Articles in APA Format

Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity,, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

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If you write a psychology paper, you will need to reference several sources in APA format. Journal articles are often used and cited to summarize the results of studies and experiments conducted by researchers. In most cases, you will need to create references for at least five or more journal articles for every APA format paper you write.

APA format details a set of strict rules for referencing articles that appear in academic journals and other periodicals. These vary somewhat based on where the article appears and who the authors are. While most articles you will use in your paper appear in academic and professional journals, you may also find articles in magazines, newspapers, and online publications.

Keep reading for a breakdown of the rules for creating references in APA format.

Basic Structure for Journal Article References

Begin the reference with the author's last name and first initials, followed by the date of publication in parentheses. Provide the title of the article, but only capitalize the first letter of the title. Next, include the journal or periodical and volume number in italics, followed by the issue number in parentheses. Finally, provide the page numbers where the article can be found.

Author, I. N. (Year). Title of the article. Title of the Journal or Periodical, volume number (issue number), page numbers.

Smith, L. V. (2000). Referencing articles in APA format. APA Format Weekly, 34 (1), 4-10.

If possible, include the DOI (digital object identifier) number at the end of your reference. If a DOI number is not available and you accessed the article online, give the URL of the journal's home page.

Formatting Rules

  • The title , subtitle and all proper nouns should be capitalized.
  • Your reference page should be double-spaced.
  • The first line of each reference should be flush left and remaining lines should be indented

Be sure to check your references using the official Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. See an example of different types of references and learn more about APA format .

Magazine Articles

The structure of a reference for an article appearing in a magazine is similar to that of a journal article. However, be sure to add the month and day of publication to the publication date.

James, S. A. (2001, June 7). Magazine articles in APA format. Newsweek, 20, 48-52.

Newspaper Articles

References for newspaper articles follow the basic structure as magazines, but you should list each individual page the article appears on rather than a page range.

Tensky, J. A. (2004, January 5). How to cite newspaper articles. The New York Times, 4D, 5D.

Articles With Two Authors

If an article has two authors, follow the basic format for a journal reference. Place a comma after the first initial of the first author followed by an ampersand (&). Then, include the last name and first initial of the second author.

Mischel, W., & Baker, N. (1975). Cognitive transformations of reward objects through instructions.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31 , 254-261.

Articles With Three to Twenty Authors

 For journal articles with three to 20 authors, you will follow a similar format as with two authors but each author and their initials will be separated with a comma. The final author should be preceded by an ampersand. Follow this same format for each additional author up to 20 authors.

Hart, D., Keller, M., Edelstein, W., & Hofmann, V. (1998). Childhood personality influences on social-cognitive development: A longitudinal study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1288-1289. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.5.1278

Keller, J. L., Smithfield, K. B., Ellis, M., Michelina, R., & Bels, S. (1987). The limitations of anchoring bias. J ournal of Market Research, 17 , 115-119.

Articles With More Than Twenty Authors

The rules for referencing both single and multiple authors apply to all sources, whether the material came from books, magazine articles, newspaper articles, journal articles, or online sources. Include the last name and first initials of each author, with individuals' names separated by a comma. The last author should be preceded with an ampersand.

If the article includes 20 or fewer authors, list each author separately. If there are more than 20, include the first 19 and then include an ellipse (. . . ) in place of the authors' names before listing the final author.

Arlo, A., Black, B., Clark, C., Davidson, D., Emerson, E., Fischer, F., Grahmann, G., Habib, H., Ianelli, I., Juarez, J., Kobayashi, K., Lee, L., Martin, M., Naim, N., Odelsson, O., Pierce, P., Qiang, Q., Reed, R., Scofield, S., . . . Thatcher, T. (2011). Even more references. APA Format Today, 11 (4), 30-38.

Articles With No Author

If an article does not cite any authors, start the reference with the title of the article. Follow this with the publication date, source, and URL if the article was accessed electronically.

Scientists seek source of creativity. (2012, March, 6). Dayton County News.

The reference section is one of the easiest places to lose points due to incorrect APA format, so be sure to check your references before you hand in your psychology papers . While it may be tedioous, learning to reference articles in proper APA style will help you throughout your study of psychology.

American Psychological Association. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association  (7th ed.). The American Psychological Association, 2019.

By Kendra Cherry, MSEd Kendra Cherry, MS, is a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, psychology educator, and author of the "Everything Psychology Book."

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  • References & Acknowledgements

Q: What should be included as references in my paper?

My question is about a paper that I am writing in the field of physics.  In my manuscript, I have made a refrence to some physical phenomena mentioned in the textbook of junior high school or high school. In such case, should I cite the textbook? And should I search for the paper of the past researchers and give the references at the end as a list?

Asked on 21 Sep, 2017

The general rule about citations and references is that you should cite every source that you have used. However, if you are referring to basic concepts that are regarded as common knowledge in the field, you need not cite the course. For example, if you are using Newton's law, you need not cite your high school textbook as this is basic knowledge that everybody in the field of physics will have. But if you are referring to the way Newton's law was explained in your high school textbook and there is something specific or unique to that explanation that you wish to highlight, you should cite the source.

Regarding your second question, you should conduct a search of all the past works related to your topic (literature search) and write a brief literature review as part of the introduction. you should cite all these works and include a numbered reference list at the end mentioning all the sources you have used.  

Related reading:

Tips for effective literature searching and keeping up with new publications

The complete guide to writing a brilliant research paper

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Answered by Editage Insights on 28 Sep, 2017

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