Natural Therapies Institute

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How to compose the right citations for an essay

Citations are essential for any piece of academic writing; they demonstrate our awareness of our field, our ability to research, our ability to synthesise our arguments within a given field, and our ability know what is relevant, and how to express that. Citations are about concrete evidence, support, and academic conventions. But how do you go about composing the correct citations? Keep the following in mind.

  1. Know Your School Style
  2. Before you can think about what to reference, and what to cite, you need to know what the expected style is, or, which style manual is being employed by your school. It could be American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), Harvard Referencing (HR), or any number of other styles. Each has its own format.

  3. Know the Protocol of Your Field
  4. Even knowing the style format is not enough. Disciplines have different ways of using secondary sources. For example, in science you can be quoting a mathematical theorem, proved by a given mathematician. This is a concrete fact. A social science reference would be based on experiment, and would need to be introduced in a different way. Read articles in your field to see how scholars use references.

  5. Be Specific
  6. Cite only material that is directly relevant, never use quotes that are vaguely appropriate, because they look as though you either have not researched, or have not seen how the quote is distinct from your point. Neither of these will do you any favors!

  7. Be Current
  8. It is rarely of use to find references to studies that are over a few years old. This is more true of sciences and social sciences than arts and humanities, but if you can show a working knowledge of the most current trends and thinking, this will enhance the quality of the citations and the essay.

  9. Be Clear When Referencing
  10. Never risk plagiarism. When you are citing a source, make it absolutely clear that you are citing, and not applying your own thought; plagiarism is academic suicide, so avoid any possibility of being accused!

So, a citation should be a correctly formatted, correctly applied piece of relevant research which supports your argument. Simple, really, all you need to do is find that material!


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