General Rules for Citing Sources

You should strictly follow the rules for citing sources in a research paper. The reason behind such hard and fast rules for citing sources is that no one gets confused while finding the source. These rules also help in making your research paper credible. Not able to providing the citation accurately means that you have committed plagiarism. Therefore, the rules of citation sometimes seem difficult and to some students they do not make sense.

There are various styles of citation, each of them have some similarities and some differences. APA, MLA, Vancouver, Harvard referencing systems are the most common referencing systems. This article deals with the general rules for citation in research for detailed rules about each of these referencing system you can read each of the above. The student should provide an in-text citation and an end of the manuscript reference.

A signal phrase

A signal phrase usually appears at the beginning of the paraphrase or quotation. The purpose of using a signal phrase is to let the reader know that following is a foreign source. Sometimes you can also place the signal phrase in the middle of the text, its use in the beginning is preferred.

A signal phrase also helps in the smooth integration of the quotation or paraphrase into your text. The readers should not feel abrupt jump from your text to someone else’s words.

You should use the most appropriate verb in the signal phrase. A thesaurus can help you in finding the best suitable verb. Avoid the temptation of using the same verb for each signal phrase in your research paper. It is easier to use the word “state”, or “writes” for each of the signal phrase but you should not do so. Using the same verb over and over again can make your writing monotonous, and the reader will lose interest.  The use of different verbs show that you thought well before using any word.

You should choose the verb that is appropriate in the context of the text. Some of the verbs can be: asserts, writes, states, mentions, assumes, thinks, suggests, illustrates, proves. Check thesaurus and find out the synonyms for each verb that you want to use.

An in-text citation

The in-text citation is brief but provides precise information about the source. You need to provide the author name, year of publication and the page number where it appears.

Sometimes when the author name is not present you can provide the title of the work. You can also provide the publisher name or the editor name if the author name is not present.

The in-text citation should be anywhere in the same paragraph where the information is documented.

Most commonly researchers document the information at the beginning of the paragraph in the signal phrase. Providing information in the beginning helps setup an idea about what is coming in the text. There are various rules about the in-text citations and you can read APA in-text citation, or MLA in-text citation rules to understand it in detail.

A reference

A full reference is mandatory at the end of the manuscript/your research paper. A complete reference means that you have to provide all the information that is needed to find out the source listed. The full reference is also called as the bibliographic information of the sources.

Failing to provide a complete reference means that you have compromised the accuracy of your research paper.

This complete reference is added in the research paper after the conclusion page.


  • Signal Phrases in MLA Style,, Retrieved on: 12/5/2018
  • Tensen, B. L., Research Strategies for a Digital Age, 2nd Ed., Thomson Wadsworth Pub., USA, Pp-104-106




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