Skip to Main Content

The Research Process

This guide is created to help students through the steps of writing a research paper or project.



Citations give credit to the author as well as enables other researchers (or your instructor) to locate the cited item. 

All sources should be cited in a bibliography or reference list and in the text or footnotes of a research paper. 

Check out our Plagarism 101 LibGuide and Citing Your Sources LibGuide. 

How do you cite your sources?

Citation styles provides rules for writing and formatting in-text citations (i.e., parenthetical citations, footnotes, or endnotes) and source lists (e.g. bibliography, works cited). These styles also provide guidance on how to format the text of the paper (including use of graphs, charts, and images) and writing conventions for the field. 

Common styles include APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style. There are other styles in many subjects and journals, but the ones listed are the most common ones. 

Your instructor may require the use of a specific style or allow students to choose. Either way, what's important is that you are consistently using the same style throughout your paper. 

APA Style

Click on the tabs above for the type of resource you need to cite.

The American Psychological Association (APA) style is a standard of writing that concerns:

  • the organization of the paper
  • the writing style
  • citing references

It is commonly used within the social sciences, such as Psychology, Linguistics, Sociology, Economics, and Criminology, Health Sciences, and Business. 


Do you need to cite a different type of source that is not explained here? Consult one of the style manuals found in the Russell LRC or the Macomb LRC. Try the Purdue Owl as a excellent resource for college writers. 

Basic APA Formatting:

Margins. 1 inch margins on all sides

Spacing. All text is double-spaced, except for tables or figures (This includes the title page, reference list, and quotations of 40 or more words)

Paragraph indentation. Paragraphs are indented 1/2 inch or one tab space

Font preference and size. Font is 12 pt. Times New Roman (This is the preference of most instructors). However, APA does allow for other font types and sizes, including Calibri 11-point, Arial 11-point, Lucida Sans Unicode 10-point, or Georgia 11-point. Consult your instructor for their preferences. 


Organization of an APA Paper

APA style includes section levels to organize the pages or major sections of the paper. Each of these new pages or sections should begin a new page. Organize an APA paper as follows:

Title page – begins on page 1. This is where you place the title of your paper (begin 3-4 double spaces from the top of the page). The title is 12 words or less – centered. The author’s name (your name) is directly below the title – centered, course number, course name and instructor name is directly below the author’s name (course information and instructor name on separate lines) – centered. Also, a running head is no longer required for student papers, but do consult your instructor’s directions and if they call for a running head, use a running head (Click HERE for a video showing you how to add a Running head to your title page). 

Abstract – begins on page 2 (NOTE: This is optional for most course papers. Review your assignment instructions or contact your instructor to determine whether or not an abstract should be included in your paper.) The label Abstract should be centered at the top of the page. Abstract is a brief summary of your paper and should be between 150-250 words.  

Body or text of the paper – begins on page 3 (if there is an abstract) or page 2 (if there is no abstract). The paper title appears at the top of the first page of the text in bold and centered. Begin your paragraph on the next line after the title.

References – At the end of your paper and should be labeled References (if there is only 1 reference, label it as Reference). It must also be bold. See tab above titled Formatting Your Reference Page for specific information



Title Page:

Abstract Page:

Main body page:

Reference page:

In-Text Citations:

APA uses an author-date citation system. In this system, the writer includes the author and date within the body of the paper and includes a corresponding reference in the reference list. 

There are two types of in-text citations that are used within the body of an APA paper to help the reader locate the corresponding reference in the reference list. They are: parenthetical citations and narrative citations. A narrative citation is a type of citation where the author's name is used within the text of the sentence; whereas, a parenthetical citation is a type of citation where the author and date are in parentheses at the end of the sentence. 

How do I create narrative or parenthetical citations?

In APA style, cite your sources by putting the information about the source in parentheses at the end of a sentence or in the text of your paper.

  • Give the author's last name and the publication year.
  • Only use page numbers or paragraph numbers for a direct quote.
  • Make sure the source information in parentheses matches with your reference in the reference list.
  • Punctuation for the sentence goes AFTER the parentheses.
  • For a quote less than forty words put quotation marks around the quoted words.
  • If your quote is more than forty words, set it off in a block text by beginning the block quote on a new line, indent 0.5 inches (one-half), and do not add quotation marks around the block quote. At the end of the quote put the period after the last word of the sentence followed by the parentheses. 

Single Author

• Place the author's surname and year in parenthesis, separated by a comma, e.g. Pharmacology is the science of... (Karch, 2003)

• If the name of the author appears in the text, cite only the year in parenthesis, e.g. Karch (2003) stated that pharmacology...

• If both the author and year appear in the text, don't include a parenthetical citation, e.g. In her 2003 study, Karch found that...

Multiple Authors

• Two authors, cite both names every time, e.g. (Spratto & Woods, 2011)

• Three to five authors, cite all names the first time then only the first author plus each time after, e.g. (Spratto, Woods & Smith, 2011) second citation (Spratto et. al., 2011) 

No Author

• When there is not an identified author, cite the first few words of the title and the year, using double quotation marks around the title of an article, e.g. ("Making Meaningful Connections," 2014)

• When using the title of a book, periodical, brochure, or a report italicize instead of quotation marks, e.g. (The Manual of Public Records, 2015) 


Formatting Guidelines for the reference page:

References Title: Type the word References in the top center of a new page and make sure that it is bold. Don't underline, or use quotation marks for the label.

Line Spacing and Indentations: References should be double-spaced and have a hanging indent. The first line of a reference is set flush with the left margin, and subsequent lines are indented one-half inch from the left margin. 

image of hanging indent for MLA and APA ref page

Order: Alphabetize citations by first author's last name. Alphabetize sources without authors by title.

Authors: Authors' names are inverted (last name first), give the last name and initials for all authors of a particular work. Use commas between authors names, using the ampersand (&) instead of "and" preceding the last author of the work. 

Capitalization: Capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle of books, articles and websites. However, capitalize all proper names/words and all words in the title of a journal, magazine, and newspaper. 

DOI: If available, include a DOI at the end of the citation.

URLs: Use only when a DOI isn't available. This is also included at the end of the citation.

Date: Follows the author's name, or the title if there is no author. Use full date when citing magazines, newspapers, newsletters and conference/symposium papers and proceedings. Use only the year when citing journal articles and books. If possible, include the date a web site was created or updated.

Italics: Titles of books and journals are italicized. Journal volume numbers are also italicized but issue numbers are not.

Other punctuation: An ampersand [&] is used instead of 'and' when there are multiple authors. 

Editions: Cite the edition of a book only if it is not the 1st edition. Edition is shown after the title, e.g. Title (3rd ed.).

Publication information: Include city, state and name of publisher.

Web sites: If the web site has a personal author it is cited similar to books etc including author, title, date etc. and retrieval date since content may change. 

Retrieved [date]: No longer needed in citations unless the information may change over time, e.g. wikis.

► Instructors may have other preferences, please check with them. 


General format for books: AuthorLastNameFirstNameInitialMiddleNameInitial. (year). Title of work. Publisher. (DOI if one is present).   

1 Author: 

Karch, A. M. (2003). Focus on nursing pharmacology (6th ed.). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

2 Authors:

Spratto, G. R., & Woods, A. L. (2011). Delmar nurse's drug handbook. Delmar Cengage Learning.

No Author

Sometimes a work will use as its author an agency, association, or institution. The full association name should be used, (e.g. American Library Association not ALA). A parent body precedes a subdivision, (e.g. University of Michigan, Department of Psychology).

If there is no author, move the title to the author position. 


General format for periodicals: AuthorLastName, FirstNameInitial. MiddleNameInitial. (year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, xx, pp-pp. or https://xxx.xxxxxx   

McKeage, K. (2014). Linagliptin: An update of its use in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Drugs. 74(16), 1927-1946.


Journal article with an article number. If a journal uses article numbers, include the word "Article" and the number instead of any page range.

Jerrentrup, A., Mueller, T., Glowalla, U., Herder, M., Henrichs, N., Neubauer, A., & Schaefer, J. R. (2018). Teaching medicine with the help of “Dr. House.” PLoS ONE13(3), Article e0193972.


Journal article from a print or internet journal without a DOI (a print article would end with the page numbers)

Tominey, S. L., Olsen, S. G., & McClelland, M. M. (2015). Supporting the development of emotion regulation in young children: The important role of the parent-child attachment relationship. International Journal of Birth & Parent Education2(4), 25–28.,sso&db=a9h&AN=117539581&site=ehost-live&custid=s8862659 


General format for newspaper articles: AuthorLastName, FirstNameInitial. MiddleNameInitial. (year, Month day). Title of article. Title of newspaper, page number(s). If an online newspaper and no page numbers are present use http://xxx.xxxxxxxx


Hart, A. (2009, Nov 8). What in the environment is causing type 1 diabetes in young children to increase so rapidly?. Sacramento Examiner. 

Stobbe, M. (2020, January 8). Cancer death rate in U.S. sees largest one-year drop ever. Chicago Tribune.



General format for websites: AuthorLastName, FirstNameInitial. MiddleNameInitial. (year, month day). Article title. Title of Web Site.

* Note: When contents of a page are designed to change over time but are not archived, include a retrieval date in the reference, e.g. wikis. 

Chappell, B. (2016, June 6). Jordan says terrorist attack kills 5 at refugee camp near its capital. NPR: The Two Way. 

U.S. Census Bureau. (n.d.). U.S. and world population clock. U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved January 9, 2020, from


Podcast References:

Meraji, S. M., & Demby, G. (Hosts). (2016–present). Code switch [Audio podcast]. National Public Radio.

Beil, L. (Host). (2018-present). Dr. Death [Audio podcast]. Wondery. 


Twitter References:

APA Databases [@APA_Databases]. (2020, September 2). We have curated a collection of journal articles from APA PsycArticles on #COVID19. View: for recent coverage [Image attached] [Tweet]. Twitter.


No Author

Sometimes a work will use as its author an agency, association, or institution. The full association name should be used, (e.g. American Library Association not ALA). A parent body precedes a subdivision, (e.g. University of Michigan, Department of Psychology).

If there is no author, move the title to the author position. 


General format for audiovisual media: DirectorLastName, FirstNameInitial. MiddleNameInitial. (Director). (year). Title of motion picture [Film]. Production Company. 

Garmon, L. (Director). (1994). Secret of the wild child: The revealing story of Genie [Film]. WGBH Boston Video. 


YouTube Video: Person or group who uploaded video. (year, month day). Title of video [Video]. Website host. URL 

Tasty. (2021, May 11). How To Bake The Best Carrot Cake You'll Ever Eat [Video]. Youtube.


Personal communications can be:

  • personal interviews
  • private letters
  • memos
  • e-mail
  • telephone conversations

Because personal communications are not retrievable, they are not included in the reference list. However you must parenthetically cite in the main text, for example:

(J. Smith, personal communication, May 4, 2012). 

A. Jones insisted that the noise came from outside the house (personal communication, April 20, 2010).


 A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by a registration agency to identify digital objects. DOIs differ from URLs in that they are static. In other words, once they are assigned, they will not change, which makes it very easy to locate at any future time (even after it has been moved).

Since the DOI of an article can assist with finding the article, citation styles such as APA, MLA, Chicago Manual of Style, Turabian, etc. include the use of a DOI in the citation for articles.

If you have a DOI but cannot get the article to open go to Resolve a DOI. Then copy and paste the DOI into the search box to lead you to the article.

Example of an article citation with a DOI:

Brownlie, D. (2007). Toward effective poster presentations: An annotated bibliography. European Journal of Marketing, 41, 1245-1283.

Additional information about DOIs can be found here. 

MLA Style


MLA style is a standardized format for writing created by the Modern Language Association. It is used by students and scholars working within the humanities, such as English and other general studies.

Keep in mind that MLA Style refers to:

  • the format & structure of your paper
  • how you cite other authors within the body of your paper
  • how you compile a references page at the end of your paper

► To navigate this guide click on the above tab that corresponds with the material you are interested in citing.

Do you need to cite a different type of source that is not explained here? Consult one of the style manuals found in the Russell LRC or the Macomb LRC. Try the Purdue Owl as a excellent resource for college writers. 



Basic MLA Formatting:

• 1 inch margins on all sides

• All text is double spaced

• All paragraphs are indented on tab space or 1/2 inch

• Font is 12 pt. Times New Roman

• No title page is needed unless required by your instructor

• Heading:

       Begin 1 inch from the top of the first page

       Type your name, your instructor's name, the course number, and the date on separate lines

       Double space between each

• Title:

       Title should be centered

       Follow the rules for capitalization, capitalize the first word and all principal words

• Page numbers are flush right in the header:

       Type your last name before the page number

       Do not use the abbreviation p., or add a period after the page number


The image below shows how to format your MLA paper.

image identifies elements of formatting your MLA paper


In-Text Citations

MLA style is to be as brief as possible and to create the least possible interruption in your text so as not to disrupt the readers attention.

• Include the author's name in the text with a signal phrase then include in parenthesis the page number where the quotation can be found, e.g. Marshall Breeding points out how libraries have been "plagued with a proliferation of user interfaces" (32). 

• If you don't use the author's name with a signal phrase then put the author's name in parenthesis with the page number, e.g. The Americans with Disabilities Act is divided into five titles (Parry 8). 

                            ♦ Two authors in parenthetical form: (Arum and Roksa 117). For three or more authors,                                  include the last name of the first author followed by et al.: (Smith et al.).  

• Don't include a page number if the work doesn't have page numbers, and do not use page numbers from a printout from a website unless it is a PDF file. 

For more information or questions about in-text citations the OWL is an excellent resource. 

Works cited is its own page at the end of your paper.


Formatting Guidelines for the Works Cited page:

Works Cited title: Center the title Works Cited at the top of the page (if the list only contains one entry, make the heading Work Cited).

Line Spacing: Double space citations. 

Indentation: First line of each citation is flush with the left margin; indent all subsequent lines of the citation. Use the hanging indent for each citation. This can be found under the paragraph tools in Microsoft Word. 
hanging indent image

Order: Alphabetize citations by first author's last name. Alphabetize sources without authors by title.

Authors: Reverse only the first author's last name and give the other author name(s) in normal form. If more than 3 authors see the Citing Books tab.  

Capitalization: Capitalize the first word, the last word and all principal words in the source's title and sub-title. Don't capitalize articles (a, an, the), prepositions (in, between, of, to), or coordinating conjunctions (and, for, but, nor, or, so, yet). 

Issue Numbers for Journals: Include both volume and issue numbers for all journals. 

Date of Access: Give the most recent date you accessed the source.

Quotation Marks: Enclose the title of articles, book chapters, presentations etc. in quotation marks and end with a period inside the closing quotation mark. 

Italicize: Use Italics for book, journal, web site, and film titles. 


The image below shows how to format your works cited page. 
image MLA works cited page



General format for books:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

1 author:
Winfield, Jess. My Name is Will. Twelve, 2009.

2 authors:
Finebaum, Paul, and Gene Wojciechowski. My Conference Can Beat Your Conference. HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

Note: When a book has multiple authors, order the authors in the same way they are presented in the book. The first given name appears in last name, first name format; subsequent author names appear in first name last name format.
* If there are three or more authors, list only the first author followed by the phrase et al.

3 or more authors:
Bulkeley, Kelly, et al. An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming. 2nd ed., 
Praeger, 2017. 

  • Note: For subsequent editions, add the number of the edition after the title.
  • A work prepared  by an editor:
  • Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Edited by Margaret Smith, Oxford UP, 1998.


         The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for a print book. 

image MLA book


General format for periodicals:
AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName. "Article Title." Journal Title, volume,number, publication date, pages. Database name, DOI or permalink. 

Brands, H. W. "Hesitant Emancipator." American History, vol. 44, no. 2, 2009, pp. 54-59. Academic Search

Note: When an article has multiple authors, order the authors in the same way they are presented. The first given name appears in last name, first name format; subsequent author names appear in first name last name format.
* If there are three or more authors, list only the first author followed by the phrase et al.


The image below identifies elements of a MLA citation for a journal article from an database.

image MLA article



General format for a newspaper article:
AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName. "Article Title." Journal Title, volume,number, publication date, pages. Database name, DOI or permalink.

Gettleman, Jeffrey. "Somalia's Milestone Election, Fueled by Bribes and Coercion." New York Times, vol. 166, no. 57501, 07 Feb. 2017, pp. A1-A8. EBSCOhost Newspaper Source,


The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for an online newspaper article.

image MLA newspaper

General format for websites: AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName (if available). "Title of Web Page or Article." Title of Web Site. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), Date of Publication (Day Month Year, if available).  URL, DOI or permalink. Date accessed (Day Month Year).

Tyson, Peter. “Dogs’ Dazzling Sense of Smell.” NOVA scienceNOW. 4 Oct. 2012. Accessed 22 Oct. 2017.

Note: MLA only requires the www. address so leave off the https:// when citing. If available use the DOI or permalink instead of the URL. 


The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for a website. 

image MLA website


General format for media: 
Title. Director. Major performers. Film Studio or Distributor, Release date.  

Lust For Life. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, performances by Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, and James Donald. Warner Home Video, 1956.


The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for a media item. 
image MLA media