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When is the Right Time to Start Making Citations?

You probably know that including citations in your research paper is an important component of the writing process. They prevent you from committing plagiarism, and inform your reader about where you found outside information that supports your paper’s argument. Sometimes, however, it can be difficult to know when to start making these all-important references amid the rush of getting your paper completed on time. Here are some helpful tips about when to start making citations that should help you get the grade you deserve on your next assignment.

1. Make In-text/Parenthetical Citations as You Need Them

As you are writing your paper, be sure to include references within the text that correspond with references in a works cited or bibliography. These are usually called in-text citations or parenthetical citations in MLA and APA formats. The most effective time to complete these is directly after you have made your reference to another source. For instance, after writing the line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…,” you would include a citation like this (depending on your chosen citation style):

(Dickens 11).

This signals to the reader that you have referenced an outside source. What’s great about this system is that the in-text citations serve as a natural list for all of the citations you have made in your paper, which will make completing the works cited page a whole lot easier. After you are done writing, all that will be left for you to do is scan your paper for these references, and then build a works cited page that includes a citation for each one.

Need help creating an MLA works cited page? Try the MLA format generator on EasyBib.com!

2. Understand the General Formatting Rules of Your Citation Style Before You Start Writing

While reading up on paper formatting may not sound exciting, being aware of how your paper should look early on in the paper writing process is super important. Citation styles can dictate more than just the appearance of the citations themselves, but rather can impact the layout of your paper as a whole, with specific guidelines concerning margin width, title treatment, and even font size and spacing. Knowing how to organize your paper before you start writing will ensure that you do not receive a low grade for something as trivial as forgetting a hanging indent.

Don’t know where to start? Here’s a formatting guide on APA format.

3. Double-check All of Your Outside Sources for Relevance and Trustworthiness First

Collecting outside sources that support your research and specific topic is a critical step in writing an effective paper. But before you run to the library and grab the first 20 books you can lay your hands on, keep in mind that selecting a source to include in your paper should not be taken lightly. Before you proceed with using it to backup your ideas, run a quick Internet search for it and see if other scholars in your field have written about it as well. Check to see if there are book reviews about it or peer accolades. If you spot something that seems off to you, you may want to consider leaving it out of your work. Doing this before your start making citations can save you a ton of time in the long run.


Worried about missing a citation? Learn more about EasyBib Plus’s grammar and plagiarism checker. It can help you spot information you may need to cite, as well as give suggestions to improve your writing. In addition, sharpen your grammar IQ with our guides nouns, adverbs, prepositions, determiners, and more!

Elise Barbeau

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