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Cite Sources and Format Papers: Start Here

Formats and Citations

      A paper's "Format" refers to how what you write is organized and presented on a page.  There are a few standard patterns used in college and professional writing which will become familiar as you read more scholarly articles.  Following the guidelines of a format will help you organize your thoughts and keep you from accidentally leaving out important information.  It will also make it easier for readers to follow the thread of your ideas.

      Formal writing is kind of like a conversation.  After taking in information from the observation of events or what other people have to say there is a chance for you to share what you think or have learned about your topic.  "Citations" spell out who is responsible for a particular point of information you are using, when it was published, and where you found it.  Different formats put things in different order but the purpose is the same.  They give people credit for their ideas, allow readers to 'catch up' on the rest of the conversation, and prove that you know enough about your topic to understand what you are talking about..

      The instructor will tell you which format to use for your paper in your assignment instructions or your class syllabus.  If you don't see it specified, ask them.  Some instructors don't favor one format over the others, but picking a style and using it consistently is less confusing than making up your own.


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