5 Common Citation Mistakes

Making quality citations, though often an overlooked piece of the writing process, can be the deciding factor in your final grade. This can be especially difficult to consider when you’re in a rush to hand in your assignment on time. So how can you be sure that your citations are in tip-top shape before your instructor sees them? Read on to discover five common citation mistakes and how you can avoid making them.

1. Incorrect Placement of Periods and Commas

Something as simple as an incorrectly placed period can make a citation completely wrong. For in text-citations, the period almost always comes after the parentheses.


(Orwell 45).

Similarly, commas should be placed in the correct place within APA citations, which is following the author’s last name. This example is for an in-text citation for a direct quote:

(Orwell, 1949, p. 45).

It is always a good idea to double check your citation style’s manual to ensure you’ve followed the most up to date rules, and to be confident in your citation’s accuracy.

2. Neglecting to Make Citations When Paraphrasing.

One of the most common ways students include information from outside sources in their paper is through paraphrasing, which is the stating of another’s ideas in different words. Even though different words are being used, however, citations are still needed for these types of phrases. This is the case because you are still using information from another person’s work, so that information still needs to be referenced accordingly. Including citations in this situation can help you avoid accusations of plagiarism.

3. Orphan In-text Citations

Making in-text citations as you write your paper can be a very effective way to remember and correctly organize all the outside sources you used in your research. It can be all too easy to forget, however, to make corresponding reference list entries for these in-text citations at the end of your paper. Remember that each in-text or parenthetical citation must have a corresponding reference list entry (full citation). This is vitally important so the reader can understand where each piece of outside information came from.

4. Making Unnecessary Citations

Sometimes professors and instructors specify a minimum amount of citations you need to include in your paper. When this happens, a student’s tendency is to include as many references as possible to be sure to meet this requirement. This, however, can lead to a poor grade. A reference should only be included when you have used information from an outside source. If an entire paragraph contains information from the same source, a single citation can be used at the end of the paragraph instead of at the end of each relevant sentence.

5. Being Inconsistent With Your Citation Style

With so many citation styles out there, it is important to remember which is needed for your specific paper, and to use that style’s rules throughout for formatting of both citations and the paper. Since different citation styles are needed for different courses, mixing them up is an all too common mistake. Always be sure to double check your citations when you are finished writing your paper.

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