Research and Citation

Getting Started

Research is often at the heart of a well-written paper. It’s important to note that how a student researches should be informed by what information they are searching for. There are three classifications of sources:

  1. Primary Sources: A primary source is firsthand research, writing, or documentation. This includes poems, historical government documents, and original scientific studies.
  2. Secondary Sources: Secondary sources are works that are once removed from the original source they analyze, respond to, or reference. Encyclopedias, anthologies, and meta-analysis are all secondary sources.
  3. Tertiary Sources: Tertiary sources contain or compile primary and secondary research. Though they are less reliable than other sources, they can be used as a starting point in research.

Let’s explore some resources that students can use to get started:

  • Library Books: Browsing through a physical library can be a productive way to research, and, aside from that, many books only exist in print. Search through UPEI's library catalog.
  • eBooks & Journal Articles: eBooks and journal articles can be found by searching through the databases accessible on the Robertson Library's website.
  • Databases: Academic databases are collections of research that can be browsed. As a student of UPEI, you can access many of them for free through the Robertson Library.
  • Search Engines: It is sometimes beneficial to use open resources like Google Scholar, ResearchGate, and Be critical of the credibility of sources found in this way.


It is up to you to evaluate the credibility of a source. Blogs, social media posts, websites (with some exceptions), and Wikipedia articles are far less reliable than library books and journal articles. Be cognizant of dates when you sift through research; in some scientific disciplines, it can become outdated rapidly. Consult your professor if you are unsure of an article’s credibility.  

You might be asked to find research that is peer-reviewed or “scholarly”. When an article is designated as peer-reviewed, it means multiple experts attest to its legitimacy. Most academic research tools, including OneSearch, can filter out non-peer-reviewed research.

Keeping Track 

Be sure to record what you learn as you make your way through research. This not only helps you avoid plagiarism but saves you work in the long run—there’s nothing worse than forgetting where a great idea came from.

Some students find it easier to create full citations (according to the assigned system) as they take notes. This is a useful practice, but as long as you jot down the title of a source, its author, the date you accessed it, and the corresponding page number, you should be able to retrieve it again.

RefWorks, available through the Roberson Library’s website, is a useful management tool that can help you record and format citations.


To prevent plagiarism, you must give credit to the words and ideas of others. 

Plagiarism is intellectual theft. To avoid it, you can summarize (condense) or paraphrase (restate an idea in your own words) while crediting the original source, or use an authors exact words in a properly formatted quotation. 

You do not need to provide references for ideas that are common knowledge (for example, all dogs are canines), but when in doubt, err on the side of caution. 

UPEI's Student Affairs department has created a video discussing academic integrity, and tips for avoiding plagiarism.

To learn more about avoiding plagiarism, click here to visit the UPEI library's Academic Integrity page. 


When an author puts something exceptionally well, you may feel like using their exact words. Conventions vary by reference guide, but here are some tips that hold true in most academic writing:

  • Short quotations get double quotations (“”).
  • Long quotations are set off in blocks.
  • Use ellipses (…) when you remove text from a quotation. Do not change the meaning of the quote.
  • Use square brackets (“and [everyone] said”) when adding to a quotation.
  • Introduce quotations (according to…) instead of inserting them without explanation.


Citation is important to academics because it allows them to document their research and give credit where it is due. More than that, proper citation enables readers to verify the validity of an author’s claims. There are three main styles of referencing: MLA, APA, and Chicago. If you are unsure of what style to follow, don’t guess; ask your professor. Below is a brief summary of each system with helpful links to further reading.  


Students in the humanities will likely use the Modern Language Association’s system. When using MLA, students should double-space their work, use parenthetical author-page citations, and create a Works Cited list. 

General MLA formatting:

MLA Citation:


The American Psychological Association’s system is widely used in the social sciences. When writing in APA, use in-text author-date citations, and create a bibliography. 

General APA formatting:

APA Citation:

Chicago and Turabian 

The University of Chicago lists two styles in their manual: an “author-date” system and a “notes-and-bibliography” system that is often used in philosophy and history. Turabian is a simplified version of Chicago sometimes used in social sciences. 

Author-date (Chicago Manual of Style)

NB (Chicago Manual of Style)