"If I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants." - Sir Isaac Newton
As one of the greatest physicists to have walked the planet, Sir Isaac Newton has confessed in a letter written to Robert Hooke in 1676, all of us who are involved in the business of building the monument of human knowledge, owe a lot to the ones who laid its foundation stones and built it up, brick by brick.
As a researcher, you need to know how to cite sources to duly acknowledge the original contributions of people to the subject of your research. If you are writing your first research paper, your project guide must have instructed you about citing your sources. You can't just provide the citations any way you want. There are established norms regarding it.
What is a Citation?
A citation is a small note that is usually placed at the end of a research paper, or as a footnote, connecting any relevant piece of information or fact with its original source. The source may be anything, ranging from a research paper to an excerpt from a published newspaper.
If it's a research paper, this note contains the author name, journal name, volume number, and issue number, along with a reference page number. If it's a book, the note has the author's name, book title, copyright information, and a publisher's name. In case of a newspaper, the publication's name, issue date, author name, and page of printing is mentioned.
Necessity of Citing Sources
One could ask, why is it necessary that citations are provided in a research paper. The reason is obvious. Research is different from investigative journalism, where sources remain undisclosed sometimes. There are no speculations in a research paper and any piece of information, fact or result that is published without citing, is considered as plagiarism.
In case of book excerpts or newspaper paragraphs published without sources, it's simply considered to be copyright infringement and you stand liable to be sued. Citing sources provides credibility to your paper too, while ensuring that you are not left to be an outcast in the scientific community for plagiarism issues.
In a Research Paper
In research papers, the standard way of citing sources is to provide a reference number in superscript, next to the piece of text, that is based on information from external sources. At the end of the paper, the citation is mentioned with the appropriate reference number. It contains all the relevant pieces of information related to the source, including the author's name.
If you are quoting some text from another research paper, book, or any such source, you must mention the name of the authors right there in text, with an additional reference number, which leads to more detailed information, provided in a foot note.
Citing Internet Sources
In the age of Internet, many people prefer to publish their work online. If you have used any original piece of information provided in an Internet source, you must provide the URL or web address of the page in a foot note below, with a reference number in text. Don't forget to mention the author name and article title, if any.
The best way to understand citing is through the study of published research papers in reputed journals. You can learn a lot through observation. The key thing to remember is that every piece of information, that is derived from previously published research, should be mentioned with a citation.
Every original piece of research or relevant data that you have used in your research has to be connected with the accurate source, which may be another research paper, a book, a magazine, or even an Internet article.