In carrying out a research project, we make use of ideas borrowed from other sources or works. Usually we are expected to document or provide proper citations to such sources or works which we have made reference to and from where we must have obtained useful ideas or information in executing our own works. This serves as an acknowledgement to the original source of the information as well as providing information that will be helpful in identifying and retrieving the source of information.
Citation to such works or sources are usually not done anyhow. Standard formats exist for making such citations. Indeed, unknown to many beginning researchers, there are many styles in existence. In a discipline, one or more styles may be in use while different institutions or persons may prefer and use different styles.
The A. P. A. reference style appears to be the most extensively used in the behavioral science. As a matter of fact, no one style could be said to be better than the other. It is only a matter of convention and of course orientation that people prefer one style to the other.
The A. P. A. reference style uses the author-date method of citation. The surname of the author (no initials) and the year of publication are cited at the appropriate place in the text. When the name of the author does not form part of the narrative, both the name and the date are placed in parentheses with a comma separating the name and date. If a work has been cited before and it appears again within the same paragraph, only the author's name without the year is cited, provided the work cannot be confused with other works cited in the thesis or article. If a work has only two authors, the names of both authors are cited every time the reference occurs in the text, if the authors are more than two but less than six, all the authors are cited the first time the reference occurs in the text but in subsequent citations, only the surname of the first author is included followed by "et al" and the year. (Dot not underline "et al" and no period after "et").
Citations are not used simply to avoid plagiarism, they have other important roles too. Reference allows you to acknowledge the contribution of other writers and researchers in your work. Any university assignments that draw on the ideas, words or research of other writers must contain citation.
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