References are often used to support information discussed in essays. References help back up arguments, prove major points and make the essay more reliable. When you use references to validate the major points in your paper, you are showing the reader that your arguments are not based on your personal assertions alone, but instead on those of other authors and researchers. You can use references by summarizing, paraphrasing or quoting your sources, providing an in-text citation and listing the sources on your reference page.
Specific guidelines outline the use of references in an essay, and most essays are written following APA, MLA or Chicago Style, depending on your subject and essay instructions. It is important to know which style format is required as this affects the way in which you will create in-text citations and reference page entries. Either way, you will be including enough information via your references, so that the reader can find your original source to validate your claim or conduct further research.
As you gather references, it is important to use reliable sources that directly back up your main point. For example, if you were writing a research paper on the benefits of school uniforms, you might look for statistics that discus how uniforms affect crime and peer pressure in schools. You might also search for professionals who have strong opinions on the matter and quote them in your paper. As you gather your references, keep detailed notes on the sources so that you can get back to them if you need to.
Once you have adequate summaries of your research and quotes from professionals, you can begin to use them in your essay. Place research in the paragraphs where it directly supports the point you are trying to make. Any outside information used must be referenced in the essay via an in-text citation or footnote. For example with an APA-formatted essay, your parenthetical citation will include the last name of the author and year of publication.
Every essay that uses research and outside information must also include a reference page where the sources are listed. The reference page is a separate page that comes at the end of the essay and lists your sources in alphabetical order by last name of the author. Detailed information is important, including date, type of publication, volume and issue number and publisher information. The order of the information varies, depending on whether you are following APA, MLA or Chicago format.