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MLA Citation & Formatting: Citing Sources

Useful information to help you create a well-formatted document in MLA 9th edition style

What is citation?

Citation is quoting or otherwise referring to an author or their work to illustrate a point or to support an argument in your own essay or research paper. When you do this, you must acknowledge the contribution of that author with an in-text citation and a bibliographic citation. An in-text citation is a short reference to that part of the work you have used within the body of your paper, and a bibliographic citation is a full citation included in a list at the end of your paper, formatted according to the style you are using - usually APA or MLA style.

 

Citation Is a Two-Part Process

In-Text Citation

Brief reference to an author’s work in the body of your paper, pointing your reader to the corresponding entry in the reference list. MLA Style uses author-page format. APA style uses author-date format.

or

Footnotes and Endnotes

Notes placed at the bottom of a page or at the end of a chapter or a project with complete citation information. Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) style requires these instead of in-text citations.

and

List of cited works

List of full citations for all resources used, arranged alphabetically by authors’ last names. MLA style refers to this as Works Cited. APA Style and Chicago Author-Date style refer to this as References. Chicago NB style refers to this as Bibliography.

Cite or Don't Cite?

Do Cite It:

...when you quote or paraphrase someone else's words, ideas, analysis, or opinions

...when you use facts or data collected or created by someone else

...when you use someone else's images or illustrations

Don't Cite It: 

...when information is common knowledge, something your reader already knows

...when you use data you collected yourself, like an informal student poll or survey

...when you use your own images or illustrations

When in doubt, play it safe and cite it!

Integrating Sources

Quoting: using exact words from a source

  • short quotations (no more than 4 lines of your paper) should be enclosed in quotation marks and followed by an in-text citation
  • long quotations (more than 4 lines) should be placed in block format, with the entire quote indented 1/2 inch, without quotation marks, and followed by an in-text citation and no end punctuation mark
  • quotes should always be attributed to the original author with an in-text citation

Paraphrasing: restating someone else's ideas in your own words

  • a paraphrase is usually shorter than the original passage because it involves condensing an idea
  • do this to summarize or to focus on an important point
  • a paraphrase is preferable to a quotation because it is presented in the context of your argument and in your own writing style
  • paraphrases should always be attributed to the original author with an in-text citation

Quote when the exact wording is important to retain meaning:

  • when you’re reproducing an exact definition

  • when you can’t say the same thing more memorably or more succinctly

  • when you want to respond to the author’s direct wording to strengthen your argument

Paraphrase when you can restate the author’s idea in your own words:

  • summarize and synthesize ideas when you can

  • adapt the information to the context of your paper

  • retain your own writing style

More Information

Sources for Citation

Sources for Quoting & Paraphrasing

 

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