MLA: Using Sources Correctly
You cannot use information from any website or published book unless you give the author (or site) credit both inside your text and at the end of your paper. In other words, it is not enough to simply list the sources you used on a Works Cited page or References list.
As your instructor reads your essay, he or she should clearly be able to see which sentences, facts, or sections of your essay came from Source A, Source B, Source C, etc. by looking at your in-text citations.
You can give credit to your sources within your text in two different ways: by using a signal phrase or by simply using an in-text citation.
Signal phrase: signal phrase lets the reader know, right at the beginning of the sentence, that the information he or she is about to read comes from another source.
Example: According to John Smith, author of Pocahontas Is My Love, "Native American women value a deep spiritual connection to the environment" (53)
Notice that since I took a direct quote from John Smith's book, I placed those words in quotation marks. Also notice that because I explained who wrote the book, what book it comes from, and on what page to find the quote in the book, the reader is easily able not only to find the source on his/her own to check my facts, but the reader is also more likely to believe what I have to say now that they know that my information comes from a credible source.
In-Text Citation: Use an in-text citation in situations where you are not quoting someone directly but rather using information from another source such as a fact, summary, or paraphrase to support your own ideas.
Example: When weighing the costs of college with the benefits of getting a degree, it is important to note that “the rate of return on investment in higher education is high enough to warrant the financial burden associated with pursuing a college degree” (Porter 464).
Notice that it's clear within this sentence that I'm referring to a person’s belief or conclusion, but since this person's name does not appear at the beginning of the sentence, I have placed her name and the page number where I retrieved this information in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
Summarize an article or a larger section of an article whenever you simply want to present the author's general ideas in your essay. Summaries are most often used to condense larger texts into more manageable chucks.
How to Write an Effective Summary: Cover up the original article. It is key that you not quote from the original work. Restate what you've read in your own words and be sure to give the author credit using an in-text citation.
Example: Katherine Porter believes that, while getting a college degree can be expensive and time consuming, the benefits greatly outweigh the costs. She discusses the economic, social, and cultural benefits of higher education in "The Value of a College Degree.”
Paraphrase your sources whenever you believe that you can make the information from a source shorter and/or clearer for your audience. A paraphrase is not an exact copy of the original, so simply changing a few words here and there is not acceptable.
Take a look at these examples:
The original passage from The Confident Student: “Whatever your age, health and well-being can affect your ability to do well in college. If you don’t eat sensibly, stay physically fit, manage your stress, and avoid harmful substances, then your health and your grades will suffer” (Kanar 158).
A legitimate paraphrase: No matter what condition your body is in, you can pretty much guarantee that poor health habits will lead to a lack of academic success. Students need to take time for their physical and emotional well-being, as well as their studies, during college (Kanar 158).
Because the art of paraphrasing is more concise than summarizing, a true paraphrase shows that you as a researcher completely understand the source work.
Quoting your sources
If you need help incorporating your sources into your essay, the first thing you'll need to remember is that quotes cannot stand alone—they can't be placed in a sentence all by themselves. You need to make each quote a part of your essay by introducing it beforehand and commenting on it afterward.
Think of each quote like a sandwich—the quote is the meat on the inside, but before you taste the meat, you must also be introduced to the sandwich by the bread. After you bite down on that meat, you need the other piece of bread to round out the meal.
The top piece of bread will tell us where the quote came from and/or how it fits in with what’s already been discussed in the essay. The bottom piece of bread points out what was important about the quote and elaborates on what was being said.
How do I use partial quotations to liven up my writing?
Be sure to introduce the author from the source work within the sentence itself and use quotation marks. No comma is necessary to introduce the quoted phrase.
Margaret Reardon points out that today's economy cars are "better equipped" to handle accidents than the smaller cars of the past.
What are block quotations and how are they handled?
Block, or indent, quotations longer than four lines of type. When a quotation is indented, the use of quotation marks is not necessary, and the page number is included outside the ending punctuation.
Like many people who enjoy a leisurely pace of living with such attendant activities as reading, painting, or gardening, I often long for a simpler time, a time when families amused themselves by telling stories after supper, as opposed to watching Baghdad get bombed. (1)
Block quotes are indented by one inch, and should be used sparingly.
How do I punctuate shorter quotations?
For a quotation shorter than four lines, quotation marks are used and the page numbers fall inside the ending punctuation.
According to DR. Shannon Marcus: "Many of our student's personal decisions will have the inherent dangers of instant gratification, and so will their political decisions," (548).
Do I use a comma or a colon to introduce a quotation?
A quotation is usually introduced by a comma or a colon. A colon precedes when a quotation is formally introduced or when the quotation itself is a complete sentence, but either no punctuation or a comma generally precedes when the quotation serves as an integral part of the sentence.
Shelley argued thus: "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
She thought poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
"Poets," according to Shelley, "are the unacknowledged legislators of the world."
Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" concludes: "A sadder and a wiser man, / He rose the morrow morn."
How do I correctly change a quotation to suit my purpose, such as to identify a pronoun?
Often, a quotation you wish to use includes a pronoun instead of a name. Since you must copy the quotation verbatim, you should insert the name after the pronoun to clarify who you are talking about. Use brackets (not parenthesis).
Example: "He [Clapton] got the chills when he listened to that material recently."
What if my quotation contains a mistake?
Additionally, if your source makes a “mistak”, you copy the mistake because direct quotations are copied verbatim. However, you indicate that the mistake is not yours by using [sic], which means "thus" and tells the reader that the error appears in the original.
The professor stressed that "if your source makes a mistak [sic], you should copy the mistake because direct quotations are copied verbatim."
If quotations are verbatim, how do I leave something out of a quotation that I do not need?
Use ellipsis marks if you wish to leave something out of the middle of a quotation (perhaps it is not needed or will make your quotation too long).
She states that
many of our students' personal decisions will have the inherent dangers of instant gratification, and so will their political decisions. Virtual reality will make it possible for them to program themselves into scenarios we now merely fantasize about. As a result, imagination itself will require a new definition. (1)
Quoted with ellipses:
She states that
many of our students' personal decisions will have the inherent dangers of instant gratification, and so will their political decisions. . . . As a result, imagination itself will require a new definition. (1)
Note 1: There are only three ellipses marks used in this sentence. A period also appears, indicating that one sentence ended before the word "As." If you had only left out a few words in mid-sentence, then you would not need a period.
Note 2: Do not change the meaning of the quotation when you leave out part of it!
Note 3: Notice that now that information has been removed from the middle of the quotation, it is only three lines long. It should no longer be indented.
Use ellipsis marks ( . . . ) at the beginning and end of quotations only if necessary. It is not always necessary to do so, and too many will damage the flow of your essay. Use them sparingly.
If my source quotes somebody else, how do I indicate this?
When you have a quotation within a quotation, handle it this way:
Indented original (article by David Fricke appearing in Rolling Stone):
Clapton [Eric] got the chills when he listened to that material recently. It was the first time he had done so in over fifteen years. "It got too much for me," he says. "Old memories started coming back; old issues raised their head. I think of the people in that band and what happened to them." (qtd. in Fricke 26)
Notice that this quotation is indented because it is longer than four lines. Therefore, no quotation marks are used at the beginning or the end. The quotation marks that appear at the end are the result of needing quotation marks around Clapton's remark, not because the entire paragraph is a quotation. Notice also that the first line is indented an additional five spaces. That's because it's the first sentence in the paragraph in the original. If you begin a quotation in mid-paragraph, there is no indention.
Clapton's name does not appear on your Works Cited page as he is not your source. Fricke is the source. Therefore, Fricke's name should appear. Since Clapton is speaking, however, use "qtd. in" (quoted in) for clarification.