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Communication: Incorporating Sources

MLA Citation

MLA Guide

When writing in English, your professor will usually ask you to use Modern Language Association (MLA) Style. The link above leads to a guide on MLA Style, which can help you in writing your paper.

When to Cite

Incorporating Sources

1. Paraphrasing sources

What is it? Writing the info from a source in your own sentences
Why is it important? Avoids plagiarism; shows that you understand the information
When do we do it in a paper? Everywhere: 80% of a research paper is paraphrased

2. Summarizing sources

What is it? Paraphrase of the main ideas of a source
Why is it important? Sometimes we want to talk about the findings of a whole source
When do we do it in a paper? Occasionally in a research paper, often in a summary paper, literature review, or in an annotated bibliography

3. Synthesizing/Integrating info from sources

What is it? Using info from more tha one source in the same sentence or paragraph
Why is it important? You get to think and talk about the info; you get to fact check, you get to compare and contrast information.
When do we do it in a paper? Everywhere

4. Citing sources

What is it? Naming a source that you used in your paper and at the end
Why is it important? Avoids plagiarism and establishes your character as a research
When do we do it in a paper? Often, both in the paper and at the end

5. Quoting sources

What is it? Using exact words of source in quotations
Why is it important? Shows us the expert opinion- it adds other voices to our own writing
When do we do it in a paper? Depends on the discipline: humanities quote often, social sciences quote occasionally, and sciences quote seldom

  • Researching
    • Locating and gathering sources that offer information on a focused subject
      • Choosing and focusing on a topic
      • Searching databases
      • Searching other electronic sources
      • Searching physical holdings
  • Critical Reading
    • Reading sources with understanding and with alertness to questions/issues raised.
    • Critical readers mark text, write questions, take notes, and look up the meaning of words
  • Note Taking
    • Selecting and writing down information from sources to be used in the written paper
    • The best note taking paraphrases sources. If you want to copy a sentence, use quotation marks to remind yourself that the note is the source's writing
  • Paraphrasing
    • The ability to convey information from sources in your own sentences
    • You're not writing in your own words, you're writing in your own sentences; if you're writing about violence on TV, you can't change the words "violence" or "TV", but you can write in your own sentences
  • Citing
    • Identifying the source of information used in your paper in two places- briefly in the paper itself, next to where the info is used, and more fully, at the end of the paper
  • Synthesizing
    • Bringing together info from multiple sources to talk about a single point or idea
    • If you don't synthesize in your writing, you have no way to evaluate or compare information
  • Summarizing
    • Paraphrasing the main ideas and key facts of a single source
    • Most used in summary papers, annotated bibliographies, and other kinds of source-based writing that focus on single sources or sources discussed in sequence
  • Quoting
    • Presenting in your writing the exact words of a source in the exact order used
    • Avoid relying on quotes to fill up pages; quotes should only be used for expert opinion or to present text that requires commentary
  • Signal phrases are words in your paper that identify your sources
    • "Jones has written that"
    • "According to Smith"
    • "Pritchett says"
  • Use these instead of parenthetical citations
    • Music education helps children learn math (Harris).
    • According to researcher Samantha Harris, music education helps children learn math.
  • Don't forget that you still need to make note of page numbers in parentheses!
    • Music education "should be required, not cut" (Harris 324).
    • Harris concludes that music education "should be required, not cut" (324).
  • Signal phrases:
    • Add length to your writing
    • Can add smoothness to your writing
    • Can make writing easier
    • Add citations to your writing
    • Help frame quotes

Plagiarism is:

Using the work of someone else without giving him or her credit.
Presenting someone else's work as your own.

If you use someone else's work, you MUST give credit via both in-text citation and a Works Cited page.

Give credit with parenthetical citations, or preferably signal phrases.

Put word-for-word copying in quotation marks. Use quotes sparingly unless you need the exact text for analysis!

To avoid copying info directly from the source, try the following:

  • Take notes as you read the source
  • Write from your notes, without looking at the source
  • Refer back to the source to check for accuracy


Citation is the identification in your writing of sources you have used to write your paper.

Sources should be identified briefly in the paper itself and more fully at the end, in a bibliography.

Why do we cite?

  • To give authors credit for their work
  • To bolster our own authority as writers
  • To provide support for controversial material
  • To guide readers to more information

When do we cite?

  • Whenever we use a fact from a source, unless that fact is presented in many other sources without citation
  • Whenever we quote a source
  • Whenever we present the position or stance or theory of a source

How do we cite? It depends on the discipline!

  • Humanities (art, music, languages, English) use MLA (Modern Language Association) style citation
  • Social sciences, business, education, nursing, and many other disciplines use APA (American Psychological Association) style
  • Sciences (biology, chemistry, physics) use CSE (Council of Science Editors) style
  • History and political science use Chicago Manual of Style citation style

Where can I get help with formatting citations?

  • Writing textbooks and style guides
  • The Baldwin Library
  • The Academic Achievement Center
  • Online guides

Citation Guides: Use these guides to help you create your bibliographies.

MLA Style Quiz: Use this fill in the blank quiz to learn how to cite and format in Modern Language Association style.

When to Cite: Use this matching quiz to learn when to cite- or not!

My Citation

Information on this page courtesy of Dr. Mark Richardson.