BASIC Notes on Giving Credit (citing) to a Source Within a Piece of Writing

The Modern Language Association of America (MLA) style is widely accepted in the Humanities. The MLA citation format uses abbreviated citations in parentheses within the text. Complete information about each source is listed at the end of the paper as a list of Works Cited.

FOR PARENTHETICAL CITATIONS or CITING/crediting SOURCES WITHIN THE TEXT: Sources should be given as evidence for each main reason that supports the thesis. A thesis sentence should have at least 3 clear reasons to support it.

The structure of an essay is basically a main Thesis Sentence and then a repeated pattern of paragraphs, each focused on a reason that supports the thesis and factual/credible evidence that supports the reasons. Every statement should have a clear source, you the writer ("I"), evidence form the story (author), supporting source (credit/cite). 

So, ALL information including personal thinking in an essay must be clearly identified/credited. Using "I" is the best way to make sure the writer's ideas are credited to the writer of the essay. ALL information borrowed from an outside source (even if the writer agrees with it or thinks the same thing ...) must be credited to its author and place it was found. Using a signal phrase for each source will insure that the reader knows where the next information is coming from and helps avoid plagiarism. Using a signal phrase to introduce a source and an end cite (author) at the end of that information, will make all the information clearly credited.



To make sure the credits (cites) given in the essay itself MATCH how it is listed on the Works Cited page:

FIRST: Make a bibliographic listing of any source(s) you think you will credit, on a separate page of your document with a centered heading of Works Cited. Consult a current style handbook, OWL at Purdue or EasyBib-citation maker (always go to all 59 options) to produce the correct MLA sequence of information for the source. DO NOT use "listing" numbers or bulleted format for sources. List in alphabetical order by author last name (or title if no author is given). The first word/name in the citation as organized for the Works Cited is the information used in the parenthetical credit in your writing. [see Citing Exercise for detailed help.]

THEN: Whenever you refer to material from a reading be sure to give the author's last name--or title if no author is given--in  (  ). A word-for-word quote must also include a page number where the words are found--or "na" if no page location is clear.

Always give a brief introduction to the material or author in a "signal phrase" to be sure readers can distinguish your ideas from the source and to clearly give credit to the source.

Brief EXPLANATION and EXAMPLES [e.g. = "example given"]:

  • Author and Title Cited in Text (No Parenthetical Citation necessary when citing the entire work rather than a specific idea within the work)  SIGNAL PHRASE to intro. and credit source:

    • e.g. In The Literary Nature of Darwin, Gould explores some of Darwin's most effective metaphors.

  • For Direct Quotation with Author Name (full or just last name of Author) such as:

    • e.g. As metaphors for the workings of nature, Darwin used the "tangled bank, the tree of life, and the face of nature" (Gould 14). < Author of source and page number.

    • e.g. Gould attributes Darwin's success to his "gift for making the appropriate metaphor" (14).

    • e.g. Gould explains that Darwin used the metaphor of the tree of life "to express the other form of interconnectedness-genealogical rather than ecological-and to illustrate both success and failure in the history of life" (14).

  • For summarized or paraphrased material only Last Name of Author in the sentence is needed.

    • e.g. Gould goes on to explain the process of mutation.

  • Using "I" is fine in these semi-formal responses to make clear what material is your own thinking, .and always refer to (credit) the source--even if you are just acknowledging your agreement or understanding.


Jane Thielsen 2013  and from library sources ♦  COCC ♦  all rights reserved