A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Evidence & Documentation

Understand conventions for citing information.

Different academic disciplines and journals have unique formatting guidelines for citing sources and formatting research reports. Remarkably, there are hundreds of different formatting guidelines for referencing sources. This section briefly summarizes the most popular citation styles used in colleges and universities:

Did I do this right? A checklist for your Works Cited Page!

We get it: formatting can be tough, especially when you’ve been working on a paper for a while and your eyes are starting to cross and the letters are bleeding into one another. If you find yourself nearing the end, use this handy checklist to make sure your Works Cited Page follows all of the rules!

The rules for quoting drama and/or poetry in Modern Language Association (MLA) Style differ from those for quoting the genre of prose. This article discusses rules for using MLA style to format quotes from drama and poetry. Consult the MLA Handbook to learn more.

Quoting Poetry

The MLA Handbook offers specific guidelines for quoting poetry.

Yes, it’s that time again: MLA has updated the format to account for new advances in technology, namely how to cite online sources.

The basics remain the same—cite where the information came from inside some parenthesis and then include the full bibliographic citation on your Works Cited Page. So, nothing to fret over there.

If this comment appears on your paper, your Works Cited page is probably missing or incomplete; check the assignment requirements. A Works Cited list includes complete source information for each source that has been quoted, paraphrased, or referenced in your paper. Failure to properly acknowledge the origin of your sources is considered plagiarism.

 

 

 

 

 

When should a block quotation be used?

When a writer chooses to include a long quotation—one that takes up four or more lines of text—it must be set off as a free standing block. As with any quotation a writer employs as evidence, the original text should contain relevant and compelling ideas that are expressed in vivid and concise language.

Block quotations should be used sparingly in longer essays and articles (multiple pages) and rarely in shorter works (1,500 words or less). Lengthy, wordy quotations should never be used simply to fill pages when the writer has little to say about the topic or issue.

When should italics be used?

A slanting font style called italics is used when writers wish to emphasize, or give special significance to, a word or words. When writers prepare a document on a word processor, italic type is used to distinguish titles, words used as words, and foreign words from hyperlinks, which are usually underlined.

Quotations are effective in academic writing when used carefully and selectively. Although misquoting or quoting too much can confuse or overwhelm your audience, quoting relevant and unique words, phrases, sentences, lines, or passages can help you achieve your purpose.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) provides guidelines/rules for quoting:

  • Prose.
  • Poetry.

When should long titles be shortened within in-text citations?

In-text citations usually supply the author(s)’ last name to reference their work, but when the source has no known author or more than one source by the same author is cited, the title of the source is inserted instead. When an in-text citation refers to a work with a long title, a shortened phrase from the title should be used.

Care should be taken to shorten the title in such a way that it does not compromise the reader’s ability to locate the source on the Works Cited list.

Whenever you incorporate outside sources into your own writing, you must provide both in-text citations (within the body of the paper) and full citations (in the Works Cited page). The in-text citations point your reader toward the full citations in the Works Cited page.

That's why the first bit of information in your in-text citation (generally, the author's name; if no name is provided, the title of the article/book/webpage) should directly match up with the beginning of your Works Cited entry for that source.

How might you format your in-text citations so that they're more compliant with MLA guidelines?

You already know why MLA formatting guidelines are an important part of an academic paper, but let’s face it—who can remember all those rules about when and where certain citation information is requisite and when and where particular punctuation is appropriate? Thankfully, memorizing all of MLA’s formatting guidelines is not necessary!

1. Is the heading in the upper left-hand corner of the first page? 

2. Does the heading include:

  • Your name?
  • Your Instructor's name?
  • The course name?
  • The date?

  • Begin the Works Cited list at the top of a new page
  • Center the title of the Works Cited page
  • Arrange these sources in alphabetical order
  • Include complete source information for each citation
  • Use a hanging indent to format these citations
  • Italicize the title of full-length works
  • Italicize the title of website names
  • Enclose the titles of short works in quotation marks

Click the "Read More" below to view the article diagram.

What punctuation should be used when words are inserted or altered in a direct quotation?

When writers insert or alter words in a direct quotation, square brackets—[ ]—are placed around the change. The brackets, always used in pairs, enclose words intended to clarify meaning, provide a brief explanation, or to help integrate the quote into the writer’s sentence.  A common error writers make is to use parentheses in place of brackets.

Look at the sentences below, each of which contains an incorrectly formatted in-text citation. Specify the error made in each sentence; then, write a new sentence in which the in-text citation is correctly formatted.

1. The parlor metaphor of writing describes writing as entering into a conversation, as in arriving late and a parlor and talking to guests who have been there long before you have (7).

2. In “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love,” Jim Corder explains that “Everyone is an argument.” (1)

What punctuation should be used when words are omitted from a direct quotation?

Dot com. Dot org. Dot edu. Dots abound. One purpose a dot serves is to separate information into easily-interpreted units: a website name from its extension, dollars from cents, or one idea from another in written text. Almost everyone is familiar with the dot placed at the end of a sentence—that everyday form of punctuation known as a period. A less common punctuation mark, often used in academic writing, is a series of three dots called ellipsis points.

  • Where is the MLA-style page header?
  • Include last name and page number in the header
  • Place the page header in the upper-right hand corner
  • Review placement and format of the 4-line MLA heading
  • Present the due date in European style

After you understand what plagiarism is, as well as how to avoid it, consider using a plagiarism checklist as you draft and edit your work. The following checklist is ideal for use during the drafting and revising stages of the writing process.

Checklist for Avoiding Plagiarism

1. ❟ Apply a note-taking system in your pre-writing process.