Text only | Back

English Composition 1

Citing Sources

Whenever you use words or ideas from sources in your writing, you must give credit to your sources, acknowledging that the words or ideas are not your own. You do this by citing and documenting sources according to a standard system of documentation. There are two popular standards of documentation: one from the APA (American Psychological Association) and the other from the MLA (Modern Language Association). The MLA standard of documentation is used for papers in the arts and humanities (including papers on literature). It is extremely important that you understand how to cite and document sources properly and that you understand when it is necessary to do so. Otherwise, your writing may contain plagiarism, and any form of plagiarism, even if it is accidental, means a failing grade for the paper in which the plagiarism occurs.

The examples below refer to Sophocles' play Antigone.

When you use material from a source in your paper, you must cite that source properly. "Citing a source" is giving the author’s name and page number for the material you use from the source.

There are two basic ways to cite a source.

1. Give the author’s last name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Example
Creon is responsible for maintaining human order, but he is also responsible for ensuring that his own laws do not come into conflict with those laws established by a higher source, laws which have "an existence independent of, other than, and antecedent to man" but nonetheless have "the closest bearing on the life of man" (Krook 15).

2. Give the author’s name in your sentence and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Example
Divine laws, as Dorothea Krook states, are "presented as eternal, immutable, and absolutely binding" (15).

If you copy just a few words from a source, those words must go in quotation marks and you must cite your source. (Material within quotation marks must appear in your paper exactly as it appears in the original.)

If you paraphrase (put into your own words) or summarize (condense and put into your own words) material from a source, you must cite your source in the same way you cite quoted words. If you paraphrase or summarize material but copy key words or short phrases from the original, put those key words or phrases in quotation marks.

You do not have to cite your source if you present in your paper material that can be considered "general knowledge," general information that can be found in many different sources. However, you always have to cite a source whenever you quote that source.

This page was last updated on July 25, 2006. Copyright Randy Rambo, 2006.