English Composition 1
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 authors name and page number for the material you use from the source.
There are two basic ways to cite a source.
1. Give the authors last name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
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).
- When you cite a source in this way, always give only the writers last name in parentheses, never the writer's full name.
- For whatever reason, students often have the desire to put a comma between the writer's last name and the page number(s). However, there should be no punctuation at all between the writer's name and the page number(s).
- When you state the writer's name in your sentence, you do not put the writer's name in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
2. Give the authors name in your sentence and the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
Divine laws, as Dorothea Krook states, are "presented as eternal, immutable, and absolutely binding" (15).
- One advantage of citing your source in this way is that you make clear where your sources ideas and/or words begin and end. Readers will assume that the ideas and/or words between the writers name and the page number(s) are coming from that source.
- When acknowledging your source in this way, give the authors full name the first time you refer to him or her in your paper; give only the last name for each reference to the author after the first.
- If you name the author in your own sentence, do not give the authors last name in parentheses: there is no need to repeat the name of the author.
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.