Grammar Tutorial: Citations

The purpose of a citation is to provide the reader with information to find the source of the author’s facts or ideas. A citation includes, at the very least, the title, author, source of publication, and date of publication. Citation styles, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago, are sets of rules that determine how citations are formatted. Outside sources are often a requirement for your papers and projects. The library can help you locate books, articles, and other materials to meet your needs, but that’s only the first step. Once you have located them you still have to use the sources responsibly. The main component to this is citing the sources correctly.

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author’s last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, for example, (Jones, 1998), and a complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper. If you are referring to an idea from another work but not directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper. Here are some rules when it comes to using in text citations for APA style: Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials, if you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source, when capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word, italicize the titles of longer works such as books, edited collections, movies, television series, documentaries, or albums, and put quotation marks around the titles of shorter works such as journal articles, articles from edited collections, television series episodes, and song titles.

Having a reference list at the end of your paper is also part of the APA style citations. Your reference list should appear at the end of your paper. It provides the information necessary for a reader to locate and retrieve any source you cite in the body of the paper. Each source you cite in the paper must appear in your reference list; likewise, each entry in the reference list must be cited in your text. Your references should begin on a new page separate from the text of the essay; label this page “References” centered at the top of the page. Do not bold, underline, or use quotation marks for the title. All text should be double-spaced just like the rest of your essay. Some rules making a reference list are: all lines after the first line of each entry in your reference list should be indented one-half inch from the left margin, authors’ names are inverted which means give the last name and initials for all authors of a particular work for up to and including seven authors, if the work has more than seven authors, list the first six authors and then use ellipses after the sixth author’s name, after the ellipses, list the last author’s name of the work, reference list entries should be alphabetized by the last name of the first author of each work. 


In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done by using what is known as parenthetical citation. This method involves providing relevant source information in parentheses whenever a sentence uses a quotation or paraphrase. Usually, the simplest way to do this is to put all of the source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence. However, as the examples below will illustrate, there are situations where it makes sense to put the parenthetical elsewhere in the sentence, or even to leave information out. MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author’s last name and the page number from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author’s name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence.

According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text. These are the rules you should follow when creating your Works Cited page: Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper. Label the page Works Cited (do not italicize the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page. Only the title should be centered. The citation entries themselves should be aligned with the left margin. Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries. Indent the second and subsequent lines of citations by 0.5 inches to create a hanging indent. If you’re citing an article or a publication that was originally issued in print form but that you retrieved from an online database, you should type the online database name in italics. You do not need to provide subscription information in addition to the database name.  

The Chicago Manual of Style covers a variety of topics from manuscript preparation and publication to grammar, usage, and documentation. The material in this resource focuses primarily on one of the two CMOS documentation styles: the Notes-Bibliography System which is used by those in literature, history, and the arts. The other documentation style, the Author-Date System, is nearly identical in content but slightly different in form and is preferred in the social sciences. The Chicago NB system is often used in the humanities and provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through footnote or endnote citation in their writing and through bibliography pages. It also offers writers an outlet for commenting on those cited sources. The NB system is most commonly used in the discipline of history. The proper use of the NB system can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the intentional or accidental uncredited use of source material created by others. Most importantly, properly using the NB system builds credibility by demonstrating accountability to source material.

In the NB system, the bibliography provides an alphabetical list of all sources used in a given work. This page, most often titled Bibliography, is usually placed at the end of the work preceding the index. It should include all sources cited within the work and may sometimes include other relevant sources that were not cited but provide further reading. Some of the things you need to know about the Bibliography section when using the Chicago style are: All entries in the bibliography will include the author, title, and publication information, The author’s name is inverted in the bibliography, placing the last name first and separating the last name and first name with a comma; for example, John Smith becomes Smith, John. If an author is not listed first, this principle applies to compilers or translators. Titles of books and journals are italicized. Titles of articles, chapters, and poems are placed in quotation marks. The year of publication is listed after the publisher or journal name. In a bibliography, all major elements are separated by periods.      


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Written by Gannon Bobe


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