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MLA Citations. What is MLA and when is it used?. MLA – Modern Language Association MLA formatting is used in the Humanities, especially in Language and Literature.

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what is mla and when is it used
What is MLA and when is it used?
  • MLA – Modern Language Association
  • MLA formatting is used in the Humanities, especially in Language and Literature.
  • MLA formatting features brief parenthetical () citations in the text keyed to an alphabetical list of works cited that appears at the end of the work.

MLA style has been widely adopted by schools, academic departments, and instructors for over half a century. The association's guidelines are also used by over 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, and magazines and by many university and commercial presses. The MLA's guidelines are followed throughout North America and in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries around the world.

why do we cite sources
Why do we cite sources?
  • Bibliographic citations give credit to those whose ideas you have referred to or quoted, presents information your readers can use to find further information, and gives your paper scholarly authority.
  • Doing research for a paper is an exploration and learning process. By acknowledging our sources we show our reader the path we took to come to our conclusions. Citing the authors we read shows how we tied others’ research and ideas together and how we came to learn about and develop our own ideas and opinions.
why do we cite sources1
Why do we cite sources?
  • Citations reflect the careful and thorough work you have put into locating and exploring your sources.
  • Citations help readers understand the context of your argument and are a courtesy to the reader, who may share your interest in a particular area of study.
  • Citations allow you to acknowledge those authors who contributed to your learning and your work.
  • Citations, by illustrating your own learning process, also draw attention to the originality and legitimacy of your own ideas.
  • By citing sources you demonstrate your integrity and skill as a responsible student and participant in your field of study.
when do you have to cite your sources
When do you have to cite your sources?
  • Direct quotes of one word or more:If the author’s words are powerful or you need to be specific for your argument, the authors’ words can be used as a direct quote.
  • Paraphrasing or summarizing:If you want to use someone else’s idea to help you make your point or to support your own ideas, in this case you would “translate” the ideas into your own words.
  • Information which may be common knowledge but still unfamiliar to your reader. This would also include statistical information which may be familiar information but still requires confirmation.
when do you have to cite your sources1
When do you have to cite your sources?
  • Not just books or articles should be cited. Any source that you use for information can and should be cited including interviews, websites, TV programs, etc.
  • Whenever you are not sure if something should be cited, err on the side of caution and cite sources.
  • Plagiarism is defined as "a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work" or "taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own"  ("Plagiarism").
  • Plagiarism is a serious issue in the academic community. While plagiarism sometimes does occur intentionally, it also occurs because the writer doesn’t understand or does not know how to avoid it.

Plagiarism occurs when you use someone else’s ideas and PRETEND they are your own. Avoiding plagiarism doesn’t mean that you can never use other people’s ideas. It’s a widely known secret that in fact you CAN use other peoples’ ideas and even their words. For many research papers you NEED to do this in order to prove your own points. So use their ideas! Use their words! Professors expect to see in your writing that you’ve done your research and understand what the experts think when you formed your own opinions. The trick is to acknowledge who these expert ideas really belong to by CITING them!

using direct quotations
Using Direct Quotations
  • How much you quote will determine how it appears in the body of your paper but whether it is one word or an entire paragraph, direct quotes need to be cited.
  • Lappe’s explanation of a "thin democracy" addresses a number of basic flaws within our American society (Lappe 128).
  • Global warming is being recognized as a major issue throughout the world and as Al Gore instructs, "it is time to make peace with our planet” (Gore).
paraphrasing or summarizing
Paraphrasing or Summarizing
  • This involves translating what you have read (or heard) and putting it into your own words. Paraphrasing typically refers to putting an idea or passage into your own words. Summarizing involves capturing the main idea or reducing a detailed piece to a shorter and more general synopsis.
paraphrasing and summarizing
Paraphrasing and Summarizing
  • "Instructors usually allow students to find their own topics for a major writing assignment; thus choose something of interest to you so you won’t get bored after a few days. At the same time, your chosen topic will need a scholarly perspective"(Lester and Lester 25).
  • Paraphrase: When students are permitted to select their own topic to write about they should choose one that is interesting to them. The topic should also be scholarly in nature so that students will be able to find appropriate research and resources on the topic (Lester and Lester 25).
  • Summary: Students should select writing topics that are interesting and also lend themselves to academic research (Lester and Lester 25).
  • A summary generally addresses the overall theme of a passage, article, opinion, etc. while a paraphrase generally restates a more specific thought or idea. The difference between summarizing and paraphrasing is sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle — do you see the difference?
is it common knowledge
Is It Common Knowledge?
  • Some basic facts are common knowledge and easily confirmed from a variety of sources. Statistics should always be cited, as well as opinions and less familiar facts. Information that is considered well-known within your field of study will also help determine if it is considered common or not. However, if you are not sure, cite it!
  • Example 1:
  • The University at Albany located in Albany, New York and is part of the State University of New York.
    • This is common knowledge and easily confirmed in a multitude of sources.
  • Example 2:
  • The State University of New York was officially established in February of 1948 and currently consists of 64 institutions. The University at Albany is one of ten University Centers that are part of the SUNY system("Short History of SUNY").
    • While the SUNY system is well known and these facts are easily confirmed, specific historical information or statistics should be cited.
works cited
Works Cited
  • Gore, Al. "Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech." Al's Journal. Al's Journal, 10 Dec 2007. Web. 15 Jan 2014. <>.
  • Lappe, Frances Moore. Getting a Grip. Cambridge, MA: Small Planet Media, 2007. 128. Print.
  • Lester, James D., and James D. Jr. Lester. Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide. 11th Ed. New York: Pearson Education, 2005. 25. Print.
    • "Plagiarism." WordNet 3.0. Princeton University. 03 Apr. 2008.
let s get started
Let’s Get Started!
  • Go to


(No “www.”)


Sample MLA Works Cited Page (on the next two slides)

  • Works Cited is a list of citations at the end of a research paper. A Works Cited page starts on a new page and is numbered as a continuation of the paper. Items in a Works Cited list are alphabetized by author.
  • When no author is given, alphabetize by title, ignoring “A”, “An” and “The” if one of these is the first word. Use a five space (½”) indentation for all lines after the first line of a citation entry. Double-space the entire list.

Works Cited

Berman, Morris. The Twilight of American Culture. New York: W.W. Norton, 2000. Netlibrary. Web. 22 Aug. 2009.

Cox, Ted. “Once Daring, MTV Now a Bland Corporate Commodity.” Daily Herald [Arlington Heights, IL] 1 Aug. 2006: 1. Infotrac Custom Newspapers. Web. 27 Aug. 2009.

Curtin, Michael F. “Media and the Degradation of Language: The Tides of Vulgarity Can be Countered.” Vital Speeches of the Day 72.20-21 (Aug. 2006): 578-80. Print.

Edmundson, Mark. “One the Uses of a Liberal Education: I. As Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students.” Harper’s Sept. 1997: 39-49. Print.


Halimi, Serge. “Myopic and Cheapskate Journalism: U.S. Press Obsessed with Local Issues.” Le Monde Diplomatique – English Edition. Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug.-Sept. 1998. Web. 29 Aug. 2009.

“The Liberal Arts in the Age of Info-Glut.” Chronicle of Higher Education 1 May 1998: B4-5. Print.

O’Brien, Tom.” Doom and Gloom.” America 21 May 2001: 31. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 22 Aug. 2009.

Thomas, Frank. “Dark Age.” Commodify Your Dissent. Ed. Frank Thomas and Matt Weiland. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. 255-72. Print.

Washburn, Katharine, and John F. Thornton, eds. Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print.