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Documenting Sources:. How to Avoid Plagiarism in MLA and APA Papers. A little story about documentation . . . “My friend told me about this guy who can get us World Series tickets.” “Shut up! Who? For how much?”

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documenting sources

Documenting Sources:

How to Avoid Plagiarism in MLA and APA Papers

a little story about documentation
A little story about documentation . . .

“My friend told me about this guy who can get us World Series tickets.”

“Shut up! Who? For how much?”

“You don’t know him. He’s Derek Jeter’s personal trainer on the road. The tickets are free—we just have to fly there.”

“Which game are the tickets for?”

“Game three! Isn’t that great?”

“No, you idiot! That’s already passed!”

you already know about documenting sources
You already know about documenting sources!

How do you know? Who told you?Why should we believe them? And how old is this information?These are the sorts of questions readers should have answered by your documentation.

goals for this workshop
Goals for This Workshop:
  • To learn why to attribute information to its sources
  • To learn how to effectively integrate source material
  • To view the latest MLA & APA styles
  • To practice citing a source
why document sources
Why Document Sources?

There are two reasons to document your sources in your papers: academic honesty and to avoid plagiarism.

Academic honesty is just playing by the rules of academia—the world of scholarship—and showing respect for the work of others when you borrow their ideas or words as you put forward your own.

your and your sources time to shine
Your (and Your Sources’) Time to Shine
  • Showing information on your sources demonstrates your own research accomplishments (Spatt 438).
  • Documentation also allows readers to look up items and learn more on your topic.
avoid plagiarism
Avoid Plagiarism

It’s stealing! It’s lying! It’s plain wrong!More specifically, according to Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers in the 7th edition of A Writer’s Reference, “Three different acts are considered plagiarism: (1) failing to cite quotations and borrowed ideas, (2) failing to enclose borrowed language in quotation marks, and (3) failing to put summaries and paraphrases in your own words” (376).

to cite verb
To Cite (verb)

To identify the source of statements that come from another work (a.k.a. to document).

Such identification is done through signal phrases and, in MLA and APA, parenthetical citations.

what to cite
What to Cite

Direct quotes—Theymust be exactly word-for-word reproductions, or else show where elements were left out with an ellipsis . . .

Borrowed ideas—Those are “direct quotations; statistics and other specific facts; and visuals such as cartoons, graphs, and diagrams; and any ideas you present in a summary or paraphrase” (Hacker 377). If it is rare information or contentious—people argue about it—cite the source. And, of course, “when in doubt, cite the source” (377).

summary vs paraphrase
Summary vs. Paraphrase

Summary—short version of a text in all new words

Paraphrase—also completely rewords and restructures a text, but is about the same length

what not to cite
What Not to Cite?

common knowledge that could be found in almost any reference source

cite as you note and draft
Cite as You Note and Draft

With full documentation, take notes in either word-for-word quotes or totally reworked into your own idiom.

This way, you’ll always know where a quote or idea came from! And you’ll be practicing documentation as you draft your papers.

example notes
Example Notes

Solberg, Judy. “Becoming Learning Commons Partners: Working Toward a Shared Vision and Practice.” Journal of Organisational Transformation and Social Change. Spring 2011. 20-35.

p. 22: “As new technologies have emerged, librarians have been challenged with how to integrate these technologies into existing buildings and services.” What tech? Why?

p. 29: “Ideally, as described in the learning commons planning literature, learning commons participants would have been identified before the beginning of the planning process and members would have been chosen based on the best combination of services for producing the desired outcomes.” What happened when reality met idealism?

mla style
MLA Style

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is used most often for

  • literary analyses, so quotations
  • summarizing and paraphrasing
how to cite in mla style as outlined by hacker
How to cite in MLA style, as outlined by Hacker:

A signal phrase leads into sourced material followed by a parenthetical citation.

The end of the paper is a list ofworks cited providing full publication data for each source item (359).

signal phrases
Signal Phrases
  • Name the author(s)and mark where your words end and the ideas of another writer begin, whether in quotation, summary, or paraphrase form.
  • Give the author’s credentials the first time they are mentioned.
  • Use present tense verbsunless a date is given in the text.
  • Show how you are using the sourcematerial, i.e., as background, support, refutation, etc.
  • Provide transitions between your sentences and the words or ideas of others.
example signal phrases
Example Signal Phrases

In her essay, “Beans on Toast,” Sylvia Tate argues that . . .

Morgan, in the Jan. 28, 2011 episode of Piers Morgan Tonight, suggested that . . .

This can be effective when, as Smith and Barnabas find, the two protagonists . . .

signal phrases are for summaries too
Signal Phrases Are for Summaries, Too!

The signal phrase is the first bookend to sourced material and the parenthetical citation is the end. Even without a typical “So-and-so says” phrase, A Writer’s Reference notes that there should be a signal phrase that identifies the originator of an idea being summarized (Hacker 382).

The signal phrase also gives you credibility as a researcher. If you can’t tell me why I should trust your source, then I’m not going to trust that you have read and understood your sources or that you know why you’re using the source!

example author credentials
Example Author Credentials

Legal scholar Max Moynihan contends . . .

Ben Yagoda, professor of English at the University of Delaware, delights in . . .

My friend Lisa, a twenty-year veteran of the culture wars in public schools, bemoans . . .

signal phrases20
Signal Phrases

Besides people, corporate entities (organizations or

governments) can count as the author:

If there is no author name, not even a corporate entity, use the full title of your source in the signal phrase or the short form of the title in the parenthetical citation.

In a 2009 online survey of members of The Froot Loops Adoration Society, more than 75% of the lovers of the sugary cereal reported they also consumed “contraband vegetal substances.”

examples of no author name documentation
Examples of No-Author-Name Documentation

In the entry entitled “I Was Married to Sasquatch,”an anonymous blogger details her 30-year marriage to the mythical beast.

Several bloggers have large online audiences that often exceed those of traditional media (“Today’s Media Landscape”).

mla practice 1
MLA Practice 1

Exercise MLA 2-1 Avoiding Plagiarism

Select “Research exercises,” click “cancel,” then select “MLA.”

quotation punctuation
Quotation Punctuation

The ellipsis and square brackets are friends of quotation marks.

The ellipsis is three spaced periods: . . .

It shows where words have been left out to shorten or simplify a quote. There is no need for it at the beginning of a quote, and you should use it at the end only if it is not the end of the quoted sentence (Hacker 363).

example of ellipsis use
Example of Ellipsis Use

Professor of English and journalism at the University of Delaware, author Ben Yagoda argues convincingly that, despite what recent language authorities say is traditional English grammar, “before the eighteenth century, writers and speakers typically referred to an indefinite subject . . . with a they, their, or them,” and he demonstrates this with examples from Shakespeare, the King James version of the Bible, and the 1749 novel Tom Jones (184).

. . . = —everyone, anyone, a person, or the typical student—



There may be a period and ellipsis combined if 1 or more sentences is left out.

When using ellipses to shorten a quote, the original meaning must still come across and the sentence must be grammatical!

(BTW, it’s okay to change a capital in the original to a lowercase to blend into your sentences without any extra punctuation.)

square brackets
Square Brackets

Square brackets are for putting in your own words to clarify a quote or to make a quote grammatical in your sentence.

If a word form has to change to become grammatical, then the word is considered a substitution and requires brackets.

e.g., original blamed becomes quoted [blaming]

In The Big Lebowski, The Dude often says, “It [the rug] tied the room together.”

mla practice 2
MLA Practice 2

The signal phrase and punctuation techniques and in-text citations are all to be used to seamlessly integrate and identify source material.

Exercise MLA 3-1 Integrating Sources

(Select “Research exercises,” click “cancel,” then select “MLA.”)

follow a quote with its point
Follow a Quote with its Point


Yagoda takes the middle ground in the debate on the English language. With the curious eye of a linguist, he gathers examples of usage from respected academic journals (Chronicle of Higher Education, American Speech) (185), literary canon (KJV Bible, Shakespeare, Twain, Wilde) (187), as well as popular culture (Springsteen and Seinfeld) to identify what is acceptable by users of the language (90). However, like a traditional grammarian, he applies his own rigid notions about pronouns when answering the phone: “I think ‘This is he’ sounds pompous but ‘This is him’ sounds louche [disreputable]” (191). His personal views underscore how emotional people can be about supposedly rule-based grammar.

In addition to the signal phrase and verb choice, give further explanation to connect the quote to your own thesis argument:

the point

parenthetical citations
Parenthetical Citations

Any information you put in parentheses ( ) is described as “parenthetical.”

A parenthetical citation is the documentation given in parentheses at the end of a sentence or a natural clause break.

parenthetical citations30
Parenthetical Citations

Give page numbers when pagination is stable, i.e., stays the same: print and PDF files. If no page or paragraph numbers, use well-developed signal phrases and no parenthetical citation.

Even if a source is only one page, it helps to put the page number in to show where your citation ends (Hacker 391).

parenthetical citations in mla
Parenthetical Citations in MLA

Depending on the amount of documentation in the sentence and the type of source, there will be more or less in the parentheses:

In If You Catch an Adjective, Kill It, the parts of speech are analyzed (Yagoda 15-35).

The Wikipedia article “Solar Flares” describes coronal mass ejections and their effects on our electronics.

That’s right! No parenthetical citation at all—the documentation was done in the sentence.

mla practice 3
MLA Practice 3

Exercise MLA 4-1 In-text citations

Exercise MLA 4-4 Works Cited

(Select “Research exercises,” click “cancel,” then select “MLA.”)

apa style
APA Style

APA (American Psychological Association) format

  • Most used for psychology and other social science classes.
  • Emphasizes authors and credibility, just as MLA, but dates must be given in the body of your text.

An APA paper is usually more formal:

  • a title page
  • an abstract
  • and optional major section headingsin boldface and centered (Hacker, 2011, pp. 484-485).
apa cont d
APA cont’d

APA is for science writing, so more specialized information is usually being discussed and needs to be cited more often.

Common knowledge can still be used, but in a literature review, almost all the support of your argument will come from others’ work and must have signal phrases and/or in-text citations, even for brief analyses of many sides of a debate:

example of summary analysis documentation
Example of Summary Analysis Documentation:

While some linguists reduce language to an unrecognizable mathematical abstraction (Chomsky, 1957), others who write on language are not really researchers but pedants determined to fix an evolving organism into one perpetual form (Truss, 2004).

common knowledge
Common Knowledge

It also depends on your audience what will be considered common knowledge.

Writing a paper on a theory of subcultures may involve vocabulary and facts familiar to sociologists but not to 10th graders. For the former, you would cite your sources mostly parenthetically, but for the teens there would be more explanatory author credentials in the sentences.

apa practice 1
APA Practice 1

Exercise APA 2-5 Recognizing Common Knowledge

Exercise APA 2-1 Avoiding Plagiarism

(Select “Research exercises,” click “cancel,” then select “APA.”)

apa signal phrases
APA Signal Phrases

APA signal phrase verbs are supposed to be in past tense or present perfect tense:

Pinker (2001) arguedthat . . . or Pinker (2001) has argued that . . .

Present tense is to be used only when “discussing the results of an experiment (the results show) or knowledge that has clearly been established (researchers agree)” (Hacker, 2011, p. 454).

Either in the style of

Author (YEAR) verbed/has verbed . . .


“ . . .” verbed Author (YEAR)


According to Author (YEAR), “ . . .” (p. #).

It is essential to APA style to have a signal phrase

example apa signals
Example APA signals

Yamizaki, Okuda, and Jones (2008) have found that if you say their names together, they sound like a law firm.

“Take any three last names and say them in sequence, and it’ll sound like the name of a law firm,” joked Miyuki Yamazaki (Yamazaki et al., 2008, p. 8).

apa practice 2
APA Practice 2

Exercise APA 3-1 Integrating Sources

Select “Research exercises,” click “cancel,” then select “APA.”

apa quotations
APA Quotations

Quoting should be minimal

  • Use mostly phrases, not complete sentences
  • Quote the most distinctive words
  • Blend them into your own sentences
example apa quotations
Example APA Quotations

Neelix et al. (2001) found that spending too much money “left a profound deficit” (p. 318).

Although they were still able to get a grant, their initial spending “left a profound deficit” (Neelix et al., 2001, p. 318).

parenthetical citations45
Parenthetical Citations

If a source has no page or paragraph numbers, use well-developed signal phrases and no parenthetical citation.

online magazine no page s
Online magazine, no page #s

Mayo Clinic gastroenterologist Dr. Joseph Murray has found a significant increase in the rates of celiac disease over that of five decades ago (Toman, 2010).

Toman, B. (2010, July). Celiac disease: On the rise. Discovery’s Edge. Retrieved from

parenthetical citations47
Parenthetical Citations

If a source has no page numbers but has numbered paragraphs, write (para. #), (paras. #, #), or (Author, YEAR, para. #).

five general types of sources
Five General Types of Sources:

1. Book:

Author, Initial. (YEAR). Title in italics: With only the first word of title and subtitle capitalized. City: Publisher.

2. Chapter in an edited book:

Author, I. (YEAR). Title of chapter. In Q. R. Lastname (Ed.), Title of the book (pp. X-XX). City: Publisher.


3. An article from a database:

Author, I. (YEAR, Month ##). Article title: And subtitle if any. Periodical Title, Volume number(issue #), page range. DOI or Retrieved from and the name of the database

  • An online article:

Author, I. & Author, I. M. (YEAR, Month). Title of the work: And subtitle if one. Retrieved from URL


5. Article in a print periodical:

Author, I. (YEAR, Month). Article title: Subtitle if any. Periodical Title, Volume #(Issue#), #-##. [page range]

Article in a database:

Same as above, but after page range,add

Retrieved from [Name] database.


How would you begin an APA reference list entry for this source?

    • Anderson, J. R. (2005).
    • Anderson, John R. (2005).
    • Anderson, J. R. (1980).

2. How would you cite the title and publisher for this source in an APA reference list entry?

a. Cognitive Psychology and Its Implications (6th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.

b. Cognitive psychology and its implications New York: Worth Publishers.

c. Cognitive psychology and its implications (6th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.


3. You have used the chapter on the right from the collection whose title page is on the left. What information would come first in your APA reference list entry?

a. McDowell, A.

b. Edut, O. (Ed.).

c. The art of the ponytail.


4. What is the correct APA reference list entry for this source? The book was published in Emeryville, California, in 2003; the chapter begins on page 124 and ends on page 132.

a. McDowell, A. (2003). The Art of the Ponytail. In O. Edut (Ed.), Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image (pp.124-132). Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.

b. Edut, O. (Ed.). (2003). Body Outlaws: Rewriting the Rules of Beauty and Body Image (pp.124-132). Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.

c. McDowell, A. (2003). The art of the ponytail. In O. Edut (Ed.), Body outlaws: Rewriting the rules of beauty and body image (pp.124-132). Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.


5. How would you begin an APA reference list entry for this article from a database?

a. Frank, A. (2005). Working out: Consumers and the culture of exercise.

b. Phillips, B. J. (2005). Working out: Consumers and the culture of exercise.

c. Phillips, B. J. (2005). “Working out: Consumers and the culture of exercise.”

6. How would you cite the publication information for the periodical in this database record?

a. Journal of Popular Culture, 38(3), 525-551.

b. Journal of Popular Culture, 38(3), 525.

c. Journal of popular culture, 38(3), 525-551.


* Give issue number if each issue begins with page 1.


7. How would you end the reference list entry for this source?

  • Retrieved from EBSCOhost database.
  • Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.
  • doi: 10.1111/j.0022-3840.2005.00127.x

8. What is the correct APA reference list entry for this source? (Assume the date of access was March 18, 2005.)*

* Date of access is called for only in online resources that are likely to change

a. Toch, T. (1999, December). The meritocracy’s caste system: What’s good and bad about the SAT. The Brookings Institution. Retrieved from

b. Toch, T. (1999, December). The meritocracy’s caste system: What’s good and bad about the SAT. The Washington Monthly. Retrieved from

c. Toch, T. (1999, December). The meritocracy’s caste system: What’s good and bad about the SAT. Retrieved from


9. How would you cite the title of this article in an APA reference list entry?

a. Insights: When medicine meets literature.

b. When medicine meets literature.

c. Rita Charon: Story Listener.

10. What is the correct APA reference list entry for this source? (The article appears on pages 38 and 39 in the magazine.)

a. Holloway, M. (2005, May). When medicine meets literature. Scientific American, 292, 38-39.

b. Holloway, M. (2005). When medicine meets literature. Scientific American, 292(5), 38-39.

c. Holloway, M. (2005, May). When medicine meets literature. Scientific American, 38-39.

list of references
List of References

Figure 1. Example of References Retrieved from

documentation summary
Documentation Summary

All documentation styles need signal phrases to mark all borrowed ideas as well as quotes.

The signal phrase uses different verb tenses in MLA and APA styles, but the verb choice should always indicate how you are using the borrowed ideas or words in relation to your own thesis.

documentation summary65
Documentation Summary

In MLA and APA, the parenthetical citation marks the end of the borrowed ideas or words and gives page numbers when they exist.

Show readers where “what they say” ends and “what [you] say” begins (Graff and Birkenstein).

This makes writing clearer and avoids plagiarism!

a bounty of info
A bounty of info

The Bellevue College Library Media Center has more detailed resources on documentation!

And much, much more!

works cited
Works Cited

Graff, G. & Birkenstein, C. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006. Print.

Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference. 7th ed. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.

Palmquist, M.The Bedford Researcher. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

Spatt, Brenda. Writing from Sources. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.

Yagoda, Ben. When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse. New York: Broadway, 2007. Print.