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Why and How to Cite your Work

Why Cite?

In high school, you will be asked to write essays and papers. For some essays, you will not have to look much further than your textbook. For other essays, you will be asked to read other books about your topic. When you read a book or an article for an assignment, you usually learn something new about your topic. You should then cite whatever you have read, so that your teacher or anyone else reading your assignment knows that this is not originally your idea, but someone else’s idea that inspired you.

The styles that you will probably be using for your citations are APA and MLA. Always ask your teacher what style they want you to use.

In-Text Citations

Works are usually cited in two major ways. If you are taking an entire sentence or phrase for a book, you always put that sentence in quotation marks. In MLA format, you then put the author’s name at the end of the sentence in brackets, as well as the page number it came from. For example:

“We undertake research when we wish to explore an idea, probe an issue, solve a problem, or make an argument that compels us to turn to outside help. We then seek out, investigate, and use materials beyond our personal resources.” (Gibaldi, 3).

Here, we give credit to the author, and provide the page that we are citing from. In APA style, we also provide the year the work was published. This is how the same citation would look in APA style:

“We undertake research when we wish to explore an idea, probe an issue, solve a problem, or make an argument in relation to what others have written. We then seek out, investigate, and use materials beyond our personal resources.” (Gibaldi, 2009, p. 3).

Another reason why you might cite something is if you are summarizing an idea from someone else’s work, but putting it in your own words. As an example, again cited in MLA format:

When you do research, you should not just read things that back up what you already believe, nor should you read things just so you can take a quotation and put it in your paper – we do research so we can learn more about a topic, so that it begins to shape the way we think about an idea (Gibaldi, 4).

And the same paraphrased sentence, cited in APA format:

When you do research, you should not just read things that back up what you already believe, nor should you read things just so you can take a quotation and put it in your paper – we do research so we can learn more about a topic, so that it begins to shape the way we think about an idea (Gibaldi, 2009, p. 4).

If you are citing a book that has one author, you can just copy the examples we have here, filling in the information for your own work. Sometimes works can be more complicated though – if it has many authors, or if you are citing two different works in your essay by the same author, or if you don’t know the year it was published or the author (this happens a lot with websites). If you are in this situation there are a lot of websites that very clearly outline how you should cite these works.

Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

Purdue Online Writing Lab: APA In-Text Citations: The Basics

Works Cited

Once you have quoted something in an essay, you need to add it to the references list so that anyone reading your essay can find it easily.

Each work is listed alphabetically by the author’s last name. Both MLA and APA style for references list the following things about each work (as it applies):

·         Author’s last name and first name

·         The title of the work

·         The year the work was published

·         The publisher

When citing a book in MLA, follow this format:

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.

Smith, John. The Joy of Citing. Toronto: John's Publishing Company, 2012.

APA format for books differs slightly. The format is as follows:

Author, A. A. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.

Smith, John (2012). The Joy of citing. Toronto: John's Publishing Company.

If you are not citing a book but an article in a magazine or journal, or a website, or a book with more than one author, the format is different. These websites outline all of the formats very clearly:

Purdue Online Writing Lab: APA Reference List: Basic Rules (the left hand column will guide you to the type of item you wish to cite, book, journal etc.)

Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format (the left hand column will guide you to the type of item you wish to cite, book, journal etc.)

In the left column, click on Author/Authors, Articles in Print Sources, Electronic Sources, or other pages to learn how to cite the works you are using.

It is easiest to cite something if you have it in front of you. For a book, all the information you need is in the first couple of pages, with the copyright information.

If you want to learn more about citations and style guides, we have lots of books in the library that will walk you through each of these steps. Look at any of these books in this booklist:

Writing Handbooks and Manuals

And, as always, ask a librarian if you need additional help.