Citing Sources


Citing Information

There are four major elements to citing information in your product:

1.      all borrowed information has been correctly cited

2.      the format of the citation after the information is correct

3.      all the citations in the body of the paper correspond to entries in the bibliography

4.      the borrowed information has been integrated with your original text

Let's look at each of these more closely.

1.  When to Cite Information

There are three instances when you must cite your source: 1) when you use the exact written or spoken words of someone; 2) when you use a fact or idea that is not widely known and would not be found in several different sources; 3) when you paraphrase or summarize someone else's words or ideas.

Even if you only borrow an idea, you still must give the source.

2.  How to format the citation

 After you quote, paraphrase, or summarize information, you must tell where you found that information by citing the source.  There are several ways to do this, but the MLA format uses short citations in the body of the paper.

2a.     After the borrowed material in the text, put the first word from the bibliography entry, which is usually the author's last name.  This is followed by the page number where you found the information.


He was serious, but not fanatical, about baseball (Koppett 139).

Entry in the bibliography at the end of the project:

Koppett, Leonard.  The Man in the Dugout: Baseball's Top Managers and How They

Got That Way.  New York: Crown Publishers, 1993.

2b.     If the bibliography entry has no author, use the first word of the article or title.


"Today, Americans live an average of more than 70 years, in part because of the use of modern drugs" ("Drug" 353).

Entry in the bibliography at the end of the project:

"Drug."  The World Book Encyclopedia.  1989 ed.

2c.     If there are two entries in your bibliography that begin with the same word or have the same author, you then include the first major word of the next element (book or article title) from the bibliography entry.  If two authors’ last names are the same, also include their first name in the citation.

Example with no author when two entries begin with the word "Drug":

"Today, Americans live an average of more than 70 years, in part because of the use of modern drugs" ("Drug," World 353).

Entry in the bibliography at the end of the project:

"Drug."  The World Book Encyclopedia.  1989 ed.

Example with two works by one author:

"Blankenship was a public spirited man" (Larew, Garret 141).

Entry in the bibliography at the end of the project:

Larew, Karl G.  Garret Larew Civil War Soldier.  Baltimore: Gateway Press,      1975.

3.  Matching citations to Works Cited entries

Check to be sure that each citation in the body of your product also has a corresponding entry in your Works Cited page.  For every entry in your Works Cited, you should also have cited something from that source in your product. 

4.  How to integrate information into text

Each paragraph normally starts with a topic sentence that tells what the paragraph will be about. 

Then within the body of the paragraph, you can quote, paraphrase or summarize information.  As a general rule, every citation should be followed by a sentence in your own words that connects the cited material to your topic, or you can actually make the quotation a part of your own sentence.  This connection is important because it helps integrate other people's ideas into your text.

As a general rule, use no more than two or three short citations in a paragraph.  Too many citations in a paragraph make it seem as if you are just copying ideas.  A good paper borrows other people's ideas, but then connects those ideas to create an innovative or original thought.

The last sentence in the paragraph is the concluding sentence that usually restates the main idea of the paragraph.  You do not usually end a paragraph with a citation.

Read the paragraph below:

In 1919 Raymond Orteig offered a $25,000 prize for the first person to cross the Atlantic non-stop.  In January 1927, Lindbergh sent a telegram: "Wire, collect, terms of prize for the New York-Paris Flight, stating methods of entry" (Commercial 79).  "After some difficulty, Lindbergh finally convinced Ryan Aircraft Corporation in San Diego to build his modified monoplane, which was already in production as a mail plane" ("Lindbergh" World 330).  "The company completed construction under Lindbergh's supervision in exactly two months" (Commercial 79).  The plane was little more than a "flying gas tank, with no room for a parachute, radio, or even a copilot."

The first citation is a quotation, which is correctly cited and attached to the writer's own sentence.  The next two citations are also quotations and are correctly cited, but not integrated into the writer's own text.  The last sentence of the paragraph is a quotation which is not even cited and not well integrated.  This paragraph consists almost entirely of material borrowed from other people with little of the writer's own insights.

Now read the following paragraph:

The Lindbergh trial proved a sheer test of endurance for the family.  Over seven hundred reporters from all over the world gathered for the trial.  The press itself was overrun with celebrities such as Jack Benny and Robert Ripley, of Believe-It-Or-Not fame, as well as the not-so-famous, with a total of sixty thousand in one day (Russell 8).  The normally passive Charles Lindbergh attended the trial every day, where he was "seen wearing a shoulder holster with a gun tucked into it" (Nash 1488).  In the corridors of the courthouse "hawkers peddled miniature kidnap ladders as lapel pins . . . [and] 'certified locks of Baby Lindbergh's hair' at five dollars a lock" (Russell 8).  The nation had gone crazy.

The first sentence is the topic sentence.  The first citation is either a summary or a paraphrase and is correctly cited.  This citation adds details to the sentence before it.  The next two citations are quotations, which are attached to the writer's own sentences, integrating the ideas.  The last sentence is the concluding sentence, which provides some of the writer's own insight into the trial.

Citing Your Sources

MLA Format

APA Format