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Citations: MLA & APA: MLA Citation Home

We’ve designed this guide to explain: • What citations are • How you use them in your written assignments • Why it’s important to use them • How they are formatted

Welcome to the library's citation help guide.

This guide is meant to provide you with a self-paced, basic introduction to:
  • the concept or practice of using citations in research papers
  • the two standard research citation styles MLA and APA

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What are citations and why do I have to use them? I know most of what's in the paper anyway.

The premise behind your research paper is:

"After doing some investigation into this topic, this is what I think about it. But I’m not asking you to take my word for it; I’ve got highly respected writers and acknowledged experts to back me up. Also, on the last page of my paper I have listed, in alphabetical order, the name of each of those experts and the title of the article they wrote.  Plus, I've let you know exactly where in my paper I’ve used their ideas to back up what I’ve written by citing them in ( ) each time I use one of their ideas to prove my thesis."

What does a paper look like with in-text citations and Works Cited full citations? Scroll down the paper below to see.

The citations in this paper are formatted using MLA, so called because it is a citation standard developed and maintained by the         Modern Language Association.

 Each in-text citation  is color coded to match its corresponding full citation on the Works Cited page.


Below, there is a link to a PDF copy of the sample paper you see above.

Your Ideas vs. the Author's

AKA Plagiarism 

In reviewing the paper above, you cannot help but notice that there are quite a few in-text citations.

So many that it seems the writer didn’t contribute much to the overall paper.

Good. That's the way it should be. If you don't cite, you're saying you did the research...that's called plagiarism

For present purposes, 90% or more of your research paper should not be your ideas. You’re not writing an opinion paper. You’re expected to have referenced expert opinions in the field throughout your paper to prove your main idea, your thesis.   In most instances, only your thesis statement and your conclusion(s) are not cited. 

   Be Careful

So, the whole paper (with the exception of your thesis and any general conclusions you make) is basically made up of other people’s ideas and opinions. That’s good; they increase your credibility, which, I believe is the whole idea of writing the paper, right?  So cite them and cite them again. Impress your reader.

However, (and this is a big "however") don’t get so carried away with one of these people that you start sounding like them, using their expressions. That's also plagiarism.

You want to “sound” like you. Put it in your words. It’s easy to be writing your draft and because you’re cruising with the writing, you just copy what you read, thinking you’ll go back and change it later. But you don’t.  Besides, you like the way they said it.

That one’s easy to spot. Trust me. When you’ve paraphrased something and you think it sounds like you, read the paper to someone you know well. If they don’t think it sounds like you, reword it again.

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