Tracy Mendham  -  Center for Academic Excellence Franklin Pierce University  -  April 14, 2011  -  Online version of this document at

   Using and Citing Sources

 in your Writing

What is citing and why should students do it?

As you move forward in college, you will be asked to use sources in the essays you write, and to document those sources. Using sources means supporting your ideas with the use of a source--something another person has said or written--and documenting sources means giving credit to that source using a system recognized by your academic discipline. The system you will learn first is called MLA style documentation, which was designed by the Modern Language Association.

Reasons to document:

(Citing sources is another word for documenting sources.)

Important: In US academic culture, your readers will assume anything you write consists of your own, original thoughts and words unless you specifically indicate otherwise by citing your sources. To fail to cite will mislead your reader and is considered academic dishonesty (that is, plagiarism or cheating).

What is the process for citing sources in your writing?

Whenever you quote, paraphrase, or summarize a source, you must take three main steps:

  1. Indicate where the cited material begins and ends (using quotation marks and/or a signal phrase)
  2. Put an in-text (or parenthetical) citation after the material you have cited which gives the author’s last name and if appropriate, the page number
  3. Whenever you cite a source, provide a corresponding entry in a Works Cited page at the end of your paper. Follow the MLA style to organize the information properly for each entry.

An in-text citation includes the author’s last name (unless it has already been made clear in the sentence) and the page number where you found the words, ideas, or facts. If you have an online source that does not provide page numbers, just leave that part out. If the author is unknown, you can give the title of the work instead of the author’s last name.

What are some examples of correct in-text citations in sentences?

What does a correct Works Cited list look like?

Works Cited

Haddock, Doris, with Dennis Burke. Granny D: You’re Never Too Old to Raise a Little Hell. 

New York: Villard Books, 2003.

Eric, Breedlove. "Guest Post: Communicating Your Crisis." HackCollege - Student-Powered

         Lifehacking. 5 Apr. 2011. Web. 14 Apr. 2011.


Where can students find out more information about citing sources correctly?