Do’s and Don’ts of Citing in MLA

Do’s

  • For every source that is cited within the body of the paper, a corresponding Works Cited entry is created.
  • Within any sentence that is drawing material from an outside source, enough information should be provided for the reader to find the corresponding entry in the Works Cited page.
  • Every sentence that draws material from research source should also directly cite the source (i.e., tell the reader that a source is being quoted or paraphrased and indicate the author or title of that source).
  • Always place the source information (usually the author name) within the sentence that is actively citing from the source.
  • Integrate cited material into a sentence that also includes some original language of your own.
  • It’s fine to quote at almost any length – from single words to short phrases to whole sentences or multiple sentences.* The rule of thumb is that quotations should not be longer than half of a double-spaced page.

(*See the specific rules about Block Quotations for formatting requirements for quotations of four or more lines.)

Don’ts

  • No sentence should use material from an outside source without indicating what source the material is coming from.
  • Never present directly quoted material without placing that material inside quotation marks.
  • Do not wait until the end of a paragraph to identify the source of material that was cited in the middle of the paragraph. (Place source information somewhere in each sentence that is pulling material from a research source.)
  • Do not begin a sentence with quotation marks and end with quotation marks. Add language of your own so that the quoted material becomes part of a new sentence.
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