Lyrics can be effective tools in an essay. You may want to cite lyrics, because a song writer says something in an eloquent way, or the excerpt solidifies a point you’re trying to make. You are allowed to quote a portion of a song under the fair use doctrine of the United States copyright law, but the law doesn’t specify exactly how many words or what percentage of a song you can use. You can use a limited portion of a song for your research paper, but it must be acknowledged though in-text citations and a listing in your works cited or reference page.
Quotations and In-Text Citations
When incorporating lyrics into an essay, put the lyrics inside quotation marks. Short quotations can be integrated into a sentence, such as, “In the song ‘Hey Jude,’ the Beatles sing…” followed by the lyrics in quotation marks. Long quotations, or those that are four lines or longer, need to be set off in a block quote, where you indent the entire quote from the paragraph above it. To cite the lyrics in Modern Language Association format, write the artists’ name in parentheses, such as (The Beatles), followed by the ending punctuation. To cite in American Psychological Association format, include the artist, copyright date and track number in parentheses, such as (The Beatles, 1968, track 1). Note the comma between the artist and year and between the year and track number.
Include the details of the recording in your works cited or references page. In MLA format, include the artist’s name, song title, album name, name of the recording manufacturer, publication date and the sound recording medium, for example:
The Beatles. “Hey Jude.” Hey Jude: The U. S. Album (italicized). Capitol, 2014. CD.
Citing this recording in APA style is slightly different, so follow the example:
The Beatles. (2014). Hey Jude. On Hey Jude: The U. S. Album (italicize the album name) [CD]. Los Angeles: Capitol (Recorded 1968).
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: In-Text Citations: The Basics
- Williams College Libraries: Media
- U. S. Copyright Office: Can I Use Someone Else's Work? Can Someone Else Use Mine?
- U. S. Copyright Office: Fair Use
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Works Cited: Other Common Sources
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Reference List: Other Non-Print Sources
- Photo Credit Guenter Zoufal/Hemera/Getty Images
How to Cite a Musical Album Using MLA Style
In the course of academic research, you may need to quote lyrics or even full songs or musical scores from an audio...
How to Cite a Song in MLA Format
Citing a piece of work using MLA format means using a citing method created by the Modern Language Association. The MLA has...
How to Write a Song Analysis for English Class
Listening to your favorite music might be an enjoyable pastime, but analyzing a song lets you apply what you're learning in English...
How to Incorporate Quotes Into Essays
The easiest way to improve an essay is by using quotes. Quotes will add depth, nuance and authority to your paper; they...
How to Cite an Essay in MLA
Whether you refer to an essay from a nonfiction author in your literary paper or a work from a political figure in...
How do I Write a Song Analysis Essay?
A good song is like poetry put to music, making it more difficult to analyze than some people might think. A song...
How to Cite Song Lyrics Using APA Format
APA style is the format accepted by the American Psychological Association for professionals in the social sciences writing scholarly papers and research...
How to Cite a Song Within a Paper
Both the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Modern Language Association (MLA) require that you use in-text citation whenever you quote or...