Researchers need to acknowledge sources used for their papers, to facilitate fact checking, give credit, and prevent plagiarism. They do this by including short citations in the text of the paper and longer ones at the end of the work, in the "Works Cited" section. The popularly-used MLA Guidelines provide a reference that tells researchers how to format their citations. Although author and date are usually expected, there are times, particularly when using online sources, when this information is not available. In this case, authors must take steps to provide as much information as they can.
Start the citation with the title of the work for in-text citations. So, for example, if citing a book without an author titled, "Researching Citations," you'd put the title in parentheses, underlined, followed by the page number: (Researching Citations 23). Note, there is no punctuation between title and page number. If the title is long, you can abbreviate it, as for example: (Researching 23). If you mention the name of the book in the introduction to the quotation, include only the page number on which the quote is found in the parentheses.
Format your "Works Cited" page according to the MLA guidelines. Center the words, "Works Cited" at the top of the page. Alphabetize sources according to authors' last names. If your source does not have an author name, alphabetize by the first letter in the title -- ignore words such as "a," and "the" at the beginning of titles.
Begin a book citation with the title of the book, if the book does not have an author. Underline the title and end it with a period. Do not underline the period. Capitalize principal words of the title. Then, type in the city of publication. Follow that with a colon, followed by the publisher's name. If no date is available, put a comma and then write the letters n.d. For example: Researching Citations. New York: Penguin, n.d.
Start with the article title when citing a Web page. Then put in the name of the website sponsoring organization, such as American Psychological Association. When no date is available, put in n.d. Then include the word Web and the date you accessed the article. As an example: "Researching Citation." Demand Studios, n.d., Web. 21 January 2011.
Tips & Warnings
- When alphabetizing by title, use the first significant words of the title's name. Do not list by words like "A," "An," or "The."
- Although MLA style is commonly used, there are other styles, so check with your professor for which she wants you to use. Other possibilities include American Psychological Association (APA) Style or Chicago Style.
- Photo Credit An image of man with books image by Mykola Velychko from Fotolia.com
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