Friday, January 27, 2012

MLA Made Easy?

Every time you use someone else's ideas or words you must follow it with an in-text citation and an entry on the Works Cited page.

"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel" (Gibson 1).

Note that this is a direct quote, so it has quotation marks and is immediately followed by an in-text citation (Gibson 1) and that the punctuation (the period) follows the in-text citation. Gibson is the author's last name and the quote was found on page one. Also notice there is no comma between the author's last name and the page number.

When readers see the in-text citation it clues them that there will be an entry on the Works Cited page that begins with Gibson. The works cited entry for the above quote looks like this:

Works Cited

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984. Print.

Note that the book's title is italicized. Every period, colon, and comma are important so be sure you put them in the right place.

The biggest problem I see regarding plagiarism in college writing, is the uncited paraphrase. If it's not your idea, you must cite it. How do I know an uncited paraphrase when I see one? No one knows the exact population of Huntington Beach, or the crime rate for Atlanta - you had to look that stuff up - be sure you cite where you got that information.

Here's a paraphrased example of text followed by an in-text citation:

William Gibson's opening line of Neuromancer is a classic because it captures the tone of the industrial excess and technology of the novel while presenting a vivid image. We all know what a television tuned to static looks like (Gibson 1).

Since Gibson's opening line is paraphrased - We all know what a television tuned to static looks like - it must be followed by an in-text citation (Gibson 1).

Let's look at a slightly different example of the above:

Gibson's image of a television tuned to static betrays a society overrun by technology (1).

Notice that the in-text citation only contains a page number. Why? Because the writer used the author's name in the sentence. Whether the writer uses the author's name in the sentence or includes it in the in-text citation, the writer MUST make an entry on the Works Cited page that references Gibson.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to citations. As a college writer you will be citing essays, articles, movies, television shows, advertising, novels, and text books.

There is a great free resource online at: It is a citation generator and is free for MLA citations. Helpful hint: To cite an essay in your English textbook >click on the "All 58 Options" tab, then >click on "Chapter/Anthology". When you come to a fill-in box for which you cannot find information, just skip it.

Was this helpful? What other elements of citation have you confused? Remember, plagiarism can get you kicked out of college, so if you don't understand it, ask you professor, or go to one of the myriad websites that explain citations.

1 comment:

  1. It is true that Plagiarism is an important detail every college students should pay attention on it. I have learned MLA and APA. In my opinion, work citations encourage people creating. Because their achievements are respected, their articles can be mention many times. On the other hand, the citation rules force college students to work by themselves. They can quote other sentences and ideas, but they can't rob others' achievements. In addition, it increases the creative works too.