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Citing Sources

Here we get into the tedious and technical yet necessary business of citing your facts and quotations. The rules have changed since I was in college, and some of my colleagues have not kept up. Therefore, not all of your professors in the humanities will expect the same system. Be sure to inquire before handing in your term research paper. The newer system is known as the MLA (Modern Language Association) system, and it is the one I recommend here. History departments seem to be the last place using the old superscript system, which involves putting a little raised number 1 that refers either to a footnote at the foot of the page, as here, or to an endnote at the end of the paper. All other humanities departments use the MLA style. The sciences use the APA style described in the next section. The differences are only in the m Use in-text essay citations when you:

  • Add a direct quote to your essay.
  • Paraphrase an idea from a source.
  • Summarize information from a single source.

Several citation systems exist, but one of the most commonly used is the author-page system. The MLA (Modern Language Association) is the recognized standard for the author-page system of citation and is used widely in the humanities. MLA citations include the author’s surname and page number in parenthesis. If you reference the author’s name in the text of your essay, it’s necessary to include only the page number. Method of citing a text, not in quoting it.

The MLA system is an in-text method of citing sources and includes just enough information to help your reader find the information in the works cited page. Although a quote from an expert can add impact to your essay, in most cases you should try to either paraphrase or summarize the information, using citation to reference your source. However, when you do use direct quotations, follow these rules:

  • Insert the quotation exactly as it was written, errors and all. Directly after a spelling error in a quote insert the word [sic]. EX: “Directly after a spelling error [sic]… “
  • If you don’t use the whole quotation, use an ellipses followed by trailing quotation marks (…” ) to signify that it isn’t the whole quotation.
  • If you make a change in the quotation, such as an underline or bold text in part of the quotation, note it in parentheses after the quotation. EX: “Directly after a spelling error [sic] (my underline).
  • Use parenthesis ( ) for information that you add after a quote and square brackets [ ] for information you add within the quotation.
  • Cite your source. Usually, when you use a quotation, it’s appropriate to cite the author’s name within the text. In that case, you need only to reference the page number of the quotation

The following are formats of how to cite common sources (in MLA format).


Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Name and Middle Name/Initial. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publishing Company Name, Year of Publishing.


Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Name and Middle Name/Initial. “Article Name.” Title of Encyclopedia. Year of Edition or Edition Number ed.


Author’s Last Name, Author’s First Name and Middle Name/Initial. “Article Name.” Title of Magazine Day of Month (If applicable) Month Year: Page Number(s) of article.



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