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ESL 400 Taveau

ESL 400

Why bother to put citations into MLA format?

MLA (Modern Language Association) format is only one style for citations. Other format styles you may encounter are CSE (Council of Science Editors) and  APA (American Psychological Association) used for the social sciences. While these look different, they serve the same purpose - which is to systematically and reliably give your readers all the details they might need to find the exact same sources that you used.

Why does that matter? In professional or academic writing, we need to show how the ideas in our writing connect to what others have reported, without plagiarism. It also demonstrates to our readers that we write from an informed viewpoint.

When to cite?

Create a citation when you are using:


  1. Direct quotes of more than one wordIf the author’s words are powerful or you need to be specific for your argument, the authors’ words can be used as a direct quote.
  2. Paraphrasing or summarizing. If you want to use someone else’s idea to help you make your point or to support your own ideas, in this case you would “translate” the ideas into your own words.
  3. Information which may be common knowledge but still unfamiliar to your reader. This would also include statistical information which may be familiar information but still requires confirmation.
  4. Not just books or articles. Any source that you use for information can and should be cited including interviews, websites, TV programs, etc.
  5. Whenever you are not sure if something should be cited, err on the side of caution and cite it.

Help with Citations

Details matter when formatting citations, and it can be confusing - but help is available!

A good place to start online is with the Library's citation guides. The parts of an MLA citation are explained in the MLA 8 Guide. If you prefer to use examples as models, there is also this MLA Quick Guide.

A reference librarian can also work with you in-person to format the citations in your paper. Use this online form to schedule an appointment with a reference librarian; if you have a quick question, just stop by the Reference Desk in the Library to ask.