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Q & A: Using Quotations, Citing Sources, and Formatting the Works Cited Page
Citing Sources * Citing a course pack * Paper Format * Key to Comments *Research and Documentation Online
Q. How can I integrate a quotation into my own sentence?
1. Using a full sentence to introduce the quotation.
Quotations need to be introduced appropriately using a signal phrase or sentence rather than being "dropped" into the paragraph with no context.A dropped quotation is a quotation inserted into the text without a signal phrase. Note how the quotation in this example is "dropped" into the paragraph so that the reader is unsure who is speaking. Instead, dropped quotations must be integrated grammatically into the text through the use of a signal phrase.
- Incorrect: The Swede feared for his life. "You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). Note that the quotation is not linked grammatically with the preceding sentence.
- Incorrect: The Swede feared for his life, "You are all out to get me" (Crane 87). This is a comma splice, since two complete sentences are linked just by a comma.
- Correct: The Swede feared for his life: "You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). The colon links the preceding sentence with the quotation. Because both parts of this example are complete sentences, the colon (not the comma) is the appropriate mark to link them.
2. Using an explanatory sentence to introduce the quotation.
- Correct: The Swede showed that he feared for his life when he shouted, “You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). This example combines an explanatory sentence with the quotation.
3. Using a "tag" to introduce the quotation.
- Correct: The Swede shouted, "You are all out to get me" (Crane 97). This example uses a simple "tag" (a sentence using wrote, said, shouted, remarked, etc.) to introduce the quotation.
Q. How long does the quotation have to be?
Use only as much quotation as you absolutely need. There are three general types of quotations:
1. Block Quotations. Quotations comprising more than four lines of text are usually set off as block quotations. Here are a few hints for using block quotations:
- Indent 10 spaces. Indent the text 10 spaces from the left margin (in Word, hit the Increase Indent button twice).
- Use a colon. Block quotations are usually introduced with a full sentence with a colon before the quotation.
- No quotation marks. Do not use quotation marks around the quotation. The fact that it is set apart from the text shows that it is a quotation.
- MLA. In MLA format, put the citation information (Smith 123) after the period at the end of the quotation.
- Inside paragraphs . Block quotations are usually used within paragraphs; it is not necessary to start a new paragraph after using a block quotation.
- Be sparing with quotations . Most important: use only as much of the quotation as you need. The reader will expect to see an analysis of the passage that is about the same length as the passage itself.
2. Full Sentence Quotation. A quotation that is a full sentence in length is set off either with a signal phrase or with an introductory sentence.
Example: John F. Kennedy inspired a generation with these words: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Example: As John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
3. Partial Sentence Quotation. Use only as much of the quotation as you need. Here are some examples based on the following quotation from William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily": "Alive, she was a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237).
- Correct (first use in the paper) In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople view Miss Emily as "a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (237).
- Correct: Miss Emily Grierson was "a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237).
Q. What if I want to cut something out of the middle of a quotation?
Ellipsis. If you need to omit material from the middle of a quotation, use an ellipsis, which is indicated by three spaced dots (. . . ). The plural of “ellipsis” is “ellipses."
Here is an example from William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily": "Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care; a sort of hereditary obligation upon the town, dating from that day in 1894 when Colonel Sartoris, the mayor--he who fathered the edict that no Negro woman should appear on the streets without an apron-remitted her taxes, the dispensation dating from the death of her father on into perpetuity."
- Correct: In William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily," the townspeople view Miss Emily as "a tradition . . . a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (237).
Q. Do I need to use an ellipsis at the beginning and end of the quotation?
No. With few exceptions, you should not use ellipses at the beginning and end of a quotation. According to the Chicago Manual of Style , ellipses are typically not used at the beginning or end of a quotation (see 11.57 ff) unless the quotation begins "with a capitalized word (such as a proper name) that did not appear at the beginning of a sentence in the original" (11.65).
- Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “ . . . a hereditary obligation on the town . . .” (Faulkner 237).
- Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237).
If the material you’re omitting includes the end of a sentence, you can include the period along with the ellipsis (four periods instead of three).
Q. How many quotations does this paper have to have?
There is no set number of quotations. Use as many as you need to support your argument, but be sure that you analyze and explain their significance.
Q. How do I cite the quotations in my paper?
Use the author's (not the editor's) last name and the page number in parentheses.
For your first citation, include a signal phrase (the author's name and the title) when you introduce the quotation, and use the page number in parentheses after the quotation. Put the period after the page number in parentheses.
- Correct: In William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily," Miss Emily Grierson is an important figure to the townspeople: "Alive, Miss Emily had been a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (237).
For subsequent citations, include the author's name and the page number after the quotation but before the period.
Q. Which is right: (Author 12), (Author, p. 12), or (Author, 12)?
The first one is correct. MLA style uses the author's last name and page number with no comma in between for in-text citations. The name can be omitted if it's given in the signal phrase. Do not put a comma between the author's name and the page number or use "p." in the in-text citation.
- Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237).
- Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner, 237).
- Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner, p. 237).
Q. Where do I put the period at the end of the sentence if I'm citing something?
Put the period after the parenthetical citation, unless you're using a block quotation.
- Correct: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town” (Faulkner 237).
- Incorrect: For the townspeople, Miss Emily Grierson was “a hereditary obligation on the town.” (Faulkner 237)
Q. How do I cite quotations from poetry?
When citing lines of poetry, use line numbers rather than page numbers.
Correct: In "The World is Too Much With Us," Wordsworth contends that industrialization and commerce have resulted in a loss of closeness to nature:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! (lines 1-4)
Use (lines 1-4) for the first reference; after that, just use the line numbers (1-4).
If you are quoting up to three lines of poetry, put them in the text (rather than as a block quotation) and use a slash (/) to separate the lines
Q. Do I use quotation marks or italics for the titles?
It depends on the type of work: is it short (essay, poem, short story) or long, like a book (play, movie, book, novel)?
Titles should be marked with italics (underlining) or quotation marks, depending on the work being discussed.
1. Titles of works that appear within a volume, such as short stories, poems, and essays, should be placed in quotation marks: " Araby," "The Prophecy," "Dulce et Decorum Est."
2. Titles of works that are a volume in themselves, such as books, magazines, newspapers, plays, and movies, should be set off with underlining or italics: Hamlet, Little Women, The Awakening.
3. Your own title should neither be underlined nor placed in quotation marks unless it contains the title of the work you're discussing. In that case, only the title of the work should be punctuated as a title.
Q. Do I need to put commas around all the titles?
Usually no. It depends on whether the title is a restrictive or nonrestrictive element. (Note: For some good examples, go to Ben Yagoda's explanation in the New York Times.)
Nonrestrictive clauses and phrases are "extra information"; if they are removed, the meaning of the sentence remains the same. Memory tip: Try putting your thumb over the information within the commas. If the sentence changes without that information, the information restricts the meaning of the sentence, and you don't need the commas.
Incorrect example: In Louisa May Alcott's novel, Work, Christie Devon declares her independence from convention.
This is incorrect because the commas imply that Alcott wrote only one novel, which isn't true. If you put your thumb over what's between the commas (the "extra information"), the sentence would read like this: In Louisa May Alcott's novel, Christie Devon declares her independence from convention. That doesn't have the same meaning, and anyway, we know that Louisa May Alcott wrote more than one novel.
Correct: In Louisa May Alcott's novel Work, Christie Devon declares her independence from convention.
The comma is there because of the introductory phrase.
- Incorrect: In his story, "Araby," James Joyce writes of a young boy's initiation.
- Correct: In his story "Araby," James Joyce tells the story of a young boy's initiation.
Q. Do I need a Works Cited page?
Yes, you do. All papers must have a Works Cited page, even if you're using your textbook as the source for the works you'll be discussing. The Works Cited page is a list of the references you actually discussed in your paper, not a list of all the sources consulted.
- Works should be listed alphabetically by the author's last name.
- The list should not be numbered.
- The list should use a "hanging indent" style (in Word: Format -> Paragraph-> Special: Hanging).
The general format for entries is as follows:
Short story, poem, or essay:
Author Last Name, Author First Name. "Title of Poem, Essay, or Story." Title of Volume. Edited by Firstname Lastname, Publisher, Year, pp. Page Numbers.
Author Lastname, Author Firstname. Title of Novel. Publisher, Year.
Novel with editors:
Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Edited by Janet Beer and Elizabeth Nolan, Broadview Press, 2005.
Fetterley, Judith. "The Resisting Reader." Feminist Literary Theory and Criticism, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Norton, 2007, pp. 443-447.
For other examples, go to The Purdue OWL .
Q. Should I number the references in my Works Cited Page?
No. Although some scientific citation formats do this, MLA does not.
Q. How do I cite the course pack or course handouts?
Here is some information on citing the course pack:
Author. “Title of Part.” Title of Original Book/Periodical. Original Publication Information. Rpt. in Title of Course Reader. Comp. Instructor’s Name. Publication Information of Reader. Pages in Reader. Medium of Publication.
Q. Where can I find more information on how to set up a Works Cited page?
You can find examples of citation formats here: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. Newer versions of Word also have built-in citation managers.
If you're using a reference manager (Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley, etc.), you can automatically generate a Works Cited page and correct in-text citations. Other resources to help you format your references in MLA style include the following: EasyBib, WorksCited4U, and Word 2007 and 2010.
Q. How can I cite an electronic edition, such as a Kindle edition?
The medium is the type of electronic file, such as Kindle file, Nook file, EPUB file, or PDF file. If you cannot identify the file type, use Digital file. For example:
Rowley, Hazel. Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage. New York: Farrar, 2010. Kindle file.
If the work presents electronic and print publication information, the electronic information should usually be cited.
Most electronic readers include a numbering system that tells users their location in the work. Do not cite this numbering, because it may not appear consistently to other users. If the work is divided into stable numbered sections like chapters, the numbers of those sections may be cited, with a label identifying the nature of the number (6.4.2):
According to Hazel Rowley, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt began their honeymoon with a week’s stay at Hyde Park (ch. 2).
Q. How can I cite a PowerPoint or class notes?
Both the print and online versions of the MLA Handbook 7 are silent on the issue of how to cite PowerPoint presentations, a question that several of you asked about today.
In the absence of other information, cite it as you would a lecture or class notes (MLA Handbook 7 5.7.11):
5.7.11.A LECTURE, A SPEECH, AN ADDRESS, OR A READING
In a citation of an oral presentation, give the speaker’s name; the title of the presentation (if known), in quotation marks; the meeting and the sponsoring organization (if applicable); the location; and the date. Use an appropriate descriptive label (Address, Lecture, Keynote speech, Reading), neither italicized nor enclosed in quotation marks, to indicate the form of delivery.
Alter, Robert, and Marilynne Robinson. “The Psalms: A Reading and Conversation.” 92nd Street Y, New York. 17 Dec. 2007. Reading.
Matuozzi, Robert. “Archive Trauma.” Archive Trouble. MLA Annual Convention. Hyatt Regency, Chicago. 29 Dec. 2007. Address.
Your citation for a class PowerPoint would look like this in your Works Cited:
Campbell, Donna. "Romantic and Byronic Heroes." English 372: 19th-Century British and American Global Literature. Washington State University. 16 September 2014. PowerPoint.
For in-text citation, use either the last name, or, if you're using two PowerPoints, the last name and a short title.
The Romantic hero "XXXXX" (Campbell).
Q. How do I cite a blog post, a tweet, a YouTube video, or other online source?
Cite these as you would any web source. The Purdue OWL has a helpful guide to this at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/08/
To cite a tweet: http://www.mla.org/style/handbook_faq/cite_a_tweet
Deciding on the location of footnotes or references in the text (Readability)
An awkwardly placed footnote or reference obstructs the flow of your paper. The non- binding guidelines below are intended to maximize your paper's readability. They are optional, so use your own judgment as to whether to follow them or not. Most likely, your decision will vary from case to case.
Note: In the examples below, we use MLA-style parenthetical in-text references. However, the same recommendations hold true for Chicago-style footnotes.
Optional Rule # 1
As a rule, place footnotes or references at the end of sentences. Avoid placing them in the middle of sentences if possible.
The claim that "the Rape of Nanking surpasses much of the worst barbarism of the ages" (Chang 5) has been a source of disagreement between Western and Japanese scholars.
The claim that "the Rape of Nanking surpasses much of the worst barbarism of the ages" has been a source of disagreement between Western and Japanese scholars (Chang 5).
Optional Rule # 2:
If, in one paragraph, you list multiple quotes from the same page of a source, there is no need to cite that source anew each time. Use just one reference instead, placed after the last of your quotes (or perhaps at the end of the paragraph) to sum up the shared source of all your quotes.
The claim that "the Rape of Nanking surpasses much of the worst barbarism of the ages" has been a source of disagreement between Western and Japanese scholars (Chang 5). Chinese-American scholar Iris Chang argues that "the Rape of Nanking represents one of the worst instances of mass extermination" ever (Chang 5). In fact, she notes, "the death toll of Nanking-one Chinese city alone-exceeds the number of civilian casualties of some European countries for the entire war (Chang 5).
The claim that "the Rape of Nanking surpasses much of the worst barbarism of the ages" has been a source of disagreement between Western and Japanese scholars. Chinese-American scholar Iris Chang argues that "the Rape of Nanking represents one of the worst instances of mass extermination" ever. In fact, she notes, "the death toll of Nanking-one Chinese city alone-exceeds the number of civilian casualties of some European countries for the entire war (Chang 5).
Optional Rule # 3:
Even if multiple quotes from one source are not from the same exact page, as above, you can still summarize them in one reference placed after the last of your quotes or at the end of the paragraph. In this case, the individual page numbers cited are separated by commas, in both MLA and Chicago.
Some Western historians claim that "the Rape of Nanking surpasses much of the worst barbarism of the ages." Iris Chang, for example, describes "Corpses piled up outside the city walls, along the river (which had turned red with blood), ponds and lakes, and on hills and mountains" (Chang 5, 46).
Note: when summarizing multiple quotes from the same source in one reference, the order of the page numbers listed in the reference reflects the order in which the quotes are listed in your text. The above reference (Chang 5, 46) indicates that the first-cited quote is from p. 5, while the second is from p. 46.
Optional Rule # 4
Even if a paragraph lists quotes from more than one source, you can still summarize them into one reference placed after the last quote or at the end of the paragraph. In this case, separate the different authors listed in your reference by a semicolon, in both MLA and Chicago.
Writing on the Rape of Nanking, Iris Chang describes "Corpses piled up outside the city walls, along the river (which had turned red with blood), ponds and lakes, and on hills and mountains." Japanese scholars, however, dispute this version of events, suggesting that Chang describes "'mountains of dead bodies' that no one saw" (Chang 46; Masaaki Ch. 4).
Note: The order in which the citations are listed in the reference reflects the order in which the quotes themselves are listed in the text. The above reference (Chang 46; Masaaki Ch. 4) indicates that the first quote is from Chang, p. 46; followed by a quote from Masaaki (a website), Chapter Four.
Final Note: Don't go overboard when summarizing multiple sources in one reference. Excessively lengthy references can become confusing to your reader. MLA recommends listing no more than three sources, maximum, in any one reference. As ever, use your own judgment. It's your paper, you decide; and don't worry if your decisions vary from case to case. The most important thing is that the source of each of your quotes is clearly identified in your references, and that the placement of your references does not obstruct the flow of your paper.BACK TO TOP
The use of single quotation marks (quotes within quotes)
All quotes are placed in double quotation marks with one exception:
If a passage you are citing contains a quote, the quote within your quote is placed in single quotation marks.
Consider the following passage from the fourth chapter of Tanaka Masaaki's website What Really Happened in Nanking: The Refutation of a Common Myth. This is the original passage, as printed in the website, word for word, down to the punctuation:
No one saw "mountains of dead bodies" or "rivers of blood".
When quoting this passage, the quotes within the quote ("mountains of dead bodies" and "rivers of blood") are placed in single quotation marks:
According to Japanese scholar Tanaka Masaaki, "No one saw 'mountains of dead bodies' or 'rivers of blood'" (Masaaki Ch. 4).
The rule, again: when quoting a passage that contains a quote, the quote within the quote is placed in single quotation marks, as above; notice that the larger quote within which the quote-within-the-quote is embedded, is placed in double quotation marks, as ever.BACK TO TOP
Block quotes (lengthy quotes)
Although we generally recommend using quotes strategically and (therefore) sparingly, there may be times when you need to quote lengthy passages to illustrate or prove your claims. Such lengthy quotes are formatted as block quotes.
What is a lengthy quote?
There is no absolute rule as to what constitutes a "lengthy quote" - some teachers say a quote is lengthy if it exceeds four or five typed lines; others, if it exceeds forty words or four sentences. The point is: once a quote becomes unusually lengthy it is formatted as a block quote.
Whatis a block quote; how is it formatted?
A block quote is a lengthy quote that is visually set off from the rest of your paper. It is single-spaced (rather than double-spaced, like the rest of your paper) and indented an additional half inch so that it visually draws attention to itself on the page. The objective is to signal to the reader, even from a distance, that what follows is a lengthy quote.
A block quote is not placed in quotation marks.
Chinese-American historian Iris Chang offers the following statistics in her effort to illustrate the full scope of the Nanking massacre:
One historian has estimated that if the dead from Nanking were to link hands they would stretch from Nanking to the city of Hangchow, spanning a distance of some two hundred miles. Their blood would weigh twelve hundred tons, and their bodies would fill twenty-five hundred railroad cars. Stacked on top of each other, they would reach the height of a seventy-four-story building. (Chang 5)
Note that, in MLA, as shown above,the final punctuation of a block quote - unlike the punctuation for a regular short quote - is placed immediately after the end of the last sentence, preceding (not following) the parenthetical reference.BACK TO TOP
Modifying the wording of a quote without changing its meaning
Sometimes it is necessary to modify the wording of a quote in order to make it flow more smoothly, to add relevant information, to change its tense to suit the point you are trying to make, or to ensure that its transition in or out of your prose is grammatically correct.As long as you do not alter the fundamental meaning of the original passage, it is permissible to make such grammatical and stylistic changes. To signal to the reader that your modifications are not part of the original passage quoted, such changes and additions are placed in square brackets.
Consider the following passage from Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking:
"Any attempt to set the record straight must shed light on how the Japanese, as a people, manage, nurture, and sustain their collective amnesia-even denial-when confronted with the record of their behavior through that period" (Chang 15).
Now consider the following quote from the above passage:
Writing in 1997, Iris Chang was undoubtedly correct that Japan's version of the Nanking Massacre exemplified "how the Japanese, as a people [once] manage[d], nurture[d], and sustain[ed] their collective amnesia-even denial-when confronted with the record of their behavior through [the] period [of World War II]." Today, more than ten years after the publication of Chang's work, those few Japanese scholars who still continue to deny the events that occurred at Nanking in 1937 are unlikely to ever come around to share her view (Chang 15).
Notice that the material added is placed in square brackets, visually indicating to the reader that it is not part of the original text.
Notice also that, although we have altered the tense of the quote (from present to past and through the addition of the word "once"), changed an article (from "that" to "the"), and added information (to specify the World War II period) we have not fundamentally altered the original meaning of the quote, which remains clearly discernible.
The rule, again: any modifications to a quote must be placed within square brackets. You can modify, as long as you do not change a quote's meaning. (On this, see also The Ethics of Quoting.)BACK TO TOP
Another way in which you can modify a quote is by skipping material. Perhaps the quote is too long, or perhaps it contains unnecessarily detailed information: there are many reasons why you may wish to skip part of a quote, and as long as you do not alter the original meaning of the passage, you are free to do so.
The rule: Indicate that you have skipped material within a quote by placing three periods (an ellipsis) in place of the missing material. Do not place an ellipsis at the beginning or end of a quote, ever: only to indicate skipped material in the middle of a quote.
Consider the following sentence from Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking:
"Corpses piled up outside the city walls, along the river (which had turned red with blood), ponds and lakes, and on hills and mountains" (Chang 46).
If you wish to skip part of this quote (the parenthetical comment, for example) indicate its omission through the use of an ellipsis:
Writing of the Nanking massacre in 1937, Iris Chang describes "Corpses piled up outside the city walls, along the river ... [in] ponds and lakes, and on hills and mountains" (Chang 46).
Two important reminders:
- Remember that you can skip material in a quote only if your doing so does not change the meaning of the original passage (see The Ethics of Quoting on this); and
- Do not place ellipses at the beginning or end of quotes, ever: only in the middle, to indicate skipped material.
- Chang, Iris. The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II. New York: BasicBooks, 1997.
- Masaaki, Tanaka. "'Mountains of Bodies' that No One Saw." N.d. What Really Happened in Nanking: The Refutation of a Common Myth. July 1, 2007 <http://www.ne.jp/asahi/unko/tamezou/nankin/whatreally/index.html>.