Anytime another person’s ideas, information, or words are used, a writer must clearly reference the source. This gives credit where credit is due and tells the reader what parts of the paper are based on outside research and what parts represent the writer’s own thought processes. Anything that is not attributed to someone else is interpreted to represent the writer’s own original thoughts.
Neglecting to credit one’s source – whether done intentionally or through lack of awareness of documentation requirements – is plagiarism. Because plagiarism is considered to be a form of academic dishonesty and can have serious academic consequences, it is the responsibility of each college student to make sure that he/she understands how to properly document sources before submitting written assignments.
Two main styles of documentation are used for college writing: APA and MLA. APA stands for the American Psychological Association, and MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. Both are professional organizations which have established standard styles for documenting the use of outside sources in written material. APA format is used in most science fields, including psychology, sociology, political science, physical sciences, earth sciences, and life sciences. MLA format is used in most humanities fields, including English, history, art, music, and drama. Both APA and MLA documentation involve in-text citations and a reference list (bibliography) at the end of the paper. Students should be able to use either documentation style upon request and are well advised to use the style required by the grading instructor. However, if no particular style is designated, then the appropriate style would be that which is most commonly used within the subject field. For more information, follow the links below.
APA Citation Tips (pdf 24 kb)
MLA Citation Tips (pdf 23 kb)
Dr. Clemente's MLA Guide
Some common mistakes regarding in-text citations include:
- Placing a single parenthetical reference at the end of a paragraph and leaving the reader to guess what parts of the paragraph came from that source
- In-text citations should be associated with sentences, not whole paragraphs.
- Using in-text citations only when quoting
- In-text citations must be used even when information and ideas are paraphrased.