Last updated 6/12/12
Isothermal Community College
P.O. Box 804, Spindale NC 28160
(828) 395-1307 fax (828) 286-8208
Charles P. Wiggins, Director of Library Services
Documentation Styles for Citing Resources
(MLA & APA)
What's a "resource"?
In terms of writing a research paper, it can be a book, article, Internet site or other source where you find information that you use in writing your paper. Even a person can be a resource. Any one of these information "places" could be a resource for information you are looking for, in the same sense that resources for getting water might include a lake, a stream or a well.
What does "documenting resources" mean?
Documenting a resource means putting all the right information in your paper about the resource you used so that another person could go and find the same information in the same resource ("citing" the resource, in other words). At the same time, the citation gives credit to the person who made the information available to you in the first place, such as the author of a book or article, or the person who created the website where you found some information you needed for your paper.
What's a "citation?"
When you write a research paper, at the end of the paper you include a list of the resources you used to write the paper on a page titled "Works Cited" or "References." Each entry in that list, called a citation, is essentially a packet of the information necessary to trace the item back to its origin, as well as an acknowledgement of credit to the source of the information. Citing a resource means including this specific information about the source in your work. Resources are cited using your instructor's choice of documentation styles.
What's a "documentation style"?
A documentation style is a standard, agreed-on method for creating citations. It provides formats for citing differnet information resources within the body of the paper, for listing different information types on the Works Cited page, and even ways to set up headings and margins for the paper. There are a number of recognized documentation styles; some of the most widely used styles today include those created by the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the Chicago, or Turabian style.
What's "plagiarism?" And why is it such a big deal?
Plagiarism is a term used to describe the misrepresentation of the authorship of an idea; in other words, the "stealing" of ideas or information by claiming they are your own (on purpose or by accident). Plagiarism is unacceptable in the academic world because it is unethical to steal information or ideas from another person, in the same way that it is morally wrong to steal the plans for someone else's invention and claim that you were its inventor. For more information on plagiarism and how to avoid it, see the Avoiding Plagiarism webpage.
What kinds of things do I have to document?
The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center suggests that you should document:
- Paraphrases and summaries (sections of text in which you use your own words to explain information from another source)
- Direct quotations (sections of text in which you use exactly the same words in the same order as they appear in another source,
identified as quotations from another source by enclosing the section in quotation marks ["])
- Information and ideas that are not common knowledge or are not available in a standard reference work
- Any borrowed material that might appear to be your own if there were no citation
When you are given a research assignment, the instructor will provide information on which documentation style to use and specific information on how to format citations and other aspects of documentation. However, keep in mind that as a college student, you are expected to credit any ideas that are not your own in all your work. To fail to cite sources at any time is unethical, and comes with consequences.
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Documentation Styles for Citing Resources
Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)* provides a good guide to citing resources from the most recent official manuals for MLA, APA, and Chicago styles.
Other good sites for help with documentation styles:
Duke University Libraries
Citing References in Your Paper* by The Writing Center at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.
* Included here with permission.
: These links are provided for your convenience. The resources to which they link are maintained by other entities and do not represent Isothermal Community College.
There is additional help from tutorials on the website of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.
(Romito, David, et al. Citing Information. UNC University Libraries. 28 Apr. 2009. 18 Aug. 2009. <http://www.lib.unc.edu/instruct/citations/introduction/sections.html>.)
UNC Chapel Hill
(Mohanty, Suchi. Citation Builder. UNC University Libraries. 9 June 2009. 18 Aug. 2009. <http://www.lib.unc.edu/house/citationbuilder/>.)
Citing Resources from Online Databases (such as those in NC LIVE): *
Here are links to .pdf files containing examples of citations for citing information from NC LIVE in various formats, in three documentation styles:
- MLA Style (7th ed. standards)
- APA Style (6th ed. standards)
- Chicago/Turabian Style (15th ed. standards)
Citing Resources from Contemporary Literary Criticism (CLC):
Since there has been frequent confusion about how to cite information in Contemporary Literary Criticism, here is a link to a .pdf file with sample citations in MLA style:
Some links on this site go to external web sites not connected with Isothermal Community College. Their inclusion is not an endorsement by Isothermal and Isothermal is not responsible for accuracy of their content.
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