Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
What is a Citation?
A "citation" is the way you tell your readers that certain material in your work came from another source. It also gives your readers the information necessary to find that source again, including:
- Information about the author.
- Title of the work.
- Name and location of the company that published your copy of the source.
- Date your copy was published.
- Page numbers of the material you are borrowing.
Giving credit to the original author by citing sources is the only way to use other people's work without plagiarizing. But there are a number of other reasons to cite sources:
- Citations are extremely helpful to anyone who wants to find out more about your ideas and where they came from.
- Not all sources are good or right -- your own ideas may often be more accurate or interesting than those of your sources. Proper citation will keep you from taking the rap for someone else's bad ideas.
- Citing sources shows the amount of research you've done.
- Citing sources strengthens your work by lending outside support to your ideas.
When to Cite?
Whenever you borrow words or ideas, you need to acknowledge their source. The following situations almost always require citation:
- Using an idea that someone else has already expressed.
- Making specific reference to the work of another.
- Someone else's work has been critical in developing your own ideas.
"What is a Citation?." Plagiarism.org. iParadigms, LLC, 2015. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. http://www.plagiarism.org/.
What is MLA Style?
MLA Style establishes standards of written communication concerning:
- formatting and page layout
- stylistic technicalities (e.g. abbreviations, footnotes, quotations)
- citing sources
- and preparing a manuscript for publication in certain disciplines.
Why Use MLA?
- Provide your readers with cues they can use to follow your ideas more efficiently and to locate information of interest to them
- Allow readers to focus more on your ideas by not distracting them with unfamiliar or complicated formatting
- Establish your credibility or ethos in the field by demonstrating an awareness of your audience and their needs as fellow researchers (particularly concerning the citing of references)
Who Should Use MLA?
MLA Style is typically reserved for writers and students preparing manuscripts in various humanities disciplines such as:
- English Studies - Language and Literature
- Foreign Language and Literatures
- Literary Criticism
- Comparative Literature
- Cultural Studies
"Welcome to the Purdue OWL." Purdue OWL: MLA Overview and Workshop. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2016. <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/675/1/>.