How to Cite Information on an Essay

When writing an essay it is often necessary to refer to outside sources for more information. When you include another author's work, you must always cite the source of the original information. There are two ways to cite your sources; the first is a quick notation that is included in the text of your essay and the second is a separate page at the end of your essay entitled "works cited" and includes the full reference information of the material you included.

Properly citing sources is very important and you should take your time doing so before. submitting your work. As complicated as it may be, there are some basic steps to help you get started.

In-Text Citation

Type out the first draft of your essay without any concerns for making spelling or grammatical corrections. You will probably be working from notes or an outline and the first important step is to convert those notes into a coherent, narrative thought. You can rewrite and make corrections is subsequent drafts.

Read through your draft and highlight any referenced material you used. It doesn't matter if you change the color of your text, highlight, boldface or underline the text, as long as it stands out. When you are satisfied with your essay, it is time to go back to your highlighted references and cite them so that the reader has just enough information to be able to find the source material on their own.

Paraphrase as many references and sources as you can into your own writing so that it stays consistent with your writing style. References are cited using a parenthetical notation written after the material that is referenced. Use the author-page format, which states the author's last name, followed by a comma and then the page number of the book the information can be found in.

For example, if you are referring to a book written by John Doe and the information is on page 72, then cite your reference as (Doe, 72).

Enclose any direct quotes you use within double quotation marks if the source is three lines of text or less. Keep the text exactly as it was written (grammatical errors included), followed by the parenthetical citation. For example, "The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776" (Doe, 72).

If you refer to the author in the text of the essay it is not necessary to list his name in the parenthesis, just the page number. Example:

John Doe writes in his book "The Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776" (72).

Format any direct quote that is longer than three lines of text into a free-standing block of text and do not include the quotation marks. Start the quote on a new line and indent the paragraph 1 inch from the left margin. Include the parenthetical citation after the closing punctuation mark. This formatting prevents longer quotes from getting lost within the rest of your text.

Proofread your essay to make sure you have parenthetically cited all of your references and that your quotes are in the appropriate format. You are now ready to structure your "works cited" page.

Works Cited Page

Create a new page and title it "Works Cited". Center the title at the top of the page. On this page you will fully list the references you used in your essay. Set the page to double spacing but do not skip lines between listed references. If your reference requires more than one line of text, indent your subsequent lines five spaces in so that you create a hanging indent.

List your references in alphabetical order of the author's last name. Do not include any personal titles such as "Dr." "Mr." or if they have a degree such as "PhD". However, DO include suffixes such as "Jr." or "II".

The author's name is always formatted last name first, comma, then first name followed by a middle name or initial if there is one. Example: Doe, John M.

List the full title of the publication (italicized) after the author's name followed by the place of publication: publication company name, and then the year of publishing. For example:

Doe, John M. The Book of American History (italicized). New York: Doe Publishing House, 2011.

Read through your list carefully in case a pulication is other than a standard book. Citation formating will vary slightly for each type of reference source:

Encyclopedias are referenced as Author's Last Name, First Name and Middle Name or initial. "Topic Name". Title of the Encyclopedia (italicized). Year of Edition.

Magazines are referenced as Author's Last Name, First Name and Middle Name or initial. "Article Name". Name of Magazine (italicized) and the month and year of publication: page number of article.

Internet sites are referenced as Author's Last Name, First Name and Middle Name or initial. "Name of article on site". Title of website. Date of publication or update. Name of organization associated with the site. The date you accessed the site. Website address.

Proofread carefully throughout your entire paper to catch any errors and to confirm that you have referenced every resource you have used.

  • Always cite your sources, even if you use partial information or don't think others will associate with other work. Plagiarism is a serious offense and you should take all steps necessary to protect yourself.
  • Not everyone accepts the same standard formatting. Some organizations have specific requirements for their essays and citations so you should always check with them to make sure they do not have any unique or particular guidelines.
  • "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers"; Modern Language Association; 2009
About the Author

Daniel Sanz has been writing professionally since 2000. He has extensive experience in media and video production, and oversees his company's literature. Sanz has been an avid user of various instructional websites and is committed to helping them grow as a contributor. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Florida Atlantic University.

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