How to Cite a Source Within Your Research Paper

Updated February 21, 2017

Citing a source within your research paper is crucial, in that it strengthens the credibility of your writing and lets you avoid being accused of plagiarizing. There are many ways to cite your source within a research paper; one of the most common is the MLA in-text parenthetical citation method. Quotations, summaries, paraphrases, and any other material used from a source must be cited. The in-text parenthetical citations must correspond to a works cited page at the end of your paper that should have full bibliographic entries found in alphabetical order.

MLA In-text Parenthetical Citation Method

Determine the type of each source you are using, such as reference books, websites etc. You'll cite the sources according to these types. For instance, the way you cite for a book is not the same way you cite for a website.

Cite a single author by writing in parentheses the author's last name and the page number(s) from where you got your quotation or paraphrase. This parenthetical citation should follow the quotation or paraphrase you used. You also have the option of writing the author's last name in the sentence instead of using the parenthesis at the end. When you write the author's last name in the sentence, page numbers are not required immediately after the author's last name, but should be at the end of the sentence. If two authors share the same last name, put the author's first name initial before the last name.

An example of parenthetical citing: Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).

An example of in-sentence citing: Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

Cite an unknown author by using a shortened title of the work and not the author's name. The title should be placed in quotation marks if it's a short work, like an article, or it should be italicized if it's a longer work, like a book. Also, provide the page number(s). Both the title and the page number(s) should be placed in parentheses at the end of your quotation or paraphrase.

Cite two or three authors by listing all the last names alphabetically in the parentheses or within in the sentence. For more than three authors, write the first author's last name followed by et al.

Cite from an Internet source by including in the sentence the first word that appears in the Works Cited page, which corresponds to the citation (i.e, author name, website name etc.). If it's necessary to list the website name in order to help your reader get to the appropriate entry on the works cited page, then use a single phrase. Do not use URLs; instead, provide the domain name. For example, use CNN.com, not http://CNN.com.

Consult the official MLA formatting website for less common citations.

Tip

Research citation generators can help quicken the process of creating a works cited page.

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About the Author

Based in New York City, Yuliyan Pukhovich has been a professional writer since 2008. He has written for several Web sites including DebtPro and EFurnitureBuys. Pukhovich has a Bachelor of Business Administration in economics and finance from Baruch College.