Using Quotations, Citing Sources, and Formatting the Works Cited Page

For MLA Citation format, go to Research and Documentation Online. (Highly recommended. This site has format information for all the styles.)

This page is meant to be an overview rather than a complete guide to citing sources. See the appropriate sections in your book or the material at the links below for complete information. These examples are taken from the field of literary studies and use MLA citation format, but the general principles of incorporating quotations into your paper still apply. Some items are adapted from our "Key to Comments" page.

1. Using Quotations

1.1. Integrating Quotations. Quotations need to be introduced appropriately using a signal phrase or sentence rather than being "dropped" into the paragraph with no context. A dropped quotation is a quotation inserted into the text without a signal phrase. Note how the quotation in this example is "dropped" into the paragraph so that the reader is unsure who is speaking. Instead, dropped quotations must be integrated grammatically into the text through the use of a signal phrase. You can find more examples and solutions at these links: ;

1.1.1. Using a full sentence to introduce the quotation.

1.1.2. Using an explanatory sentence to introduce the quotation.

1.1.3. Using a "tag" to introduce the quotation.

1.2. Types of Quotations. Block quotations, full sentence quotations, and phrases can all be used. Use only as much of the quotation as you actually need. This may be any amount from a block quotation of several sentences in length to part of a sentence.

1.2.1. Block Quotations. Quotations comprising more than four lines of text are usually set off as block quotations. Here are a few hints for using block quotations:

1.2.2. Full Sentence Quotation. A quotation that is a full sentence in length is set off either with a signal phrase or with an introductory sentence.

Example: John F. Kennedy inspired a generation with these words: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Example: As John F. Kennedy once said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

1.2.3. Partial Sentence Quotation. Use only as much of the quotation as you need. Here are some examples based on the following quotation from William Faulkner's short story "A Rose for Emily": "Alive, she was a tradition, a duty, and a care, a sort of hereditary obligation on the town" (Faulkner 237).

1.2.4. Ellipsis. If you need to omit material from the middle of a quotation, use an ellipsis, which is indicated by three spaced dots (. . . ). The plural of “ellipsis” is “ellipses."

With few exceptions, you should not use ellipses at the beginning and end of a quotation. According to the Chicago Manual of Style , ellipses are typically not used at the beginning or end of a quotation (see 11.57 ff) unless the quotation begins "with a capitalized word (such as a proper name) that did not appear at the beginning of a sentence in the original" (11.65).

If the material you’re omitting includes the end of a sentence, you can include the period along with the ellipsis (four periods instead of three).

2. Citing Sources

These are the general guidelines for citing sources in MLA citation style; for other styles, please visit the links below.

2.1. MLA citation format uses an in-text citation style rather than footnotes, which are used only for explanatory material.
2.2. For your first citation, include author's name and the title when you introduce the quotation, and use the page number in parentheses after the quotation

2.3. For subsequent citations, include the author's name and the page number (see above examples) after the quotation but before the period. Do not put a comma between the author's name and the page number.

3. Formatting the Works Cited Page

As you've doubtless learned in your previous courses, the Works Cited page is a list of the references you actually discussed in your report, not a list of all the sources consulted.

3.1. The Works Cited page should follow the format of the rest of the report (1" margins, single- or double-spaced, depending on the requirements of the assignment).

3.2. It should be in MLA format.

3.3. If you're using a reference manager (Zotero, Endnote, etc.), you can automatically generate a Works Cited page and correct in-text citations.

3.4. You do not need to annotate the elements in your Works Cited page, and the Works Cited page does not have to include the same works that appeared in your Annotated Bibliography, unless you're citing them in your research report.

You can find examples of citation formats and Works Cited pages in your textbook and at these sites: