Make Documentation Research Paper

Always ask your Mentor which style to use before you begin your paper.

The MLA style refers to the method of writing research papers recommended by the Modern Language Association. The MLA style is used in some areas of the humanities, e.g., composition and literature. Other humanities disciplines such as history, philosophy, and religion may require other styles for formatting your papers. Ask your Primary Mentor which style to use, then come to the Writing Center for further guidance.

  • Always double space, including the text of your paper, quotations, notes, and the list of works cited.
  • Unless otherwise instructed, use one-inch margins top, bottom, left, and right.
  • Use parenthetical citations to acknowledge direct quotations, indirect quotations, and/or any ideas you have borrowed from another person.
  • Use a Works Cited page for reference to parenthetical citations.
  • Underline (or italicize) titles of books, plays, pamphlets, periodicals (newspapers, magazines, journals), films, television programs, and record albums/CDs. Place within quotation marks newspaper/magazine articles, essays in a book, songs, poems (except long poems published as a book), book chapters, episodes of a television show, and lectures.
  • Number pages in the upper right hand corner of the page.
  • Use present tense to introduce cited or quoted material and to make personal comments on such materials. Use past tense only when directly quoting a passage that is in past tense or when reporting historical events.
  • As Winkleman states in the novel Diary of a Madman, "I was never ignorant" (293). Winkleman's purpose in Diary of a Madmanis to point out the innate imperfection of humans. Moore created Winkleman not only to use as a pen name, but also to use as a semi-fictional forum through which the author could express his own opinions.

    Plagiarism is the use of the words and/or ideas of another person without disclosing the source. Whether deliberate or unintentional, plagiarism can lead to failure in a course and/or dismissal from college. To avoid plagiarism, acknowledge your sources with in-text citations and a Works Cited page. Always cite direct quotations(see below). If you use another person's idea or paraphrase another person's words, don't simply rearrange the words. Instead, make sure to use your own style of writing and language, and use an in-text citation to acknowledge the source. Then, list on the Works Cited page the publications or sources from which you obtained your citations.

    The Writing Center here at GVC has a separate handout on this called, "Plagiarism and How to Avoid it: Guidelines for Students."

    I. In-text Citations

  • First Appearance

    Cite the first appearance of or reference to another person's words or ideas by introducing the quotation, paraphrase, or citation with the author's full name exactly as it appears in the source, but exclude titles such as Mr., Mrs., Ms., Miss, Dr., Reverend, etc. Be sure to include the page number(s) on which the cited material can be found. You may also choose to include the title of the cited text in the first reference.

    Rebecca Peacey states in The Art of the Short Story that, to write good fiction, authors of short fiction must master grammar and punctuation (17).

    The phrase "Rebecca Peacey states in The Art of the Short Story that, ..." is the signal phrase in this example.

    Note:After the first appearance, use only the author's last name within the text of your writing; you do not need to restate the name of the text.

    Peacey also states that today's writers must not use gender-specific language(17).

  • Authors Name Not Used in Text

    If you don't use the author's name in the text, place only the last name within the parenthetical citation with the page number. In the parenthetical citation, don't use "p." or "pp." to indicate page number(s), and don't include the text's title.

    Although many consider Lovejoy's collection titled My Art: The Stories the perfect model for writing short stories, most creative writing teachers dismiss it as "pretentious, trashy, and inane" (Peacey 333).

  • More Than One Author

    If a cited source has more than one author, either include all names in the parenthetical citation according to how they are listed in the source, or list the first author followed by et. al.

    Critics harshly emphasize Lovejoy's chronic use of stale metaphor, cliched symbolism, and predictable twists of irony in his short stories (Newman, Banya, Benis, and Cramer 814).


    Critics harshly emphasize Lovejoy's chronic use of stale metaphor, cliched symbolism, and predictable twists of irony in his short stories (Newman, et. al. 814).

    Note:Make a clear distinction between your words and another person's words so the reader knows where borrowed ideas, paraphrased passages, and/or direct quotations begin and end. In the following example of what not to do, there is no clear distinction between the student's words and ideas and the cited author's words and ideas.

    Trent Lovejoy uses a variety of avian symbolism in his fiction. Doves represent peace. Eagles stand for self-deterministic freedom. Ravens signify the mysterious. Vultures symbolize either death or opportunism. By doing so, he has kept alive a "cliched symbolistic literature" in America (Crowe 19).

    In comparison, the following passage clearly delineates words and ideas, and the reader of this passage can see that the student borrowed both a direct quotation and ideas from Crowe's book, For the Birds.

    In For the Birds, James Crowe explains that Trent Lovejoy uses avian symbols to represent peace, freedom, mystery, death, and opportunism. In doing so, Crowe argues that Lovejoy has managed to keep alive the tradition of "cliched symbolistic literature" for America (189).

    If you are citing an author who has been quoted in another book or article, use the original author's name in the text and the author of the source in which you found the quotation in the parenthetical citation.

    It is far more important for authors to ". . .honor the semiotic tradition by using established symbolism" than it is for them to create new symbols as Lovejoy asserts (qtd. in Crowe: 278).

  • Quotation Lengths

    1. Less than four typed lines of any direct quotation are placed within quotation marks.

      Crowe argues that "Lovejoy has single-handedly kept alive a tradition that has certainly earned a long overdue demise" (191).

    2. More than four typed lines of any direct quotation must be indented. From the left margin, indent one inch on a computer or ten spaces on a typewriter. Double space the quotation, and don't use quotation marks. Insert a parenthetical citation two spaces after the last punctuation mark of the quotation.

      Peacey states that many authors of contemporary short fiction have not mastered the commonly accepted set of prescriptive rules by which standard American English is defined. She argues that such a lack of proficiency is detrimental to these authors' works and may well be damaging to the language as a whole. She makes this observation:

      Authors of fiction have always manipulated the grammar of their respective eras. Whether writing in dialect to validate certain characters or stylistically misusing a language, fictionists have routinely broken grammatical rules. However, the misuse of language by contemporary writers is more often the result of ignorance of grammar than it is of creative design. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is academic political correctness, many contemporary American authors simply do not know a grammar that delineates the language in which they write. Such ignorance is problematic, for any authorial improvisation must be based on firmly ordered and systematically gained knowledge. (198)

      As can be understood from this passage, Peacey clearly believes that the mastery of the rules precedes creativity.

    3. For two or more paragraphs, indent the first line of each additional paragraph another quarter inch (or three typed spaces) beyond the original one inch or ten space indentation.

  • Two or More Works by the Same Author

    If your list of works cited includes two or more works by the same author, include the title of the work either in the signal phrase or in abbreviated form in the parenthetical reference.

    In his article "California and the West," reporter T. Christian Miller asserts that from 1990 to 1997, California spent roughly $26 million on conservation lands "to provide habitat for exactly 2.6 mountain lions" (A3). According to T. Christian Miller. "Mountain lions, also called pumas or cougars, range vast territories in search of food, sometimes as large as 100 square miles" ("Cougars" 1).

    Note:The title of an article from a periodical should be put in quotation marks, as in the examples. The title of a book should be underlined or italicized. When both the author and a short title must be given in parentheses, the citation should appear as follows:

    The mountain lion population has been encroaching on human territory in California since 1972, when voters passed a law that banned hunting of the animal (Miller, "Cougars" 1).

  • The Author Is Unknown

    If the author is not given, either use the complete title in a signal phrase or use a short form of the title in the parentheses.

    In California, fish and game officials estimate that since 1972 lion numbers have increased from 2,400 to at least 6,000 ("Lion" A21).

  • Authors With the Same Last Name

    If your list of works cited includes works by two or more authors with the same last name, include the first name of the author you are citing in the signal phrase or parenthetical reference.

    At least 66,665 lions were killed between 1907 and 1978 in Canada and the United States (Kevin Hansen 58).

  • A Novel, a Play, or a Poem

    1. In citing literary sources, include information that will enable readers to find the passage in various editions of the work. For a novel, put the page number first and then, if possible, indicate the part or chapter in which the passage can be found.

    Fitzgerald's narrator captures Gatsby in a moment of isolation: "A sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host"(56: ch. 3).

    1. For a verse play, list the act, scene, and line numbers, separated by periods. Use Arabic numerals unless your instructor prefers Roman numerals.

    In his famous advice to the players, Hamlet defines the purpose of theater, ". . . whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature" (3.2.21-23).

    1. For a poem, cite the part (if there are a number of parts) and the line numbers, separated by periods.

    When Homer's Odysseus comes to the hall of Circe, he finds his men ". . . mild / in her soft spell, fed on her drug of evil" (10.209-11).

  • The Bible

    If the book of the Bible that you are citing does not appear in the signal phrase, include it in parentheses along with the chapter and verse numbers.

    Consider the words of Solomon: "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink" (Prov. 25.21).

    Note: If it is relevant, you may also include the version of the Bible you are citing:(Prov. 25.21, RSV).

  • Two or More Works

    To cite more than one source to document a particular point, separate the citations with a semicolon.

    The dangers of mountain lions to humans have been well documented (Rychnovsky 40; Seidensticker 114; Williams30).

    Note:Multiple citations can be distracting to readers, however, so the techniques should not be overused. If you want to alert readers to several sources that discuss a particular topic, consider using an information note instead.

  • A Work without Page Numbers

    You may omit the page number if a work has no page numbers. Some electronic sources use paragraph numbers instead of page numbers. For such sources, use the abbreviation "par." or "pars." in the parentheses:(Smith, par. 4).

  • An Electronic Source

    To cite an electronic source in the text of your paper, follow the same rules as for print sources. If the source has an author and there is a page number, provide both.

    Using historical writings about leprosy as an example, Demaitre argues that ". . . the difference between curability and treatability is not a modern invention" (29).

    Note: Electronic sources often lack page numbers. If the source uses some other numbering system, such as paragraphs or sections, specify them, using an abbreviation ("par.," "sec.") or a full word ("screen"). Otherwise, use no number at all.

    A clip of the film Demolition d'un mur demonstrates that "cinema is all about transformation, not mere movement" (Routt, sec. 1). Volti writes, "As with all significant innovations, the history of the automobile shows that technological advance is fueled by more than economic calculation."

    Note:If the electronic source has no known author, either use the complete title in a signal phrase or use a short form of the title in parentheses.

    According to a Web page sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund, fourteen American children die from gunfire each day ("Child")

  • Use four ellipsis points to indicate the omission of an entire sentence within a quotation.

    Peacey claims that ". . . although a living language is constantly changing . . . . It is the author's duty to be aware of the language's grammatical conventions as well as to be knowledgeable of its linguistic history" (7).

  • Use four spaced periods to indicate an omission at the end of a direct quotation. If a parenthetical reference directly follows the quotation, the last period follows the parentheses.

    Lovejoy argues that ". . . authors are duty-bound to carry on the semiotic tradition as it is inherited from those authors who precede them . . ." (4).

  • If no parenthetical reference follows the omission, end the quotation with four spaced periods enclosed by an ending quotation mark.

    Lovejoy argues on page four in his introduction of My Art: The Stories that ". . . the author is duty-bound to carry on the semiotic tradition as presented to him by those authors who precede him . . . ."

  • Books

    Begin each reference at the left hand margin. List the author's last name first, then the first name followed by a period. Type two spaces, then list the title of the book underlined and with the first letter of all major words capitalized. A period follows (not underlined). Next list the place (city) of publication followed by a colon, one space, the publisher followed by a comma, and the year of publication followed by a period. Omit the words Publishing Company and Inc. from the publisher's name. If the reference is more than one line in length, indent one-half inch (computer formatted) or five spaces (typed) all lines following the first. Double space all lines.

    1. Book by one Author

    Hyde, Bernard. Perspectives on Literature: The New Historical Criticism in America. Peoria: Bancroft, 1992.

    Note:List two or more books by the same author alphabetically by title. Give the author's name in the first entry only. After the first entry, type three hyphens and a period. Skip two spaces, then list the title. (In the following example, UP is the accepted MLA abbreviation for University Press).

    Britt, Ponsiby. Representation of Indigenous North American Mammalia in Twentieth Century American Humor. Frostbite Falls: Rockland UP, 1963.

    ---. Character Stereotypes in Cold War American Literature. Frostbite Falls: Rockland UP, 1967.

    1. Books by two or more authors -- list authors as they are listed in the book. Reverse only the first author's name.

    Ciccone, Eva, Lorna Smith, and Natasha Fatale. Femininity and Feminism in Literature: Two Views. Boston: Singleton, 1991.

    1. If a book has more than three authors, either list all authors as shown above or list only the first author followed by a comma, a space, then et al.

    Jones, Sarah, Michael Williams, Charles Porter, William Mayer, and Anthony Rofollo. Scenes in a Coffee Shop. Toronto: Middleman, 1996.


    Jones, Sarah, et al. Scenes in a Coffee Shop. Toronto: Middleman, 1996.

    1. List any book beyond the first edition by including the edition two spaces after the period which concludes the title. Do not underline the designation for the edition.

    Young, Keith. Symbols of Morality. 4th ed. Scranton: Crowell, 1976.

    1. For an author's work cited in a textbook, anthology, or other full-length work, list according to the author of the cited work within the anthology. Typically, such a cited work would be an article, an essay, a short story, or a poem, so enclose the title of the cited work within quotation marks. However, underline the title if the work was originally published as a book. Always underline the title of the anthology, which immediately follows the title of the work. Include the page numbers of the anthology in which the cited work appears.

  • Editor

    An entry for an editor is similar to that for an author except that the name is followed by a comma and the abbreviation "ed." for "editor." If there is more than one editor, use the abbreviation "eds." for "editors."

    Kitchen, Judith, and Mary Paumier Jones, eds. In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction. New York: Norton, 1996.

  • Author with an Editor

    Begin with the author and title, followed by the name of the editor. In this case the abbreviation "Ed." means "Edited by," so it is the same for one or multiple editors.

    Wells, Ida B. The Memphis Diary. Ed. Miriam DeCosta-Willis. Boston: Beacon, 1995.

  • Translation

    List the entry under the name of the author, not the translator. After the title, write "Trans." (for "Translated by") and the name of the translator.

    Mahfouz, Naguib. Arabian Nights and Days. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

  • Unknown Author

    Begin with the title. Alphabetize the entry by the first word of the title other than A, An, or The.

    Oxford Essential World Atlas. New York: Oxford UP, 1996.

  • Edition Other Than the First

    If you are citing an edition other than the first, include the number of the edition after the title: 2nd ed., 3rd ed., and so on.

    Boyce, David George. The Irish Question and British Politics, 1868-1996. 2nd ed. New York: St. Martin's, 1996.

  • Multivolume Work

    Include the total number of volumes before the city and publisher, using the abbreviation "vols."

    Conway, Jill Ker, ed. Written by Herself. 2 vols. New York: Random, 1996.

    Note: If your paper cites only one of the volumes, give the volume number before the city and publisher and give the total number of volumes in the work after the date.

    Conway, Jill Ker, ed. Written by Herself. Vol. 2. New York: Random, 1996. 2 vols.

  • Encyclopedia or Dictionary

    Articles in well-known dictionaries and encyclopedias are handled in abbreviated form. Simply list the author of the article (if there is one), the title of the article, the title of the reference work, the edition number, if any, and the date of the edition.

    "Sonata." Encyclopaedia Britannica. 15th ed. 1997.

    Note: Volume and page numbers are not necessary because the entries are arranged alphabetically and therefore are easy to locate. If a reference work is not well known, provide full publishing information as well.

  • The Bible

    The Bible is not included in the list of works cited. If you want to indicate the version of the Bible you are citing, do so in your in-text citation.

  • Work in an Anthology

    Present the information in this order, with each item followed by a period: author of the selection; title of the selection; title of the anthology; editor of the anthology, preceded by "Ed." (meaning "Edited by"); city, publisher, and date; page numbers on which the selection appears.

    Malouf, David. "The Kyogle Line." The Oxford Book of Travel Stories. Ed. Patricia Craig. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. 390-96.

    Note:If an anthology gives the original publication information for a selection and if your instructor prefers that you use it, cite that information first. Follow with "Rpt. in" (for "Reprinted in"), the title, editor, and publication information for the anthology, and the page numbers in the anthology on which the selection appears.

    Rodriguez, Richard. "Late Victorians." Harper's Oct. 1990: 57-66. Rpt. in The Best American Essays 1991. Ed. Joyce Carol Oates. New York: Ticknor, 1991. 119-34.

  • Two or More Works From the Same Anthology

    If you wish, you may cross-reference two or more works from the same anthology. Provide a separate entry for the anthology with complete publication information.

    Craig, Patricia, ed. The Oxford Book of Travel Stories. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

    Then list each selection separately, giving the author and title of the selection followed by a cross-reference to the anthology. The cross-reference should include the last name of the editor of the anthology and the page numbers in the anthology on which the selection appears.

    Desai, Anita. "Scholar and Gypsy." Craig 251-73.

    Malouf, David. "The Kyogle Line." Craig 390-96.

  • Foreword, Introduction, Preface, or Afterword

    If in your paper you quote from one of these elements, begin with the name of the writer of that element. Then identify the element being cited, neither underlined nor in quotation marks, followed by the title of the complete book, the book's author, and the book's editor, if any. After the publication information, give the page numbers on which the foreword, introduction, preface, or afterword appears.

    Kennedy, Edward M. Foreword. Make a Difference. Henry W. Foster, Jr., and Alice Greenwood. New York: Scribner, 1997. 9-15.

  • Book with a Title within Its Title

    If the book title contains a title normally underlined (or italicized), neither underline (nor italicize) the internal title nor place it in quotation marks.

    Vanderham, Paul. James Joyce and Censorship: The Trials of Ulysses. New York: New York UP, 1997.

    Note:If the title within the title is normally enclosed within quotation marks, retain the quotation marks and underline (or italicize) the entire title.

    Faulkner, Dewey R. Twentieth Century Interpretations of "The Pardoner's Tale." Englewood Cliffs: Spectrum-Prentice, 1973.

  • Book in a Series

    Before the publication information, cite the series name as it appears on the title page followed by the series number, if any.

    Malena, Anne. The Dynamics of Identity in Francophone Caribbean Narrative. Francophone Cultures and Literatures Ser. 24. New York: Lang, 1998.

  • Republished Book

    After the title of the book, cite the original publication date followed by the current publication information. If the republished book contains new material, such as an introduction or afterword, include that information after the original date.

    McClintock, Walter. Old Indian Trails. 1926. Foreword William Least Heat Moon. Boston: Houghton, 1992.

  • Publisher's Imprint

    If a book was published by an imprint of a publishing company, cite the name of the imprint followed by a hyphen and the publisher's name. The name of the imprint usually precedes the publisher's name on the title page.

    Coles, Robert. The Moral Intelligence of Children: How to Raise a Moral Child. New York: Plume-Random, 1997.

  • Translation

    List the entry under the name of the author, not the translator. After the title, write "Trans." (for "Translated by") and the name of the translator.

    Mahfouz, Naguib. Arabian Nights and Days. Trans. Denys Johnson-Davies. New York: Doubleday, 1995.

  • Periodicals

    Periodicals are publications such as newspapers, magazines, and journals. Generally, list the author(s), title of article in quotation marks, name of the journal underlined, series number (if relevant), volume number (for journals), issue number (if needed), date of publication, and inclusive page numbers not preceded by "p." or "pp." If the article is not published on consecutive pages, include only the page number on which the article first appears, followed by a + sign with no space in between.

  • Journals

    Many scholarly journals are paged continuously throughout the year. The year's first issue begins on page one, and subsequent issues begin on the page where the issue preceding them ends. Therefore, listing the month of publication is unnecessary. Instead, list the volume number followed by the year of publication in parentheses. Then include a colon followed by page number(s) on which the article appears.

    Gregory, Norman. "Australian Aboriginal Dialects." The Journal of Modern Languages 75 (1987): 74-101.

    However, some journals page each issue separately. In such cases, include in the bibliographic citation the volume number immediately followed by a period, which is immediately followed by the issue number.

    Douglas, Oliver. "Gentrification of Rural Lands: Migration Beyond the Suburb." The American Quarterly 18.2 (1969): 12-24.

  • Magazines

    1. Weekly

      For a magazine published weekly or biweekly, follow the general directions for periodicals, but include the entire date with the day first, followed by the month (abbreviated) and year. Do not include an issue or volume number.

    Ziffel, Arnold. "Confessions of an Overeater." Pound Watchers Weekly 8 June 1970: 14-17.

    1. Monthly

      Follow the directions for a weekly magazine, but do not include the day of publication.

    Douglas, Lisa. "To Live on Park Avenue." Urban Life Sept. 1970: 36-44.

  • Newspaper

    List the author(s); title of the article in quotation marks, name of newspaper as it appears on the masthead omitting any introductory article such as "the," the complete date of publication -- day, month, and year, a colon, and a page number(s) (including section designation such as A and B or 1 and 2 if included) as listed in the newspaper. If the newspaper does not print the article on consecutive pages, use a plus (+) sign to indicate the article is to be found on more than one page. Omit any volume or issue numbers.

    1. Lettered Sections

    Charles, Raymond. "School Administration Closes Middle School Library." The Chronicle of S Learning 12 Sept. 1990: A1-A6.

    1. Numbered Sections

    Wilbert, Kenneth. "Writer Searches America for Lost Hope." Mecklenburg Tribune 24 Aug. 1987, sec. 2: 1+.

  • The Skidmore Guide to Writing


    Documentation and Plagiarism

    You already may be familiar with some form of documentation that you used in preparing high school research papers. Perhaps you used the system in which you placed footnotes at the bottom of each page or endnotes at the end of the paper; your bibliography may have included everything you read, even if you never referred to it in your text. That system of documentation is preferred in some Skidmore courses (check with your professor), but in many courses it has been replaced by the three documentation formats described here. All serve the same purpose.

    Here are some examples of footnotes and endnotes:

    • If you are citing a book with one author:
      1 Jane Tompkins, West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns (New York: Oxford UP, 1992) 22.
    • If you are citing a book having two or three authors:
      2 Barbara Rico and Sandra Mano, American Mosaic:Multicultural Readings in Context (Boston: Houghton, 1991) 121.
    • If you are citing a book having four or more authors, use the Latin et al.:
      3 Martin J. Medhurst et al., Cold War Rhetoric: Strategy, Metaphor, and Ideology (New York: Greenwood, 1990) 52.
    • If the author is not given, begin with the title:
      4 The Times Atlas of the World, 9th ed.(New York: Times, 1992) 135.
    • If you are citing an encyclopedia:
      5 "Croatia," The New Encyclopaedia Britannica: Micropaedia, 1991.
    • If you are citing an article in a monthly magazine:
      6 John Lukacs, "The End of the Twentieth Century," Harper's Jan. 1993: 41.
    • If you are citing an article in a journal that continues its page numbers throughout the year:
      7 Gabriel Segal, "Seeing What Is Not There," Philosophical Review 98 (1989): 200.
    • If you are citing an article from a journal that begins each issue with page 1:
      8 G.J. Johnson, "A Distinctiveness Model of Serial Learning," Psychological Review 98.2 (1991): 208.
    • If you are citing an article in a daily newspaper:
      9 Lena H. Sun, "Chinese Feel the Strain of a New Society," Washington Post 13 June 1993: A1. 

    Documenting your sources provides essential information for your reader. By citing sources, you show your indebtedness to the work of others, and you give your reader the chance to seek further information from the sources themselves. Citing sources also supports your own credibility as a writer and researcher. Careful documentation shows that you are not thinking in a vacuum; rather, it shows you have studied what others have written on the subject and that you have considered their work. This kind of academic "dependency" is really a sign of scholarly strength, not weakness, because it shows that you are participating critically in a scholarly conversation with others. At the same time, documentation demonstrates your own academic integrity by showing that you are carefully giving credit where credit is due.

    Through careful documentation, you indicate where the information or ideas in your paper come from. In a sense, you provide references to the "documents" upon which your work is based. You must document quotations, summaries, and paraphrases.

    • Quotation. Taking from another source the exact words of the author and using them in your own written work. These words need to begin and conclude with a quotation mark.
    • Summary. Taking lengthy passages from a source, reformulating or outlining them in your own words, and using them in your own written work. Summarized material is not enclosed in quotation marks.
    • Paraphrase. Taking short passages from a source, restating the content of the passage, reconstructing the passage phrase by phrase, and rephrasing the author's words in your own. Paraphrased material is not enclosed in quotation marks.

    You must indicate in your text which words, ideas, or information you have derived from sources. Your Bibliography or Works Cited should include complete bibliographical entries so that a reader could easily find the sources in the library.

    Since documentation is frequently taught only for research papers or term papers, students wonder if they should bother with it at other times - for instance, when they make brief references to one or two sources in a short essay. Some teachers may even tell you not to bother with bibliographical information for a source if it is well known to both you and the teacher. Technically, however, failure to document ideas or information from any source constitutes plagiarism.

    So how do you know when to cite sources and when not to bother? This is the best advice:

     Whenever your writing is based on or influenced by sources, you must cite those sources and provide full bibliographical material.

    When writing from sources, you constantly must make judgments, deciding when you need to cite a source and when you do not. Many professors find that students tend to under-document their essays; however, you should not get so nervous about citing sources that you put a citation in every sentence. You do not have to attribute everything you write to some other source, but you do need to distinguish clearly between your own words and ideas and those of others. These judgments can sometimes be tricky, but the principles that follow in the next pages should help you to decide when to cite sources.

    Remember: You need to cite sources for material that is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. You need to tell your reader what documents you used to write your essay or report.

    As you write your papers, you'll decide when to use your own words and when to take words directly from your sources. Most often, you should put what you read into your own words, paraphrasing or summarizing what comes from other sources. By paraphrasing or summarizing, you show how you are processing the ideas or information that you found in your sources. Sometimes, however, it may be best to quote, taking phrases, sentences, and even whole paragraphs directly from a source. When you do take words from a source, even a single phrase, you must place quotation marks around those words or indent to set off a longer quotation.

    Your Skidmore professors expect you to know when to cite sources as well as how to cite them according to the documentation style appropriate to the academic discipline in which you are working. Although many professors do not take time out of their classes to teach you this skill, most welcome questions about citation. We encourage you to ask your instructors if you are in doubt about research expectations. You will not be criticized for documenting your sources; however, if you fail to document, you may suffer severe penalties and be guilty of plagiarism.


    Remember that your purpose in writing is to build and construct your own pattern of meaning, even when assignments require working with a number of secondary sources. Of course, your professors expect you to use sources intelligently and cite them correctly, but they don't want you just to parrot back what those sources tell you. They expect papers to represent your work, your thinking, and your writing. You must develop your own ideas, build your own organization, and reach your own conclusions. References and quotations serve to strengthen your text by providing necessary support or evidence.

    Choose quotations carefully

    Seldom, if ever, will your instructors ask you to include a certain number of quotations per page or even per paper. In a typical research paper, you may consult ten sources, but in the actual paper you may quote a few lines from two of the ten sources, while including more detailed information from three others. Most often, you should paraphrase or summarize source material. Quote only when you want the exact words of a source for some important reason. And keep all quotations as brief as possible.

    Here are some reasons you may want to quote from your sources:

    • For support - as an appeal to authority, to bring the voices of experts into your paper.
    • For vivid language - because the wording of the original source is clearer and more effective than any paraphrase you could write.
    • To represent the source fairly - when you quote accurately and directly, no one can claim that you have misrepresented the source.
    • To enrich an argument- to interject controversy, for example, and show what's at stake in taking a position.

    A good quotation must be more than a random selection from a source. It should say something significant or important enough to be quoted. Even if the idea is important, though, avoid quoting poor or unclear writing; you would be served better by paraphrasing such a passage. The best passages to quote, then, should be "quotable": both well-written and enlightening.

    Use quotations sparingly; don't over-quote. If you write a five-page paper, for instance, and two entire pages are quotations, you have relied too much on your sources to convey ideas - there are only three pages of your own writing. Don't let other voices dominate your paper. Never build your paper by stringing together other people's words.

    Remember: Quotations should serve as evidence or support, not as a substitute for your own ideas, arguments, or assertions.

    Integrate quotations into your own writing

    Make sure that you introduce all quotations so that the reader knows who is being quoted. Don't rely only on citations (parenthetical, endnotes, or footnotes) to convey this information. Don't present a quotation without commenting or elaborating on it. Your reader must understand why you have chosen a particular passage to quote, what it says that is significant, and what you want the reader to take from it. Don't assume that your reader will see the same significance you see in a quotation; point out what is important for the reader. Do not "quote and run." A valuable guideline is to give at least as much commentary on the quotation as the space the quotation takes up on the page; so, if a quotation takes up five lines or forty words, your commentary on this quotation should be roughly that long. In short, quoted material must be clearly integrated with your own text, and you should make clear its importance in your paper.

    The Skidmore community's definition of plagiarism and penalties for plagiarism are found in the Skidmore College Academic Information Guide and in the Student Handbook.

    PLAGIARISM:Presenting as one's own the work of another person (for example, the words, ideas, information, data, evidence, organizing principles, or style of presentation of someone else). Plagiarism includes paraphrasing or summarizing without acknowledgment, submission of another student's work as one's own, the purchase of prepared research or completed papers or projects, and the unacknowledged use of research sources gathered by someone else. Failure to indicate accurately the extent and precise nature of one's reliance on other sources is also a form of plagiarism. The student is responsible for understanding the legitimate use of sources, the appropriate ways of acknowledging his or her academic, scholarly, or creative indebtedness, and the consequences for violating the Skidmore Honor Code. The Academic Integrity Board and the Board of Review will not regard claims of ignorance, of unintentional error, and of academic or personal pressures as an adequate defense for violations of the Honor Code

    (1) Minor offenses: e.g., failure to acknowledge the source(s) of a few phrases, sentences, or an idea (though not an idea of importance to the thesis or central purpose of the paper or project).

    (2) More serious offenses: e.g., failure to acknowledge the quotation or paraphrase of a few longer, paragraph-length sections of a paper, failure to acknowledge the source(s) of a major idea of the source(s) of important pieces of evidence or information, or the source(s) for an ordering principle central to the paper's or project's structure.

    (3) Major Offenses: e.g., failure to acknowledge the source (quoted, paraphrased, or summarized) of major sections of passages in a paper or project, the unacknowledged use of several major ideas or extensive reliance on another person's data, evidence, or critical method; submitting as one's own, work borrowed, stolen, or purchased from someone else.

    Penalties for Plagiarism: All offenses observed by faculty or students must be reported to the dean of studies, who will keep a confidential record of the offense, the evidence, and the penalty. The dean will also make certain that the student understands his or her rights, the nature and importance of academic integrity, and the probable consequences of a second violation.

    In the case of minor offenses (as defined in #1 above), the instructor might make any one of a combination of the following responses:

    • warning without further penalty
    • required rewriting of the paper, but without grade credit
    • lowering of the paper or project by one full grade.

    In the case of more serious offenses and major offenses (defined in #2 and #3 above), the instructor might impose one or more of the following:

    • failure on the plagiarized essay, report, or project (no revision or supplemental work accepted)
    • failure in the course (more appropriate to a major offense)
    • request for an AIB hearing, which will consider academic disciplinary probation, another type of academic sanction, or a recommendation for suspension.

    As you can see, the Skidmore community regards plagiarism as academic misconduct. Stealing someone else's ideas, words, data, information, or method of argument is the literary equivalent of theft. Some kinds of plagiarism are obvious. Putting your name on your roommate's paper and submitting it for a grade is obvious and intentional plagiarism; you have stolen work and claimed it as your own. If you copy from a library source or an encyclopedia entry, you are equally guilty of stealing someone else's ideas and words. Such serious instances of intentional plagiarism are not treated lightly at Skidmore and in the academic world; like cheating on examinations, plagiarism can be punished by suspension from the College. An honest and responsible member of the academic community never plagiarizes.

    However, you need not be blatantly dishonest to be guilty of plagiarism in a paper composed mostly of your own words and ideas. Imagine, for example, that you write a paper about the problems of the homeless, and in the paper you mention approximate numbers of homeless people in three major cities, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Since you are a Skidmore student, your teacher knows you are not conducting census surveys or counting homeless people. If you don't indicate where these statistics come from, your teacher must reach one of two conclusions. First, you might have such contempt for the honest use of evidence that you have made up the numbers. Second, and more likely, your numbers may come from some other source - a book, a magazine, a lecture or perhaps a television broadcast - that you have failed to acknowledge through documentation.

    Let's imagine one more case. Again, the words and ideas in your paper are mostly your own, but you have taken some ideas from a magazine article you recently read on the subject. Let us say you have even cited the source by giving a complete bibliographical entry at the end of your paper, although no references within your text indicate exactly where you have borrowed ideas. Your paper sparks your professor's interest, so she finds the article and reads it for herself. In reading, she finds that two paragraphs in your paper do nothing but summarize the material in this article, and you have quoted two sentences word for word without enclosing them in quotation marks. In this case, you may have tried to be honest about your source, but you are still guilty of plagiarism. First, you have summarized someone else's work without indicating it; your professor might think that these are your own ideas. Second, you have stolen words by lifting text word-for-word without quoting. Despite your best intentions, you have plagiarized - and this example also represents a serious offense.

    One last example: Students sometimes discuss their work with classmates, friends, or roommates. These discussions can help you to generate ideas and to think of ways to convey those ideas clearly in your paper. In an academic community, these discussions are important and exciting. But your friend might suggest some ideas, tell you about a lecture or reading, or summarize a source that he or she has read. In that case, you should document the conversation with your friend as one of your reference sources. Otherwise, this "collaboration" may be a form of plagiarism.

    Avoiding unintentional plagiarism

    Unintentional plagiarism occurs for two reasons. Please keep in mind that neither is an adequate excuse for or defense against an accusation of plagiarism.

    I. Ignorance. Some students claim they don't know that they have to cite sources and/or they don't know how to cite sources. At times, however, it is hard for professors to believe their students' claims of ignorance, especially when they have emphasized to their classes how important it is to document sources. Some students mistakenly believe that no internal citations are necessary as long as a source is listed at the end of a paper.

    2. Carelessness. Most students know that they must document sources, and, with a little effort, they could easily do so. Nevertheless, documentation looks like a lot of extra work, so some students oversimplify or even avoid it. They may assume that "documentation doesn't matter" because a professor has not specifically demanded it or is too busy to check sources.

    As we've stressed, you must take documentation seriously. Even such "unintentional" examples as these constitute not just the inadequate work of a lazy writer but actual plagiarism, and the College regards them as violations of academic integrity.

    Poor notetaking skills and plagiarism

    Some students plagiarize, despite the best of intentions, because their own system of taking notes, or lack of a system, fails them. How might this happen? When a student begins his research, he may take notes from a couple of sources. Not worrying about the later step of documentation, he may just note the title and author without copying the publishing information that is also essential in documentation. He may take notes indiscriminately, jotting down whatever seems interesting or useful. He may summarize a three-page argument, quote a few lines of text, paraphrase a writer's conclusions, and make a few comments indicating his own reactions to a text. Once finished with this source, he may return it to the library and pack his notes away for a time. You can see how our hypothetical student may get into trouble when he comes back to these notes a week or two later. His notes include direct quotations, paraphrases and summaries in his own words, and his own comments on the source, but he can't tell one from the other.

    By taking notes more carefully, you can avoid these pitfalls and write effectively from your own notes. Just remember, while you are taking notes, what you will need later on. Whether you take notes on cards, on legal pads, or even on cocktail napkins, you will need the full publishing information for any written source, and the date, place, and affiliation for any lecture or broadcast source. When you look back at your notes, you will need to distinguish your own comments from your paraphrasing and quotation. And, for accurate reference citations in your text, you will need to know page numbers for specific items you refer to when you write.

    Effective notetaking strategies

    • WRITE a complete bibliography entry for each source.
    • PARAPHRASE carefully, and in your own words, any material that you do not put in quotation marks.
      • mark with PAR.
      • note page number (p. 18).
      • mark with SUM.
      • note page numbers (pp. 25-26).
      • copy anything you plan to quote word-for-word from the text exactly as it appears.
      • mark all quotations with QUOTATION MARKS.
      • note page numbers (pp. 236-245).
      • when you write down your own comments and reactions to a source, clearly indicate that these are not from the source itself.
      • mark your comments with [brackets].

    If you take notes on a laptop computer, you can easily use a notation system like this one. If you use a Windows program, you might place each source in a separate window. Whatever method you use, even if you return to your notes after two or three weeks, you will have no trouble distinguishing your own comments from summaries, paraphrases, and quotations from your sources. You will be able to write effectively about a source using your notes without fear of accidentally plagiarizing. And even if someone else has pulled your source from the library shelves, you will have everything you need to document your use of that source.

    Even though internal citations appear in a text before the list of works cited, we will consider the list of cited works first because this is where you should begin in your notetaking. Your Works Cited will contain all the bibliographic information you need for references to quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.

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