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MLA, APA, and Chicago Guides

Use the links in the table below to browse through different citation formats:

American Psychological Association Modern Language Association Chicago Manual of Style
APA Documentation of Electronic Sources MLA Documentation of Electronic Sources Chicago Documentation of Electronic Sources
APA Documentation of Print Sources MLA Documentation of Print Sources Chicago Documentation of Print Sources
APA Sample Paper MLA Sample Paper Chicago Sample Paper

For additional information, see these resources:

Why Should You Document Sources?

Any information (print, electronic, video, PowerPoint, interviews, etc.) you use in a research paper, essay, speech, and the like which is not your own idea must be documented or given credit to. In this way you let your reader (in most cases this will be your professor) know what words and ideas are yours and what was borrowed from someone else.

Through documentation you are also providing a way for your reader to retrieve the sources you used. Your reader may be fascinated by the material and wish to read further, or your reader may question your use of the material and wish to check up on you. Your accurate documentation of the material will protect you and allow the reader to see if you have correctly interpreted the original source.

Additionally, when you document sources, you help establish a reputation as a competent and credible researcher and writer. Your reader will see that you have used information from experts and authorities on your topic.

Academic Honesty

Academic honesty, in terms of documentation, means that you have not stolen another's ideas and misrepresented them as your own; you have given credit where credit is due. As in most areas of life, let common sense and common courtesy rule and help keep you from inadvertently committing an act of plagiarism.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the theft of another's words, ideas or thoughts and the misrepresentation of them as your own. Plagiarism may be deliberate or inadvertent. In any case, the result can be receiving an F on a paper, flunking a class, or expulsion from school.

There is no excuse for not documenting sources. Your textbook contains extensive information on documentation; the Writing Center provides assistance for students; your professor will provide you with information; and assistance can be obtained in the West Campus Library either through print handouts, a librarian's assistance, or through some of the documentation handouts available at this web site. If you are unsure of what needs to be documented and the next section of this site does not help, ask your professor.

What Should You Document?

Document any material you quote exactly.

  • Use quotation marks around the text quoted.
  • Keep direct quotations to a minimum in your paper. Only quote text expressed in such a unique way that it would lose impact if you did not do so.
  • Your textbook will contain information on documenting exact quotations.

Document any material you summarize or paraphrase.

  • When you change the wording of an idea it still remains the property of the original author.
  • In most research papers, you should find that the majority of your documented sources are ones which you have paraphrased or summarized.
  • Do not use quotation marks when paraphrasing.
  • Your textbook will contain information on paraphrasing and summarizing material.

Do not document material that is common knowledge.

If material is commonly known to be true it does not need to be documented, even if you found the material in a source. This would include material not known to you prior to reading about it, but generally known by others. Examples of material which fall into this area are:

  • Historical dates and facts;
  • Most verifiable facts;
  • Anything which can be found in a standard reference book, such as an encyclopedia, dictionary, almanac, and the like.

Do not document your opinions or unique ideas.

  • If others are impressed with your opinions and ideas, they will need to document you as a source!

Unsure of Whether to Document a Source? Try one of the following self assessments!

To Document or Not? OR Plagiarism or Not?

Self Assessments

American Psychological Association Modern Language Association
APA Documentation of Library-Based Electronic Resources APA Documentation of Web Sites MLA Documentation of Library-Based Electronic Resources MLA Documentation of Web Sites