Documenting Sources

Writers traditionally identify the source of words or ideas that they quote, paraphrase, or summarize from outside sources. In informal writing—personal narratives, for instance, or humorous pieces—sources are best identified in the text itself, keeping the reference brief yet clear.

Keeping the above purposes of documentation in mind will help you decide whether you need a reference note or not. Consider, also, these more specific guidelines:

Unfortunately, there is no universally accepted form of documentation. Different fields of study, different institutions, and even different instructors have their own preferences. The form presented here is that of the Modern Language Association (MLA).

When you cite a source, your note should be placed in parentheses at the end of the material you're documenting.

A Works Cited page gives full publication information for the works cited in your parenthetical notes. A reader who wants to follow up on your references to Erich Fromm, for instance, would find an entry like this: