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Method 1 Citing an Essay in MLA

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    Make sure MLA is the correct style for your document. MLA is the formatting style of the Modern Language Association. It's used in humanities areas like English studies, comparative literature, foreign language and literature, or cultural studies.[1] If you are writing for a class or to publish, check the teacher or publisher's preference for formatting style. Students should read assignment sheets and course syllabi. Writers seeking publication should check submission guidelines. If you still can't tell what style you should be using after reading the directions, contact the instructor or publisher.

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    Be able to recognize the two components of citation. When citing an essay, you include information in two places: in the body of your paper and in the Works Cited that comes after it. The Works Cited is just a bibliography: you list all the sources you used to write the paper. The citation information you include in the body of the paper itself is called the "in-text citation."[2]

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    Include the right information in the in-text citation.[3] Every time you reference material in your paper, you must tell the reader the name of the author whose information you are citing. You must include a page number that tells the reader where, in the source, they can find this information. The most basic structure for an in-text citation looks like this: (Smith 123).
    • In MLA, in-text citations always come at the end of the sentence. The period that would end the sentence comes after the parenthetical citation.
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    Learn when in-text citations are necessary.[4] Every single source that contains information you used must be included in your Works Cited and cited in-text. The most obvious time to use an in-text citation is when you quote from a source directly or refer to it by title or author. However, you also need to use an in-text citation any time you use information that you got from a source, but which isn’t “common knowledge.”
    • This can be a tricky concept to master. If you can’t determine if information is common knowledge or proprietary (work that belongs to the original author), cite it anyways to be safe.
    • Failing to attribute information that is the product of someone else's work is plagiarism. The repercussions can be severe.
    • For example, it is common knowledge that World War II broke out in 1939. Nobody owns that information.
    • But specific strategies, quotes from important figures in the war, and statistics about how many people were involved in the war are all examples of specific, proprietary information. The author of the source you used to research that information had to do the work of finding that information out. You must attribute it to them.
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    Choose the appropriate in-text citation method.[5] In-text citations are often parenthetical, meaning you add information to the end of a sentence in parentheses. But if you include that necessary information in the language of the sentence itself, you should not include the parenthetical citation.
    • Correct: A recent study determined that Himalayan brown bears eat both plants and animals (Rathore and Chauhan 6652).
    • Correct: Rathore and Chauhan determined that Himalayan brown bears eat both plants and animals (6652).
    • Incorrect: Rathore and Chauhan determined that Himalayan brown bears eat both plants and animals (Rathore and Chauhan 6652). — You should not list the author(s) parenthetically if that information is in the sentence itself.
    • Plagiarism: A recent study determined that Himalayan brown bears eat both plants and animals. — The writer did not attribute proprietary information to the people who conducted the study.
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    Adjust in-text citations if you have multiple sources from an author.[6] If you have two sources from "James Smith," an in-text citation of (Smith 235) may confuse the reader. When they look up the source on your Works Cited sheet, they will find two different articles by James Smith. To avoid this confusion, you must include a shortened version of the essay's title, so the readers know which essay to look for.
    • Imagine that the two James Smith articles are titled "Beloved and the Haunting Trauma" and "Writing What You Know." You want to reference the first article in-text.
    • Correct: James argues that "One of Sethe’s most deeply held beliefs in Beloved is the physical persistence of memory" ("Beloved" 235).
    • Correct: It could be argued that Sethe is haunted by "the physical persistence of memory" (Smith, "Beloved" 235).
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    Include the first initial if you have authors with the same last name.[7] Say you used information from essays by James Smith and Susan Smith. An in-text citation of (Smith 689) doesn't tell the reader which author provided the information. In that case, include the first initial of the author's last name in the in-text citation: (S. Smith 689).

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    Format the citation in the Works Cited.[8] Any information that gets cited in-text must have a corresponding citation in the Works Cited. When the reader sees a quote or idea that they would like to know more about, they will look up the source author by the last name you listed in the in-text citation. They will also know which page of the source they should look at to find the information they want. Depending on where you found the essay, your citation will follow a different format.
    • Regardless of what format you follow, one thing remains constant across all citations. You always indent all lines that come after the first line of a Works Cited citation. This lets the reader know where one citation ends and the next one begins.
    • MLA also uses title case ever time a title is given. This means that first word and all major words are capitalized: The Sound and the Fury. This is distinguished from sentence case, in which only the first word is capitalized: The sound and the fury.
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    Follow the format for an essay found in an anthology.[9] You may have found your essay in an anthology along with other essays curated by an editor. In this case, you must include the following information in this exact order:
    • Lastname, First name. "Title of Essay in Title Case.” Anthology in Title Case. Ed. Editor's Name(s). City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Page range. Print.
    • For example: Smith, Jane. "An Essay about wikiHow." wikiHow: The Collected Essays. Ed. Mark Jones. New York: wikiHow Publishers, 2015. 115-124. Print.
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    Include different information for essays published in journals. If you found the article in an academic journal, you have a different set of information to include. Some of the information — like author name, essay title, and page range — stay the same. But you should follow this format exactly:
    • Author(s). "Title of Article." Title animals of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication.
    • For example: Smith, Jane. "An Essay about wikiHow." The Journal of wikiHow 13.2 (2015): 115-124. Print.
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    Add electronic information for sources found in online databases.[10] Many essays can be accessed through a school's online library databases. Examples include EBSCOHost, JSTOR, and Lexis-Nexis. These databases store electronic versions of print journals as PDFs. The article you're citing may have originally appeared in a print journal, but you accessed it online. You need to let the reader know how they, too, can access it online:
    • Last, First. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Database. Web. Date of Access.
    • The date of access is the date on which you found the essay. In MLA, all dates follow this format: Date Month Year. For example: 15 July 2015.
    • For example: Smith, Jane. "An Essay about wikiHow." The Journal of wikiHow 13.2 (2015): 115-124. JSTOR. 15 July 2015.

Method 2 Citing an Essay in APA

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    Determine if APA is the right style for your document. APA is the formatting style for the American Psychological Association, but it's used in the social sciences, business, and nursing as well.[11] Just as you would for any paper, check assignment sheets and submission guidelines to make sure APA is appropriate.

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    Learn what information to include in-text.[12] In MLA, you only needed to include the author's last name and the page number in-text. In APA, though, you must add a third element: the year in which the essay was published. A further difference from MLA is that you include the in-text citation wherever the cited information is. Whereas in MLA, the in-text citation always goes at the end of the sentence, in APA it can interrupt the sentence.
    • If you mention the author by name in the sentence, the year appears in parentheses immediately after it. For example: Morrow (1998) argues that "quoted material" (p. 54).
    • The page number always appears immediately after the quoted or referenced material appears. For example: Morrow (1998) argues that cats bring their owners dead squirrels out of spite (p. 54), though other research suggests the opposite.
    • If you don't name the author in the sentence, put all three pieces of information in the parenthetical citation. For example: It may be argued that cats bring their owners dead squirrels out of spite (Morrow, 1998, p. 54), but it seems unlikely.
    • The order of information in the parenthetical always goes Author, Year, Page #.
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    Distinguish in-text between multiple sources by the same author.[13] In the Reference List, you will list multiple essays by the same author alphabetically by the first major word of the title. The first essay will be considered "a," the second "b," and so on. Add this letter designation to the year in the in-text citation to show which essay you're discussing.
    • Imagine you have two essays by Morrow titled "A White Christmas" and "Summer in the South." You want to cite the "Summer in the South" essay.
    • The first major word of "A White Christmas" is "white," so it comes after "Summer in the South" on the Reference List. You would list the year for "Summer in the South" as 2004a.
    • For example: Morrow argues that "the heat contributes to the slowness of southern culture" (2004a, p. 87), and it could well be true.
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    Add the first initial if you have authors with the same last name.[14] Just as you would in MLA, you provide a little bit of information about the author's first name to clear up reader confusion. Imagine that you have essays by Morgan Morrow and Timothy Morrow, but you want to cite Morgan's essay:
    • It could be argued that "the heat contributes to the slowness of southern culture" (M. Morrow, 2004a, p. 87).
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    Format the citation in the Reference List. The Reference List is a bibliography, just like MLA’s Works Cited. The entries on this list also depend on where the essay appears or how it’s accessed.
    • Essay found in a print anthology: LastName, FirstInitial. MiddleInitial. (Year of publication). Title of chapter in sentence case. In First Initial. MiddleInitial EditorsName & FirstInitial. MiddleInitial EditorsName (Eds.), Title of book in sentence case (Page range). Location: Publisher. [15]
    • Essay found in print journal: LastName, FirstInitial. MiddleInitial. (Year of Publication). Title of article in sentence case. Title of Journal in Title Case, Volume(Issue), Page Range.[16]
    • Essay accessed through online database: LastName, FirstInitial. MiddleInitial. (Year of publication). Title of article in sentence case. Title of Journal in Title Case, Volume(Issue), Page Range. Retrieved from http://www.thejournalsaddress.com/full/url/[17]
    • Note that you don’t provide database information in APA — only journal information.

Method 3 Citing an Essay in Chicago Style’s Note-Bibliography System

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    Decide which kind of Chicago style formatting you should use.[18] While APA and MLA are used by different types of disciplines, Chicago can be used by a wide range of writers. The catch is that there are actually two system of Chicago formatting.
    • The notes-bibliography system: used in the humanities (literature, history and the arts). It provides notes at the bottom of the page, and sometimes a full bibliography at the end of the text.
    • The author-date system: used the physical, natural, and social sciences. It provides parenthetical in-text citations that include the author and date of publication, as well as a bibliography.
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    Place footnotes at the bottom of the page.[19] When using the notes-bibliography system, you show that you want to cite a quote, idea, or other content by using a footnote. At the end of the sentence that contains the borrowed material, place a number in superscript. The first source cited on the page is “1,” the second source is “2,” and so on. This numbering system resets with each page, and you start over with “1” instead of moving on to “3.”
    • At the bottom of the page, create a space for footnotes that is separated from the body text by a typed lined is 1.5 inches wide.
    • Match each source to its information in the text by using the same number, but do not raise it into superscript.
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    Put endnotes after the body of the paper.[20] A second way to format the notes-bibliography system is to point the superscript notes in-text to a full bibliography at the end of the document. It’s formatted in the exact same way, but the numbering reaches from the first to last page, rather than restarting with each new page.

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    Format your notes properly.[21] Notes are single-spaced, but you should skip lines between entries. The first line of each source is indented, just like a paragraph, but subsequent lines are not.
    • Essay found in a print anthology: 1. First Last, “Essay Title in Title Case” in Book Title in Title Case, ed. EditorFirst and Last and SecondEditorFirst and Last (City: Publisher, Year), Page range.
    • For example: 1. Ford, Stephanie, “The Dawn of the Technological Age” in Essays on Technology, ed. Nancy Lyninger (London: wikiHow Publishing, 2015), 289-300.
    • Essay found in print journal: 2. AuthorFirst Last, “Essay Title in Title Case,” Journal in Title Case Issue# (Year): Page range.
    • For example: 2. Brown, David, “How to Make Friends,” The Journal of wikiHow 15 (2015): 352-361.
    • Essay accessed through online database: use the exact same format as that for the print journal, but add the doi (digital object identifier) if available. If not available, add the url.
    • For example: 3. Condron, Ursula, “Getting Along,” The Journal of wikiHow 12 (2013): 299-312, doi: 10.1163/157006598X00125.
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    Shorten the note for each source after the first usage.[22] If you use a source on the first page of your paper, then again on the 10th, then again on the 14th, your notes will get bloated with repetitive information. You can provide only the name and page number, or name, shortened title, and page number. Either way, you include a note pointing the reader to the first note for that source, where they can find full bibliographic information.
    • 12. Meisner, 118. [shortened from full information provided in note #3 above]
    • 12. Meisner, "The Way We Live," 118. [shortened from full information provided in note #3 above] This style is used if you have multiple sources by the same author.
    • If you have multiple authors with the same last name, just include the first name.
    • For example: Stanley Meisner, 118. [shortened from full information provided in note #3 above]
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    Create a bibliography.[23] The bibliography in this style is optional because all the sources are cited in notes already. However, many people choose to create a consolidated list of sources. While the notes are numbered and appear in the order in which the sources appear, the bibliography is alphabetized. If you include a range of sources, some of which you read but did not specifically need to cite for the paper, you should call the document a "Selected Bibliography." If you include only the sources you used in the paper, call it a "Works Cited" or "Reference List."
    • Just like the notes, bibliography entries are single spaced, with a skipped line between entries.
    • But unlike the notes, the first line is not indented, while subsequent lines are indented.
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    Format the bibliography entries properly.[24] Unlike the notes, information in the bibliography entries are separated by periods instead of commas.
    • Essay found in a print anthology: Last, First. “Title in Title Case.” In Anthology Title in Title Case, edited by First Last. City: Publisher, Year. Page range.
    • Essay found in print journal: Last, First. “Title in Title Case.” Journal in Title Case Volume (Year): Page range.
    • Essay accessed through online database: Last, First. “Title in Title Case.” Journal in Title Case Volume (Year): Page range. doi: 10.1163/157006598X00125.

Method 4 Citing an Essay in Chicago Style’s Author-Date System

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    Use parenthetical citations in-text.[25] The Chicago Author-Date style is like a mixture of MLA and APA. Just like in MLA, the Chicago Author-Date style inserts a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence, before the period. But the information included in the parenthetical is more like APA: author, date, and page number. There is no punctuation between the author and date, but the date and page number are separated by a comma:
    • The worldwide population of bees is in significant decline (Brown 2011, 203).
    • Brown points out that the worldwide population of bees is in significant decline (2011, 203).
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    Include information to distinguish between multiple authors and essays, if needed.[26] If you have multiple authors with the same last name, include the first initial in the parenthetical citation: (J. Smith 2005, 192). If you have multiple essays by the same author, the reader should be able to distinguish them by the year you've provided. But, if you have two articles by the same author and published in the same year, you mark them with a letter, like in APA. The letter again corresponds with the alphabetization of the essay titles by first major word: (Smith 2005a, 192).

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    Create a reference list. The Notes-Bibliography system does not require a bibliography, but the Date-Author system does. Like in MLA or APA, the reference list appears after the text of your essay has finished. The first line of each entry is unindented, while all subsequent lines are indented. Entries are listed in alphabetic order.
    • Essay found in a print anthology: Last, First. "Title in Title Case." In Anthology in Title Case, edited by First Last, Page range. City: Publisher, Year.
    • Essay found in a print journal: Last, First. "Title in Title Case." Journal in Title Case Volume, no. Issue (Year): Page range.
    • Essay found in online database: Last, First. "Title in Title Case." Journal in Title Case Volume, no. Issue (Year): Page range. Url for database.

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  • How do I cite a source that has multiple authors?

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    Write the name of the first author listed and then use the abbreviation "et. al."

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