46 When to Cite Sources


As you learned in the chapter on Ethical & Legal Use of Information, it is necessary to give credit to others when you use their information in your assignment. Using other people’s information may come in the form of a direct quote, or summarizing or paraphrasing somebody else’s words. Paraphrasing means you restate what an author said in your own words; summarizing is when you talk about the main concepts or points. When you include someone else’s ideas whether that’s word-for-word (a direct quote), or summarizing or paraphrasing the words of somebody else—you need to include an in-text citation to let others know that the information is not your own, and to allow your reader to go and find the same source you used. Since in-text citations are only brief notations, they will all need a full citation at the end of the assignment or paper. See the each of the MLA and APA chapter for information on creating these full citations.

“Good writers understand why they create citations. The reasons include demonstrating the thoroughness of the writer’s research, giving credit to original sources, and ensuring that readers can find the sources consulted in order to draw their own conclusions about the writer’s argument. Writers achieve the goals of documentation by providing sufficient information in a comprehensible, consistent structure” (MLA Handbook 4).

MLA In-Text Examples:

  • Direct Quote: According to Susan Cain, “excessive stimulation seems to impede learning: a recent study found that people learn better after a quiet stroll through the woods than after a noisy walk down a city street” (85).
    Note: 85 is the page number.
  • Paraphrasing: A recent study found that people tend to learn better after they took a quiet walk in the woods as opposed to a noisy walk down a city street (Cain 85).
    Note: Cain is the author’s last name, and 85 is the page number.
  • For a source with no author, cite the title, abbreviated: “The Cooper-Molera garden represents the methods and plantings available in 1860’s California” (“Secret Gardens”).
    Note: This direct quote comes from a publication called “The Secret Gardens of Old Monterey” that does not mention who the author is.

APA In-Text Examples:

  • Direct quote: According to a study on social pain, “acetaminophen reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with the pain of social rejection, demonstrating substantial overlap between social and physical pain.” (DeWall et al., 2010, p. 14)
    Note: DeWall is the author’s last name, and “et al.” means there are additional authors. 2010 is the year of publication, and 14 is the page number.
  • Paraphrasing: In one study by DeWall et al. (2010), it was discovered that over-the-counter painkillers, like Acetaminophen, reduced social pain.
  • For a source with no author and/or no date, use the title and n.d. for “no date”: An online poll found that the more time students spent in the library, the higher their overall GPA (“Student Success Poll,” n.d.).


MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.


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Introduction to College Research Copyright © by Walter D. Butler; Aloha Sargent; and Kelsey Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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