00 In-Text Citations: The Basics

Source: ONLINE! © 2003 by Bedford / St. Martin’ , [visited 1.12.2008] <http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/online/cite5.html>

This chapter’s guidelines for citing Internet sources are based on two sources: the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (2003) by Joseph Gibaldi. The MLA Handbook advises that you acknowledge sources “by keying brief parenthetical citations in your text to an alphabetical list of works that appears at the end of the paper” (142). Widely used by writers in literature, language studies, and other fields in the humanities, the MLA style of documentation allows writers to keep texts “as readable and as free of disruptions as possible” (143).

The MLA Handbook provides information about the purposes of research; suggestions for choosing topics; recommendations for using libraries; guidance for composing outlines, drafts, notes, and bibliographies; and advice on spelling, punctuation, abbreviations, and other stylistic matters. It also presents a style for documenting sources and gives directions for citing print sources in the text and preparing a list of Works Cited. Thorough acquaintance with the MLA Handbook will, as its author promises, “help you become a writer whose work deserves serious consideration” (xv). This chapter follows the conventions of MLA citation style.

The MLA Handbook gives guidelines for making in-text references to print sources. The following section shows how you can apply the same principles to citing online sources in your text.

1. Link an in-text citation of an Internet source to a corresponding entry in the Works Cited.

According to the MLA Handbook, each text reference to an outside source must point clearly to a specific entry in the list of Works Cited. The essential elements of an in-text citation are the author’s name (or the document’s title, if no author is identified) and a page reference or other information showing where in a source cited material appears.

Create an in-text reference to an Internet source by using a signal phrase, a parenthetical citation, or both a previewing sentence and a parenthetical citation.

Box 5.1
Using italics and underlining in MLA style
The MLA Handbook provides the following advice for the use of italics and underlining in word-processed texts intended for print-only publication:

    Many word-processing programs and computer printers permit the reproduction of italic type. In material that will be graded, edited or typeset, however, the type style of every letter and punctuation mark must be easily recognizable. Italic type is sometimes not distinctive enough for this purpose, and you can avoid ambiguity by using underlining when you intend italics. If you wish to use italics rather than underlining, check your instructor’s or editor’s preferences. (94)

However, when composing in HTML, don’t substitute underlining for italics, because underlining in HTML indicates that the underlined text is an active hypertext link. (All HTML editing programs automatically underline any text linked to another hypertext or Web site.)

When composing Web documents, use italics for titles, for emphasis, and for words, letters, and numbers referred to as such. When you write with programs such as email that don’t allow italics, type an underscore mark _like this_ before and after text you would otherwise italicize or underline.

Using a signal phrase To introduce cited material consisting of a short quotation, paraphrase, or summary, use either a signal phrase set off by a comma or a signal verb with a that clause, as in the following examples. (See 4e for a discussion of signal phrases and verbs.)

Here are the Works Cited entries for these two sources:

Landsburg, Steven E. “Who Shall Inherit the Earth?” Slate 1 May 1997. 1 Oct. 1999 < http://www.slate.com/Economics/97-05-01/ Economics.asp>.
Mitchell, Jason P. Letter. “PMLA Letter.” Home page. 10 May 1997. 1 Nov. 1999 <http://sunset.backbone.olemiss.edu/~jmitchel/pmla.htm>.

Using a parenthetical citation To identify the source of a quotation, paraphrase, or summary, place the author’s last name in parentheses after the cited material.

“Parents know in advance, and with near certainty, that they will be addicted to their children” (Landsburg).

In response to Victor Brombert’s 1990 MLA presidential address on the “politics of critical language,” one correspondent suggests that “some literary scholars envy the scientists their wonderful jargon with its certainty and precision and thus wish to emulate it by creating formidably technical-sounding words of their own” (Mitchell).

Here are the Works Cited entries for these sources:

Landsburg, Steven E. “Who Shall Inherit the Earth?” Slate 1 May 1997. 1 Oct. 1999 <http://www.slate.com/Economics/97-05-01/ Economics.asp>.

Mitchell, Jason P. “PMLA Letter.” Home page. 10 May 1997. 1 Nov. 1999 <http://sunset.backbone.olemiss.edu/~jmitchel/pmla.htm>.

Using a previewing sentence and a parenthetical citation To introduce and identify the source of a long quotation (one comprising more than four lines in your essay or research paper), use a previewing sentence that ends in a colon. By briefly announcing the content of an extended quotation, a previewing sentence tells readers what to look for in the quotation. Indent the block quotation ten spaces (or two paragraph indents) from the left margin. At the end of the block quotation, cite the source in parentheses after the final punctuation mark.

That the heroic and historically important deeds of previously unknown women should be included in history books is evident from the following notice:

    Event: April 26, 1777, Sybil Ludington.
    On the night of April 26, 1777, Sybil Ludington, age 16, rode through towns in New York and Connecticut to warn that the Redcoats were coming. . . to Danbury, CT. All very Paul Reverish, except Sybil completed HER ride, and SHE thus gathered enough volunteers to help beat back the British the next day. Her ride was twice the distance of Revere’s. No poet immortalized (and faked) her accomplishments, but at least her hometown was renamed after her. However, recently the National Rifle Association established a Sybil Ludington women’s “freedom” award for meritorious service in furthering the purposes of the NRA as well as use of firearms in competition or in actual life-threatening situations although Sybil never fired a gun. (Stuber)

Here is the Works Cited entry:

Stuber, Irene. “April 26, 1996: Episode 638.” Women of Achievement and Herstory: A Frequently-Appearing Newsletter. 3 May 1996. 11 Dec. 1997 <http://www.academic.marist.edu/woa/ index.htm>.
2. Substitute Internet text divisions for page numbers.

The examples in 5a-1 assume that an Internet source has no internal divisions (pages, parts, chapters, headings, sections, subsections). The MLA Handbook, however, requires that you identify the location of any cited information as precisely as possible in parentheses. Because Internet sources are rarely marked with page numbers, you will not always be able to show exactly where cited material comes from. If a source has internal divisions, use these instead of page numbers in your citation. Be sure to use divisions inherent in the document and not those provided by your browsing software.

A text reference to a source with divisions may appear in the text along with the author’s name or be placed in parentheses after a quotation, paraphrase, or summary.

As TyAnna Herrington notes in her Introduction, “Nicholas Negroponte’s Being Digital provides another welcome not only into an age of technological ubiquity, but into a way of ‘being’ with technology.”

“Negroponte’s uncomplicated, personal tone fools the reader into a sense that his theses are simplistic” (Herrington “Introduction”).

Here is the Works Cited entry:

Herrington, TyAnna K. “Being Is Believing.” Rev. of Being Digital, by Nicholas Negroponte. Kairos: A Journal for Teaching Writing in Webbed Environments 1.1 (1996) at “Reviews.” 24 May 1996 <http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/1.1>.
3. Use source-reflective statements to show where cited material ends.

The MLA practice of parenthetical page-number citation lets you indicate precisely where information from a printed source ends. Many Internet sources, however, appear as single screens, and MLA style does not require parenthetical page citations for one-page works. By analogy, a single-screen document cited in text needs no page citation. To let your readers know where your use of an Internet source with no text divisions ends, use a source-reflective statement.

Source-reflective statements give you an opportunity to assert your authorial voice. Writers use source-reflective statements to provide editorial comment, clarification, qualification, amplification, dissent, agreement, and so on. In the following example, the absence of a source-reflective statement creates uncertainty as to where use of an Internet source ends.

According to TyAnna Herrington, Nicholas Negroponte has the ability to make complex technological issues understandably simple. For those who are not techno-philes, this is a blessing; it allows them to apprehend the real significance of digital technology without feeling that such ideas are too difficult to consider.

In the next example, the writer has added a source-reflective statement to show that use of the source has ended.

Here is the Works Cited entry:

Herrington, TyAnna K. “Being Is Believing.” Rev. of Being Digital, by Nicholas Negroponte. Kairos: A Journal for Teaching Writing in Webbed Environments 1.1 (1996) at “Reviews.” 24 May 1996 <http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/1.1>.

For updates to MLA citation style, consult the MLA’s Web site <http://www.mla.org>

When using MLA style, place a list of cited sources, arranged alphabetically, after the text of your essay and any explanatory notes. The MLA Handbook recommends that you “draft the [Works Cited] section in advance, so that you will know what information to give in parenthetical references as you write” (144). Doing this makes in-text citation of sources easier by giving you an idea of what in-text reference options will work best for each citation.

Referring to print sources, the MLA Handbook gives the following general models for Works Cited entries:

Box 5.2
Using hypertext to document sources on the Web
The hypertext environment of the World Wide Web doesn�t just alter the way you do research, it also lets you document sources in a new way�by using hypertext links. Electronic journals published on the Web are already replacing traditional notes, Works Cited listings, appendixes, and other supporting text with links to the documents being cited. To read more about hypertext documentation, see Chapter 10 of this book. For an example of how it works, look at the format of Andrew Harnack and Eugene Kleppinger, “Beyond the MLA Handbook: Documenting Electronic Sources on the Internet” in Kairos: A Journal for Teaching Writing in Webbed Environments 1.2 (1996) at <http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/1.2/ inbox/mla.html> or any essay published in Kairos at <http://english.ttu. edu/kairos>.

The MLA Handbook also presents numerous variations that accommodate a variety of print sources (e.g., a multivolume work, an editorial). For detailed information on creating a Works Cited list, see Chapter 4 of the MLA Handbook, “Documentation: Preparing the List of Works Cited.”

For writers creating in-text citations and Works Cited lists for online sources, the MLA Handbook provides the following general recommendations:

  • Download or print any online material you plan to use, in case it becomes inaccessible online later.
  • Don’t introduce a hyphen at the break of a URL between two lines.
  • If you must divide a URL between two lines, break it only after a slash.1

Section 4.9 of the MLA Handbook includes models for numerous types of online sources (e.g., an online book, an advertisement, a multidisc publication). The following models for Works Cited entries, based on the recommendations of the MLA Handbook, cover the types of sources most often cited by student and professional writers.

1. World Wide Web site

When you document sources from the World Wide Web, the MLA suggests that your Works Cited entries contain as many items from the following list as are relevant and available:

  • Name of the author, editor, compiler, or translator (if available and relevant), alphabetized by last name and followed by any appropriate abbreviations, such as ed.
  • Title of a poem, short story, article, or other short work within a scholarly project, database, or periodical, in quotation marks
  • Title of a book, in italics or underlined
  • Name of the editor, compiler, or translator of a book (if applicable and if not cited earlier), preceded by any appropriate abbreviation, such as ed.
  • Publication information for any print version
  • Title of the scholarly project, database, periodical, or professional or personal site (in italics or underlined), or, for a professional or personal site with no title, a description such as home page2
  • Name of the editor of a scholarly project or database (if known)
  • Version number (if not part of the title) or, for a journal, the volume, issue, or other identifying number
  • Date of electronic publication or posting or latest update, whichever is most recent (if known)
  • Name of any institution or organization sponsoring or associated with the Web site
  • Date you accessed the source
  • URL (in angle brackets) Although no single entry will contain all fourteen items of information, all Works Cited entries for Web sources contain the following basic information: Online document
    Author’s name (last name first). Document title. Date of Internet publication. Date of access <URL>.

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