Research Paper Basics

First Look at Citation

1. Some quick and dirty rules

  1. Nearly everything you write in college from now on will use outside sources. (Very little of your writing will be your own unsupported opinion and feelings unless you take a course in writing short stories or writing poems.)
  2. The general rule is “If you didn’t think this up yourself, tell us where you got it.”
  3. There are three major citation formats (and a host of less well-known ones), and they are similar enough to be confusing (MLA, APA, and Chicago). You need to keep your wits about you.
    • It’s always OK to ask your instructor which format your course is using.
    • This course is using MLA.
    • A rule for all formats: The citation format must be pure. What I mean is that you cannot have pieces and parts from more than one citation format all mixed together. (You cannot have APA in-text citations, a Works Cited page with MLA citations, but numbered according to the IEEE format.)
  4. Unfortunately, the organizations behind these formats keep revising things, so you need a very recent resource as your guide.

2. How they work—both APA and MLA

3. Some myths to forget

I see these problems really often in papers.

4. Here is what MLA looks like

This is in the body of the paper:

…end of a sentence where you referred to her ideas (Lourde 244).

This is the item for the Works Cited page:

Lourde, Audre. “The Fourth of July.” 1982. 50 Essays: A Portable Anthology, edited by Samuel Cohen, 6th ed., Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2020, pp. 242-45.

4. A bit of help for you

Noodletools is a fill-in-the-blanks website that will generate great MLA and APA bibliographic information. Follow this link for complete instructions:

Link to Noodletools instructions

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author.

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 1/5/22 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: