Monday, August 3, 2009

On citing works

This post is for the poor lost souls who keep winding up here after googling "works cited for [title]."

I am guessing that you're about fourteen and have only just learned about this whole "citation" thing. So here's the drill.

A works cited list gives people the information necessary to track down a source that you used: author, title, volume, publisher, date, etc.

There are several different citation styles. But if you're looking for "works cited," then chances are you're using MLA (Modern Language Association) format, one of two standard formats in the humanities (the other is Chicago).

In general, you won't have much success googling for the citation of a particular source. But that's okay, because there are standard templates for citing various kinds of sources, and you can easily figure out how to use them.

You'll find a nice summary of MLA style guidelines at Purdue University's inestimable Online Writing Lab (OWL).

Here's an MLA citation for a single-author book:

Altieri, Charles. Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989.

[Altieri, Charles] is the author. The last name comes first in a works cited list, because you will want to alphabetize your entries. In a footnote (in Chicago style, for instance) you would not invert the name, because there would be no need to alphabetize.

[Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry] is the title.

[Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1989] is the publication information: city, name of publisher (the UP stands for University Press; it's a standard abbreviation), year of publication.

Each of these categories is treated like a little sentence and ends with a period.

* * *

The MLA Handbook recently came out in its seventh edition, with a few notable style changes (notable, that is, if you were already using MLA 6). APA usually calls its list of works a "Reference List," while Chicago style has an optional bibliography in addition to footnotes or endnotes.

Here are a few more useful links:

APA (The OWL at Purdue University)

Chicago (there may be a paywall)

And for the benefit of all you "Stephen Crane study guide" googlers out there, here's the OWL's page on avoiding plagiarism. Remember that avoiding plagiarism is your responsibility.

Over and out.

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