Quotation and Documentation
The "QD" items below outline the basics of the MLA (Modern Language Association) style of documenting sources, the method used in most English classes and in many other humanities courses. In MLA-style documentation, in-text parenthetical citations work in conjunction with a "Works Cited" list to acknowledge source materialquotations, ideas, facts and statistics, any information originating in other sources. On your graded assignments problems in quotation and documentation are indicated as QD1, QD1u, QD2, QD3p, etc.
QD1: Parenthetical citation
Document prose quotations and other borrowed information by placing the author's name, if needed (see QD1u), and the page number(s) in parentheses at the end of the sentence containing the quotation or other source material.Example: One famous "Notice by the Author" reads, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot" (Twain 3).Note that not only directly quoted material requires documentation, but any specific ideas or information you take from another source. Statistics, facts not generally known, and your reporting or paraphrasing of either general ideas or specific statements in another source all require parenthetical citation. Failure to acknowledge sources for any ideas or information gotten from other sources, including websites and dictionaries, is plagiarism: see my "On plagiarism" page.
Example: According to Solzhenitsyn, not a single Russian member of any non-Bolshevik political party escaped arrest in the Soviet Union between 1921 and 1937 (34).
Example: With the Blue Jays, Bobby Cox won the American League Manager of the Year award in 1985, and in 1991, 2004, and 2005 he was National League Manager of the Year with the Braves (baseball-almanac.com).
QD1nc ("nc" for "no comma"): Put no comma or any other punctuation between the author's name and the page number(s) in parenthetical citations.Faulty: (Twain, 3). Correct: (Twain 3).
QD1e ("e" for "end of sentence"): Even if your sentence continues after a quotation, place the parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence containing the quote. While the MLA does permit parenthetical citations immediately after a quotation in the middle of a sentence if there is a natural pause in the sentence or when there are multiple quotations from different sources in the same sentence, the MLA Handbook notes specifically that parenthetical citations should be given "preferably at the end of a sentence" (see Section 6.3, 7th edition p. 217; also Section 2.5, pp. 56-57).Example: When he says that "persons attempting to find a plot in [Huckleberry Finn] will be shot," Twain is probably being facetious (3).
QD1u ("u" for "unnecessary inclusion of author's name"): If your introduction of a quote indicates its author or source, put only the page number(s) in the parentheses. When you introduce a quotation properly (see nugget 3), the source will usually be evident, so you need not include the author's name in the parentheses. (see MLA Handbook 6.4.2, pp. 220-21).Example: Twain writes in the "Notice" to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, "Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot" (3).Similarly, if the context of your essay clearly establishes the source of a quotation, do not include the author's name in the parentheses. If, for instance, the subject of an entire essay is Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, any quote obviously taken from the novel would require only page number(s) in the parentheses:Example: Raskolnikov bashes the old woman's head repeatedly with the blunt side of the ax until "Blood poured out as if from an overturned glass and the body toppled over on its back" (66). [While you don't see the full context developed by preceding sentences in an essay here, the familiar reference to two characters does suggest that context has been established.]
Note: For some electronic sources no page numbers are given (web pages, e.g. and some full-text electronic journal articles). If a source has no pagination, put only the author of the work in the parentheses, without any page reference. In sources without pagination, if the author's name is not available, put an easily recognized shortened version of the title in the parentheses, or for websites, the basic root of the web address, as in www.nytimes.com.
QD1mw ("mw" for "multiple works" by the same author): If you cite two or more works by a single author, in place of the author's name in the parentheses, put an easily recognized shortened version of the title of the work cited.Example: One Poe narrator asserts defensively, "mad am I not," and another asks with even more pointed defensiveness, "but why will you say I am mad?" ("Black Cat" 182, "Tell-Tale" 189).
QD2: Punctuation and parenthetical citation
Place closing quotation marks immediately after the final word quoted. The parenthetical page reference goes outside the quotation marks, and there should be a single typed space between the closing quotation mark (or the last of your own words at the end of a sentence) and the parentheses.Faulty:
Emma becomes "more avid and inflamed than before (205)."
Emma becomes "more avid and inflamed than before"(205).
Emma becomes "more avid and inflamed than before" (205).
QD2up ("up" for "unnecessary punctuation"): Unless the quotation itself ends with a question mark or an exclamation point, put no punctuation between the last word of the quote and the closing quote mark. The end of the quotation is not the end of your sentencethe parenthetical citation isso final punctuation should come only after the parentheses. Commas, periods, semicolons (;), and colons (:) should never be included within the quote marks at the end of a sentence-ending quotation. Only if the quote ends with a dash () to indicate that a speech breaks off abruptly should a dash be included before a closing quote mark. If the quoted passage ends in a question mark or exclamation point, include the question mark or exclamation point inside the closing quote mark and still place a closing punctuation mark after the parentheses at the end of your sentence.Faulty: The doctor tells Rose that Oliver Twist has "been the companion of thieves for some time past;" (272).
Correct: The doctor tells Rose that Oliver Twist has "been the companion of thieves for some time past" (272).
Faulty: Rose cannot hold Oliver's past against him. She says of his captivity among a gang of thieves, "I still do not see anything in it to criminate the poor child." (272).
Correct: Rose cannot hold Oliver's past against him. She says of his captivity among a gang of thieves, "I still do not see anything in it to criminate the poor child" (272).
Faulty: When Mrs. Maylie insists that the servants were not involved in the burglary, Detective Officer Blathers says, "but they might have been in it," (273).
Correct: When Mrs. Maylie insists that the servants were not involved in the burglary, Detective Officer Blathers says, "but they might have been in it" (273).
Faulty: The doctor asks Blathers if he wants a drink: "What shall it be" (274)?
Correct: The doctor asks Blathers if he wants a drink: "What shall it be?" (274).
QD3: Block quotations of prose
When a prose quotation is longer than four lines on your typed page (not in the original source), indent the entire quote one inch from the left marginonly from the left margin, not the right. Block quotes are double spaced uniformly with the rest of your paper: put no extra spaces before or after block quotations.Example:
In "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrator's defensiveness about his
sanity calls his credibility into question. The story opens with the
narrator protesting his sanity with some vehemence:True!nervousvery, very dreadfully nervous I had beenMost readers recognize early on that the narrator is a madman,
and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease
had sharpened my sensesnot destroyednot dulled them.
Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things
in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.
How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily,
how calmly I can tell you the whole story. (62)
and it comes as no great surprise when he reveals himself a
paranoid and psychotic killer.
QD3uq ("uq" for "unnecessary quote marks"): Block quotes (of both prose and poetry) require no quotation marks.
QD3p ("p" for "placement of parentheses"): With block quotes, place the parentheses with page number(s) one space after the source's final punctuation mark. See the example above.
QD4: Citing poetry and drama in verse (Shakespeare, e.g.)
MLA citation of quotes from poems or plays in verse works differently from citation of prose quotations in several respects:
QD4lb ("lb" for "line breaks"): Since the arrangement of the text into separate lines on the page is a defining element of poetry or verse, you must indicate breaks between lines when quoting poems or plays in verse. When the quote is incorporated directly into the body of your paragraph (not set off as a block quote), indicate breaks between lines of verse with a slash (/). Insert one typed space before and after slashes indicating line breaks.Faulty:Note that slashes are unnecessary before the first line or after the last one, and that the poem's original capitalization of line beginnings is followed in the quotation.
The speaker of Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" tells his father, "The whiskey on your breath/Could make a small boy dizzy;/But I hung on like death" (1-3).
The speaker of Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" tells his father, "The whiskey on your breath/ Could make a small boy dizzy;/ But I hung on like death" (1-3).
The speaker of Theodore Roethke's "My Papa's Waltz" tells his father, "The whiskey on your breath / Could make a small boy dizzy; / But I hung on like death" (1-3).
QD4b ("b" for "block"): While more than four lines of prose in your typing are indented as a block quotation, more than three lines of poetry as they appear in the original source require block indention. When quoting poetry in block indention, no slashes are needed to indicate line breaks, and you should put separate lines in the original source on separate lines in your block quotation: make the passage on your page resemble its original form in the published source as closely as possible. If the spacing of words or lines in the original source is unusual, you should represent the original's spacing as precisely as you can in your paper.Example:
E. E. Cummings's "[in Just-]" has unusual spacing:the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope and
QD4ln ("ln" for "line numbers"): Put line numbers, not page numbers, in parentheses for quotations of poetry. Page numbers for poems are indicated only in the list of works cited. See the QD4 examples above.
QD4mp ("mp" for "multiple parts"): Put part and line numbers, separated by a period, in parentheses for quotations of poetry divided into separate "parts," "cantos," or "books" if the line numbering starts over at line 1 in each successive part, canto, or "book" of the poem.
Example: In Milton's version of the Eden story, Adam and Eve have sex and then argue incessantly after they have both eaten the apple: "Thus they in mutual accusation spent / The fruitless hours, but neither self-condemning, / And of their vain contest appeared no end" (9.1187-89). Note that the 9 indicates "Book 9" of Paradise Lost.
QD4vd ("vd" for "verse drama"): In parenthetical citation of quotations from plays in verse (Shakespeare, e.g.), act, scene, and line numbers are noted in the parentheses, with periods and no spaces between the three numbers. MLA-style documentation dictates that act, scene, and line numbers should be Arabic numerals, not Roman numerals.Example: The beginning of Hamlet's soliloquy is perhaps the most famous passage in all of Shakespeare: "To be, or not to be, that is the question" (3.1.56). Not (III.i.56).
QD5: The Works Cited page
QD5t ("t" for "title"): On a separate page following the text of your essay, center the title, Works Cited, at the top of the page without quotation marks or underlining and in the same font and font size as the body of your paper.
QD5ds (double spacing): Double space the entire Works Cited page throughout, from the title, Works Cited, to the end of the last entry: insert no extra spaces beyond the normal double spacing before, within, or between entries.
QD5a (alphabetical): Arrange the list of works cited alphabetically by the author's last name. If the author of a source is unknown, alphabetize by title. With multiple works by a single author, also alphabetize individual works by title.
QD5nn (no numbers): Works cited entries should not be numbered as footnotes and end notes are: begin works cited entries with the author's last name, not a number.
QD5hi (hanging indent): Begin works cited entries at the far left margin (one inch from the edge of the page), and for entries of more than one line, indent the second and any subsequent lines one-half inch from the left margin in a "hanging indent."
To set a hanging indent in Microsoft Word, click the word "format" above the Word toolbar; then click "paragraph"; then select the "indents and spacing" tab if it has not been selected by default; click the triangular pull-down icon under "special"; select "hanging"; close the window by clicking "okay."
QD5me (multiple entries by one author): When two or more works cited have the same author, each work requires a separate entry. After listing the author's name in the first entry (alphabetical by title), in place of the author's name for subsequent entries, type three hyphens followed by a period: ---.
QD5M (MLA): Organize each works cited entry according to MLA guidelines as outlined in the MLA Handbook or the MLA portion of any other college writing handbook. The most common types of entries contain the information indicated below:
Books, or articles or other works taken from books in print form (as opposed to electronic):
1) Author of the work cited, last name first (the author of the poem cited, for instance), followed by a period.
2) Title of work cited (the title of the play cited, for instance), followed by a period.
3) Title of larger work source is taken from, if applicablei.e. if the work you cite is included in a larger work or anthology such as The Little, Brown Reader or The Norton Introduction to Literaturefollowed by a period.
QD5ed (editor[s]): 4) Editor(s)if one or more editors is listed on the title page preceded by "Ed." (short for "Edited by") and followed by a period (see examples below). The editors of a literature anthology may also be the authors of commentary or other original matter within the anthology: Ann Charters is the editor of The Story and Its Writer, e.g., and Alison Booth and Kelly J. Mays are the editors of The Norton Introduction to Literature's tenth edition. When there are more than three editors, you may list only the first one, followed by "et al" (Latin for "and others"), as in "Ed. Jerome Beaty et al."
QD5ev (edition/volume): 5) Edition number and/or volume number of books that have more than one edition and/or volume, each or either followed by a period. If the entry has both edition and volume, put the edition first and the volume second.
QD5pub (publication info): 6) Publication information: city, publisher, and year of publication (of the larger work if the work you cited is taken from a collection or anthology). The city of publication is followed by a colon, the publisher's name, a comma, and the year of publication, which is followed by a period. None of the publication information should be in parentheses.Example: New York: HarperCollins, 1999.
QD5x (extraneous, unnecessary): With publisher names, leave out nonessential information such as "Publishers," "and Sons," "& Company," etc. If the full name of the publishing company is Macmillan Publishing Company, for instance, put only Macmillan in the works cited entry. University Presses should be abbreviated "UP": U of Texas P for the University of Texas Press, for example, or Northwestern UP for Northwestern University Press.
QD5p (pages): 7) Page numbers of the entire work (story, play, poem, etc.), if the work is published in a larger work with a title different from that of the specific piece you are citing. Indicate not just the individual pages you cite, but the pages of the entire work cited, from first page to last. Page numbers are followed by a period, too. In an entry for an entire booka novel, e.g.page numbers are unnecessary.
Note: Page numbers should not be put in parentheses, nor should they be preceded by the abbreviation "p." or "pp."
QD5prt (print): 8) Include the word "Print" to indicate you used the source in its original print form, not in electronic form as with a full-text online journal article or web source, e.g.
Examples of typical book entries:
Work from an anthology:
Allott, Miriam. "'Isabella,' 'The Eve of St. Agnes' and 'Lamia.'" John Keats:An entire book:
A Reassessment. Ed. Kenneth Muir. 2nd edition. Liverpool: U of
Liverpool P, 1958. 163-77. Print.
DeVane, William Clyde. A Browning Handbook. 2nd ed. New York:Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1955. Print.
QD5j (journals): Articles from journals or magazines in print form (not electronic).
Works cited entries for journal and magazine articles do not require editors or publication information. Works cited entries for journal and magazine articles include only the following, in the following order (see 5.4.2-6 in the MLA Handbook, pp. 137-43) :
1) Author of the article cited, last name first, followed by a period.
2) Title of the article cited, followed by a period.
3) Title of the journal or magazine, not followed by a period, but instead by either:
4) a) journal articles: volume and "issue number" the article appears in, separated by a period with no spaces and followed by year of the volume in parentheses and a colon (The issue number is necessary only when each issue's pagination begins at 1, which is rarely the case since journals tend to have continuous pagination throughout each yearly volume. So typically you will need only the volume number.); or b) magazine articles: the date of publication and a colon.Faulty: Volume 12, Number 3 (1993): or: Vol. 12, Num. 3 (1993):
Correct: 12.3 (1993):
5) Page numbers of the entire article, from first to last, followed by a period.
6) The word "Print" to indicate you used the source in its original print form, not in electronic form as with a full-text online journal article or web source, e.g.
Examples of journal and magazine entries:
Bloom, Harold. "How to Read a Poem: Browning's 'Childe Roland.'" GeorgiaReview 28 (1974): 404-18. Print.
Kirkpatrick, Curry. "Do or Die." ESPN the Magazine March 22, 1999: 66-67.
There are a host of different types of electronic sources with varying types of works cited entriesthe two most common types you will need for most academic work are included below: full-text articles from online databases and open-access World Wide Web pages.
QD5ft ("ft" for "full-text"): Full-text articles from electronic or online databases (JSTOR, EBSCO, Lexis-Nexis, etc.):
Works cited entries for full-text articles from electronic or online databases should include the same information in the same order and format as with print articles. If the article has no page numbers listed, write "n.p." in place of the page numbers (n.p. means "no pagination"); if only the first page number is listed, write the page number followed by either a plus sign (+) or "ff." (abbreviation for "and following").
1) the name of the database or online service, italicized or underlined and followed by a period;
2) the medium of publication, i.e."Web," also followed by a period; and
3) the date on which you accessed the information, followed by a period.
Thoms, Peter. "'The Narrow Track of Blood': Detection and Storytelling in Bleak
House." Nineteenth-Century Literature 50.2 (1995): 147-167. JSTOR.
Web. February 11, 2011.
West, G. "Bleak House: Esther's Illness." English Studies 73.1 (1992): 30-34.
EBSCO Academic Search Complete. Web. August 14, 2010.
QDw ("w" for "websites"): World Wide Web pages:
The information required in MLA-style works cited entries for Web sources can vary greatly depending on what information is available and what sort of website you are citing. An entry for a "plain-Jane" generic web page would include any and all of the following that are available:
1) Author of the document or web page, if available, followed by a period.
2) Title of the document or web page, if available, in quote marks and followed by a period.
3) Title of the website on which you found the source, if applicable and available, underlined or italicized and followed by a period.
4) Name of the publisher, the institution or organization posting or sponsoring the website on which your source was found, if any, followed not by a period but a comma instead. If not available, use "N.p."
5) Date the page was published or last updated, if available, followed by a period; if not available, put "n.d."
6) Medium of publication, i.e. "Web," then a period.
7) Date on which you accessed the information, then a period.
8) Optional, needed only when instructed by professor: Complete WWW address, in angle brackets <>, capped off with a period.
Rogers, Chip. "Quotation and Documentation." N.p. 2/11/11. Web.
"Omar Little." HBO: The Wire. HBO. n.d. Web. 7/26/10.