MLA Updates: What’s New

MLA has recently released the new 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook, which includes several updates. Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) explains the changes in the following article:

MLA Eighth Edition: What’s New and Different

[Contributors:Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Purdue OWL Staff]

In April 2016, MLA replaced its seventh edition resources with a new eighth edition. This updated version reflects the ways in which digital publication has changed how writers and researchers document sources. Therefore, the new edition includes significant shifts in the approach to source documentation in academic writing. While earlier editions emphasized the importance of following specific guidelines for formatting, the eighth edition focuses on the practice and process of scholarly documentation. The logic here is basic: a style guide should offer a method that is widely applicable. Rather than insisting that writers follow strict citation formulas, this handbook outlines the principles of MLA documentation and explains how writers can use them in many different situations.

For this reason, the new edition focuses on the writer’s strategy and individual decisions. Not all scholarly prose is the same, and every writer should evaluate her/his readers and determine how to best engage them. The writer’s goal should be to provide a document and list of sources that is easy for readers to use, so that the reading experience is informative and enjoyable.

Like earlier editions, this handbook includes information on evaluating sources, avoiding plagiarism, using quotations, constructing abbreviations, and other topics important to the scholarly writer. But what is different about the eighth edition is that it recommends a universal set of guidelines that writers can apply to any source, in any field. In the past, writers would create an entry in a works cited list by looking at MLA’s instructions for how to cite a specific type of source. For example, if you needed to cite a film, you would consult the handbook to see the proper format for documenting film. In this new edition, MLA explains that this method is no longer practical, since types of sources are sometimes undefinable, or accessible in more than one way (for instance, a YouTube clip from a film is not the same as the original film itself). Therefore, the eighth edition offers a new model for entries in a works cited list, so that rather than consulting the handbook for the proper way to document a specific type of source, the writer creates entries by consulting MLA’s list of core elements and compiling them in the recommended order.

Core elements are those basic pieces of information that should be common to all sources, from books to articles, from lectures to tweets. The MLA core elements are as follows:

Author Number
Title of source Publisher
Title of container Publication date
Other contributors Location

If you have included these elements and assembled them in a way that makes sense to your readers, then your works cited entries will be consistent and thorough.

Look for updates to OWLs resources and more detailed information about changes to MLA guidelines coming soon.


Since the eighth edition focuses on the principles of documenting sources, rather than on strict adherence to a particular format for each source, citations in this new edition vary only slightly from the old ways. When comparing works cited entries in the new eighth edition with the former seventh edition, see that differences in citation style are minimal; punctuation is streamlined, volume and issue numbers are identified as such, and there is no excess information such as city of publication or media type.

Note the differences in citing a print book with one author:

Eighth edition (the new way):

Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford UP, 2011.

In this version, only the most essential information is included (author’s name, book title, publisher, and date). Note that the city of publication is not needed, and the medium of publication is eliminated.

Seventh edition (the old way):

Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.

This version includes the city of publication (Oxford) and the medium (print), which the new eighth edition does not require.

The differences in citing an article from a scholarly journal:

Eighth edition:

Kincaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring 2001, pp. 620-26.

This version identifies the volume (24), the number (2), and the page numbers (620-26) of the scholarly journal, rather than leaving those numbers without clear explanation. This helps readers best make sense of your citation and allows them to locate your source without getting bogged down with extra information or references that can be difficult to decipher. Also note that punctuation is simple; only commas separate the journal title, volume, number, date, and page numbers.

Seventh edition:

Kinkaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo 24.2 (Spring 2001): 620-26. Web.

This version includes the volume and number (24.2), and page numbers (620-26) of the journal, but does not explain those references. The seventh edition emphasized following a strict punctuation formula, such as parentheses around the date and the colon, while the new eighth edition focuses on providing this information in a more streamlined manner by using only commas to separate each component.


If you are already familiar with traditional MLA citation methods, continue to use them in a more simplified form. Since the eighth edition emphasizes the writer’s freedom to create references based on the expectations of the audience, consider what your readers need to know if they want to find your source.

  • Think of MLA style principles as flexible guides, rather than rules. Part of your responsibility as a writer is to evaluate your readers and decide what your particular audience needs to know about your sources.
  • Your goal is to inform, persuade, and otherwise connect with your audience; error-free writing, along with trustworthy documentation, allows readers to focus on your ideas.
  • In-text citations should look consistent throughout your paper. The principles behind in-text citations have changed very little from the seventh to the eighth editions.
  • List of works cited/works consulted needs to include basic core information, such as author’s name, title of source, publication date, and other information, depending on the type of source. Each entry should be uniform and simple, but should give enough information so that your readers can locate your sources.
  • These updated MLA guidelines are based on a simple theory: once you know the basic principles of style and citation, you can apply that knowledge widely, and generate useful documentation for any type of publication, in any field.


For more information on MLA changes, visit

Creating an Annotated Bibliography


To understand how to create an annotated bibliography, let’s start with defining a working bibliography. As you begin to locate and compile source material for your project, you’ll want to record the information for the sources you think you might use. It’s important to remember that in the early stages of constructing a research paper, you are discovering source material that may or may not go in the finished project, but to be efficient and not lose valuable materials (and time!) we compile a working bibliography to keep track of our research. It’s referred to as a “working” bibliography, as we are still working on the project, so all of the sources we find may or may not go in the final project.

An annotated bibliography is taking the working bibliography one step further. By annotating, or taking notes, on the source material you find, you will have an overview of the source, such as the type of source it is, a brief summary of the source, and how you might use it in your paper. Often, annotated bibliographies are a separate assignment of a research project, as your instructor wants you to demonstrate your understanding of the source and consider exactly how you intend to use it in your paper. Seasoned researchers often keep an annotated bibliography of their project, recording their thoughts on each source as they build their paper.

If your instructor has assigned an annotated bibliography, he or she most likely wants you to briefly summarize the source material, describe the purpose it will serve in your paper, for instance, if it will support or oppose your arguments, and may even ask you to explain why you chose the source. It’s not enough simply to collect random sources; as you compile your source list, it’s important to be able to synthesize the material and critically consider how you will incorporate it into your project. An annotated bibliography shows your instructor you have evaluated your source material carefully.

Below are examples of both MLA and APA annotated bibliography entries.

Example of Annotated Bibliography Entry


Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.

Lamott’s book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities   and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott’s book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one’s own internal critic. In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun.

Lamott offers sane advice for those struggling with the anxieties of writing, but her main project seems to be offering the reader a reality check regarding writing, publishing, and struggling with one’s own imperfect humanity in the process. Rather than a practical handbook to producing and/or publishing, this text is indispensable because of its honest perspective, its down-to-earth humor, and its encouraging approach.

Chapters in this text could easily be included in the curriculum for a writing class. Several of the chapters in Part 1 address the writing process and would serve to generate discussion on students’ own drafting and revising processes. Some of the writing exercises would also be appropriate for generating classroom writing exercises. Students should find Lamott’s style both engaging and enjoyable.

(Example from Purdue Owl Online).

This example shows a typical annotated bibliography assignment, with one brief paragraph of summary, one paragraph of evaluation, and a final paragraph explain how the writer will utilize it.

The example below shows a shorter, one paragraph entry:

Example 2

Waite, Linda J., Frances Kobrin Goldscheider, and Christina Witsberger. “Nonfamily Living and the Erosion of Traditional Family Orientations Among Young Adults.” American Sociological Review 51.4 (1986): 541-554. Print.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

(Example from Cornell U Library)


Example 1

Ehrenreich, B. (2001). Nickel and dimed: On (not) getting by in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

In this book of nonfiction based on the journalist’s experiential research, Ehrenreich attempts to ascertain whether it is currently possible for an individual to live on a minimum-wage in America. Taking jobs as a waitress, a maid in a cleaning service, and a Walmart sales employee, the author summarizes and reflects on her work, her relationships with fellow workers, and her financial struggles in each situation.

An experienced journalist, Ehrenreich is aware of the limitations of her experiment and the ethical implications of her experiential research tactics and reflects on these issues in the text. The author is forthcoming about her methods and supplements her experiences with scholarly research on her places of employment, the economy, and the rising cost of living in America. Ehrenreich’s project is timely, descriptive, and well-researched.

(Example from Purdue Owl Online).

In the example above, the entry summarizes the book in the first paragraph, and analyzes and evaluates in the second paragraph.

The entry should be double spaced. Some style books show to break paragraphs, and others show to keep the entire entry in one paragraph with no breaks. Always follow your instructor guidelines.

Example 2

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51 (4), 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.

(Example from Cornell U Library)

NOTE: Standard MLA practice requires double spacing within citations. Both MLA and APA require hanging indent on the first line of each entry, which our blog format does not show.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, annotated bibliographies can be descriptive and critical; they can interpret the author’s point of view, and evaluate the author’s authority and even their style. If you have been assigned an annotated bibliography, take care to follow your instructor guidelines and include the required elements. For your own purposes, briefly summarize the source and note how you will utilize it in your paper. Even though it may seem like a time-consuming step, annotating your sources as you go will save you time in the end, as you’ll not only know exactly where to integrate the source, but you will also have your works cited or reference list complete.

** Note that the first line of all entries should be flush with the left margin, which the screen does not show.


Examples from:

Olin Library Reference
Research & Learning Services
Cornell University Library
Ithaca, NY, USA

Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab


Research Tools: Google Scholar

(This article originally appeared as “The Research Paper” Sept. 2012)

Getting Started with Research

Your instructor has assigned a research paper which will require ten credible sources. You begin your search where everyone does – online. You Google your search term, “Lower Drinking Age,” to find over five million hits. You make it more specific: “Lower Drinking Age to 18,” and get 4 million hits. You pull out your assignment guidelines for some direction, and notice it states, “Ten credible sources, only 3 of which can be websites.”

You’re doomed.

You are at home or work and can’t get to the library. How can you ever find enough sources for your paper if you are not allowed to use all websites? And what does “credible” mean anyway?

Sound familiar?

Finding reliable sources is the single most time-consuming task of writing a research paper. It takes time and patience to locate effective sources that support your argument. So where to start?

Google Scholar

In the initial stages of gathering research, the internet can be a useful tool if used wisely. As you are just beginning to gather information, you want to cast a wide net to understand all the angles of your topic. One great online site to begin is Google Scholar.

Google Scholar can give you access to research across a wide range of disciplines. You’ll find all types of print and web sources: books, journal articles, court documents, dissertations, and even university websites, which are generally the most credible type of web-based source (should always be “edu”).





If you search “Lower Drinking Age,” you’ll see a sidebar on the left that offers you a way to narrow the results by type, year, and relevance. On the right is a “My Citations,” link where you can track a researcher’s work (you have to have a Google account for this). The advantage of this tool is if you find a particular researcher who is publishing work in your topic of interest, you can find other relevant publications by the same author.

Once you find some intriguing articles, you can click on the link to read the abstract (description of the article). If you scan over to the right of the link, you may see links to the printed version in a PDF file with the full text. At the bottom of the annotated link, you’ll see a horizontal list of further help, including “Cited,” which shows many times the article has been cited; html, if this type of version is offered, other related articles (which is a good info to have for further research; other versions of the article (which may include more current research), and other types of information related to the article.

Advanced Search

Advanced Search


If you are on a campus computer, you may also see a link under the link that says, “find at MCC,” (or your local college or university). This means your campus will have that source in one of its libraries or have access to it.



Take some time in this stage to tweak your search terms and scan the research to find the perfect support for your paper. Take careful notes of the articles and authors you might to use, or if you are able, print out the full link so you’ll have it when you go back to read the full text later. Slowing down and taking these steps will save you time later.




Works Cited: The Basics


If you’re writing a paper for a college English class, chances are you’ll be asked to use MLA documentation style. MLA, or Modern Language Association, is a style of documentation generally used in Humanity or Liberal Arts fields (though not always). Research sources for MLA use authorpage number for in-text citations, as opposed to the year that APA (American Psychological Association) uses. The reason for this difference is that the currency of research is of greater importance in the sciences, which usually requires APA documentation.

For MLA, writers must compile a Works Cited page at the conclusion of their essay. A Works Cited is an alphabetical list of all the sources you used in your paper. Your instructor might ask for a Works Consulted page, which is all the sources you have read in preparation for your paper, not only the ones you have referenced in the text.

Basic Format

If your essay is 10 pages long, Works Cited will be page 11. Even if the essay only falls onto the first or second line of page 10, Works Cited must begin on the following page.

The title, Works Cited, should be centered on the page. It is not necessary to bold, italicize, or enlarge the font of the title. All lines will be double-spaced, including from the title to the first entry.

Hanging Indent

If the entry is long enough to run onto a second line, a hanging indent will be used. A hanging indent is exactly the opposite of a traditional indent; instead of indenting the first line, with all subsequent lines flush left, the first line of the entry will be flush left, with all subsequent lines indented, regardless of number. The reason for a hanging indent on a Works Cited page is so a reader can easily find the source’s name or title while scanning the Works Cited page. The page will look like this:

(ex. from Purdue Owl Online)

(ex. from Purdue Owl Online)






To easily format for a hanging indent in MS Word, under the “Home” tab, click on the “Paragraph” arrow to open; on the right of the box, you should see “Special” with “none” as the default. Click the arrow beside “none” and “Hanging” should be the last item. If you format the hanging indent before you enter your sources, it will automatically create a hanging indent for each entry.

Other Basics

 Titles of Works

Knowing when to italicize or put quotation marks around titles of works is tricky for beginning writers. If you can just remember that small works – for instance, chapter titles found in anthologies – are placed in quotation marks; larger works – like a book or journal – are italicized. So, for instance, the journal article, “Five Fallacies of Education,” will be in quotation marks, and the journal, Harvard Review will be in italics. A newspaper article will be in quotation marks, and the name of the newspaper italicized, like this:

“Iowa Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill.” Des Moines Register.

It gets more complicated with websites, but just remember the smaller work is placed in quotations and the larger work in italics.

Multiple Works by Same Author

It’s actually quite common to find several different articles by the same expert, so you might cite more than one work by the same author. On your Works Cited, give the author’s name in the first entry only. Every entry after the first one with the full name, type three hyphens, which stand for the name in the preceding entry.  The three hyphens, like the name, will be followed by a period. Alphabetize all entries by title. It will look like this:


Knopp, Lisa. Field of Vision. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1996. Print.

—. The Nature of Home: A Lexicon and Essays. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2002. Print.

(ex. from



Final Thoughts


Students often find Works Cited pages to be a bit confusing to put together.  Always refer to your handbook or a respected website, such as Purdue Owl or Bedford St. Martin, both great resources to utilize as you work through the process of compiling your source page. Click the links below to go to their websites.

It’s always best to compile your Works Cited manually, meaning avoid the automatic citation help in MS Word and other computer-generated software, which may incorrectly format an entry if the writer fails to plug in the correct information.

For more questions about Works Cited or MLA, visit Purdue Owl or Bedford St. Martin’s.


Introduction to MLA


MLA stands for Modern Language Association. MLA citation style is generally used in the humanities and liberal arts fields. MLA style, according to MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, ”represents a consensus among teachers, scholars, and librarians in the fields of language and literature on the conventions for documenting research, and those conventions will help you organize your research paper coherently” (xiii).

Did you notice that at the end of the previous quote, some roman numerals were inside parenthesis before the period? This is referred to as an in-text citation. This refers to the page in the text where you can find the quote. In this case, the quote is from the introduction, and often roman numerals are used in intros.

A Little History

According to the editors of the MLA Handbook, MLA published a style sheet in 1951, and since then has been refining the style to help academics and researchers compose their writings and research (xiv). (Note that even though the previous sentence is not a direct quote, but paraphrased, it still includes a parenthetical citation. Credit must be given to ALL information taken from any source, or the writer could be accused of plagiarism.)






As you compose your research paper, you’ll be asked to include outside sources on your topic. This research might take the form of print sources, such as books, journals, newspapers, or magazines. You may also want to utilize online or web sources, such as an organization’s website, an online magazine or newspaper, or even Wikipedia. If you are not sure what types of research are permitted, ask your instructor.

Types of Sources


A research paper will have two types of sources – primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are original information from an author who has experienced or witnessed what he or she is writing about. They might include original documents or artifacts.

Secondary sources usually analyze and interpret primary sources.  Secondary sources are not original, and are often several steps removed from the event. A journal article that analyzes someone else’s research is an example of a secondary source. Learning how to locate, analyze, and integrate secondary sources into your writing is one of the most important skills you will learn as you write your research paper. You will need to not only learn how to assess other’s research, but you also must articulate your own ideas clearly.

In-text Citations

In MLA, any information you take, whether directly quoted or paraphrased, must be cited in the text of your paper immediately after the information in what is known as a parenthetical citation. What goes in this parenthetical citation depends upon the type of source information used. This parenthetical citation must coincide with the Works Cited page, which is the reference page at the end of your essay. MLA uses what is known as the “author-page” citation, which means you’ll include the author’s last name and the page number where the information came from. If you mention the author in the text, you will omit it from the parenthetical reference.

Example: Human beings have been described by Kenneth Burke as “symbol-using animals” (3).

Since the author’s name is mentioned in the text, only the page number is given.


Human beings have been described as “symbol-using animals” (Burke 3).

In this example, the author’s name is given in the citation, as it is not mentioned in the text.

Many other sources, though, may not list an author, and most web-based sources list no page number. Refer to the current  MLA Handbook or Purdue Owl for information on different types of citations when lacking an author, page number, or both.

Works Cited

The works cited page is the reference page to your paper. It will alphabetically list every source used in your paper (both primary and secondary), whether you have directly quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. The works cited pages gives publication information on source material so that a reader, if interested, can easily locate the entire source.

All items on the works cited page should correspond with all in-text citations in the paper. This means that each entry should match the way you have cited it in the text of your essay. For example, if the Works Cited has an entry with the last name of “Adams,” the paper should have either an attributive tag to Adams, or Adams should be in the parenthetical citation, with a page number if a print source (online sources often do not have page numbers).

MLA requires specific formatting, so always refer to your handbook or visit Purdue Owl to check your entries.

Never Guess

Learning how to locate, analyze, and integrate research into your compositions can be time-consuming and often confusing. You should never guess how to cite a source. Refer to the MLA Handbook or visit Purdue Owl online for any questions you may have on in-text citations or your works cited page.



Building Paragraphs with Research


Recently here at Writing Center Underground, we’ve been discussing the research paper process. We began with explaining how to formulate a research question, how to write a thesis, and last week we discussed how to begin building paragraphs. For a research paper assignment, a large part of developing paragraphs requires knowledge of how to smoothly integrate your sources’ quotations, as well as paraphrases and summaries.

Research that is taken from an outside source and just stuck into random paragraphs without careful integration runs the risk of sounding like it doesn’t belong, creating paragraphs that are choppy and difficult to read. Writers who aren’t used to utilizing outside sources often have a difficult time making outside research sound like it belongs in their research paper, but with careful preparation, your sources will flow smoothly into your text. Remember that quoting should be done only sparingly; be sure that you have a good reason to include a direct quotation when you decide to do so.


Before you begin to integrate source material, you need something to integrate into. Writers who try to compose a paper at the same time they are integrating sources find they lose their “voice,” and begin to sound like the voice of the research they are quoting. To avoid this, write a draft of your paper with only your words and your voice doing the talking. By taking this first step in getting your ideas on paper, you’ll avoid letting the research take over your paper. Instructors often require a rough draft before even integrating source material.

Quote, Paraphrase or Summary?

Just to review, the difference between quotes, paraphrases, and summarizes are

Quotations must be identical to the original, using a narrow segment of the source. They must match the source document word for word and must be attributed to the original author.

Paraphrasing involves putting a passage from source material into your own words. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly.

Summarizing involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words, including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material. (Purdue Owl Online)


While you might prefer paraphrasing over directly quoting to avoid the headache of signal phrases or quotation marks, a mix of both is often preferred, and very short quotations work well when integrated into sentences.  However, overusing direct quotes, or using very long quotes, actually shows that you have not done your homework and only copied quotes to make it seem you understand the material.  An effective paraphrase or summary is often more effective than a direct quote and shows you understand the material.


When to Use Quotes

Remember that quotes cannot take the place of your voice, but are meant to support your argument. Use quotes sparingly, and avoid long quotations when possible. According to The Bedford Handbook, use quotes

  • When language is especially vivid or expressive
  • When exact wording is needed for technical accuracy
  • When the words of an important authority lend weight to an argument

Integrating Quotes into Paragraphs

The first rule to remember is that quotes should never stand alone as a sentence. For example, the following quote has no other words in the sentence outside of the direct quote:

“A paragraph is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea” (57).

This is often referred to as a “dangling quote” and when inside of a paragraph, will seem disconnected not only from your thoughts but the rest of the sentences. To integrate the quote into the paragraph, introduce the quote with a signal phrase, an introduction of the author with a few words. In the example below, the signal phrase is in italics:

According to Doug Smith, consultant with WordMix Writing Labs, “A paragraph is a self-contained unit of a discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea” (57).

In the following example, note that there is no comma after “that” as it reads as a continuous thought. If the attribution ended with the word “says,” it would have a comma immediately after “says”:

Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, says that “It is a good idea to wait awhile before you reread your writing” (162).

Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, says, “It is a good idea to wait awhile before you reread your writing” (162).

Smoothing Transitions

It’s important for readers to move from your words to the source’s words fluidly. Utilizing signal phases with at the least the author’s name, creates a smooth transition:

There are numerous types of student loans available, but not all are in the best interest of borrowers. Student advocate Diane Bennett says, “Students need to understand the intricacies of all available loan programs” (89). Bennett believes students are often taken advantage of by scrupulous private lenders.

In this example, the direct quote is surrounded by sentences leading up to, and leading away from, the quoted material. The information in the quote is contextualized for the reader.

In the following example of an integrating a source, the signal phrase is a full, explanatory sentence:

Goldberg believes writers must show feelings and avoid telling at all costs: “The writer takes the reader’s hand and guides him through the valley of sorrow and joy without ever having to mention those words” (68).

The rule for using a colon following an attribution is if the attributive tag is a complete sentence, an independent clause, it must be followed by a colon. Dangling quotes, or quotes that stand alone as a sentence, are considered incorrect, as the quote has no attribution. You can often (though not always) correct this mistake by taking the previous sentence and place a colon at the end instead of a period:

Incorrect:  Cameron believes artists should stop making excuses for not following their dreams. “Stop waiting until you make enough money to do what you really love” (168).

Correct: Cameron believes artists should stop making excuses for not following their dreams: “Stop waiting until you make enough money to do what you really love” (168).

Paraphrases and Summary

When integrating a paraphrase or summary, be careful to change all language and phrasing, putting it in your own words. Even half-copying can be considered plagiarism. Also, make certain you have created a “boundary” between your words and the research, especially when it’s paraphrased.

Just like direct quotes, paraphrases and summaries require signal phrases as well. Otherwise, readers will not understand the words are from research and not the writer’s own words.

As Matt Fox has noted, not all professors utilize rubrics in their classrooms.

John Snow claims that not all distracted driving can be blamed on cell phones.


Final Thoughts

By following a few simple steps as you work to integrate outside source material, your research will flow naturally, creating a finished paper that will read fluidly.

Last Minute Tips to Fine-tune your Essay


As our term is winding down here, the Writing Center is seeing a flurry of students coming in who are putting the final touches on their essays. Below we’ve shared some tips and tricks to get your paper ready to turn in.  





MLA Formatting

Include 1” margins on all sides.

Double-space all lines (no extra spaces between header and title and title and text).

Center title. Do not bold, italicize, or enlarge font.

Single space after periods or other end punctuation (unless directed otherwise).

Tab all indents; spacing 5 times does not give enough of an indent.

Insert paginated right header, which is your last name only, followed by a space, then the page number. Your instructor may ask that you remove this from the first page, as you’ll have your left header here.

Works Cited should be numbered consecutively after the last page of essay.

Insert 4-line left header on first page only.

Block quotes should be indented one inch with no quotation marks.

All other direct quotes should have quotation marks and in-text citation, followed by period (note: period DOES NOT come before citation).


All outside research/sources should be followed with an in-text citation, whether they are a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary.

Direct quotes should have attributive or author tags.

If a source doesn’t have an author, give the title or website.

The in-text citation should match the FIRST WORD the source is listed under on the Works Cited page.

Avoid giving dictionary definitions of a word as an “outside source.” That’s not research.

Always use italics when referring to a book or website; use quotation marks for small works (article or short story) in a larger work (book or newspaper).

Works Cited

The title, Works Cited, should be centered at the top of the final page. Do not bold, italicize or enlarge font.

Works Cited should also be double spaced. NO EXTRA SPACES BETWEEN ENTRIES.

Works Cited should be alphabetized by author’s last name. If no author, alphabetize by the title or website. See Purdue Owl for other listings.

Each entry should have a hanging indent (the opposite of a regular line indent).

Include URL only if instructor requires it, or if the source cannot be found without it.

When using electronic sources, always include the date you accessed the source.


Other Tips

In Microsoft WORD, the default for paragraphs is set to insert an extra line space when you hit ENTER to move to a new paragraph. You must reset this to avoid triple-spacing the header, paragraphs, and Works Cited entries. To do this, go to the PARAGRAPH tab on the toolbar, clicking on the icon that has up and down arrows with five lines, just to the right of the 4 justification icons. Click the arrow on the right to open the tab, and scroll down to the bottom line that says “Add Space After Paragraph”; click this so that it says “Remove Space After Paragraph.” If you have already completed your essay and have triple spaces, highlight the entire text, follow these steps, and it should remove the extra lines.

This is only an abbreviated list of editing steps to take to make your essay a perfect as it can be. Hopefully, you’ve read your essay over carefully and had a peer read it as well. And don’t trust Spellcheck.

Once you’ve done all you can do, turn it in and let it go. If you’ve followed your instructor’s guidelines and instruction and edited carefully, you should feel confident you’ve done your best work.