Citing Sources. Custom Essay Writing



Citing Sources

Be sure to use credible sources relevant to your subject, and do not depend on one book or one particular point of view. You may have picked up a book by some paranoid LaRouchie or worse. Know your sources and what their biases are. I once had a student turn in a paper on arms control in which every footnote was a reference to some speech by Phyllis Schlafly, the rightwing harpy who helped to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment by traveling around the country giving speeches saying women belong in the home. I flunked him. If writing about the Arab-Israeli struggle, do not use books by Arabs or Israelis exclusively. Do not write about South Africa without taking into account books by Afrikaaners. Include several views. Do not depend upon any one source to provide unbiased accounts of its opponents.

Be sure to have in your variety of sources both primary and secondary materials. Primary materials are firsthand accounts, actual letters or documents. Secondary sources are books or articles that discuss and present the primary documents. Most of the texts college students have access to are secondary, but the Internet has made primary material more readily accessible. Do not simply quote books about Malcolm X. Find some published copies of his speeches or letters and read them yourself. Be sure also to have a mix of categories, not all books, all journal articles, all letters, or all WWW sources but some of each.

The citation itself requires the name of the author and the number of the page on which the quotation can be found. This information appears within parentheses and without punctuation. A line from Smith History of Virginia might be followed by (Smith 13), with the quotation mark at the end of the quote before the first parenthesis. Leave out commas, p.'s, or any other unnecessary trivia. The idea is to provide the least amount of information in the text that will allow the reader to find the citation in the back of your paper on the "Works Cited" page.

The "Works Cited" page is basically a bibliography. There, all of the works you used or cited or both are listed alphabetically through the last names until the name "Smith" appears. If there is only one Smith, then the entire citation for that book should be there. The reader already knows that the quote is from page 13. If there are two books by the same Smith, then the writer needs to add information in the parentheses that will most quickly make the distinction clear. The first word of the two titles if different should do it. Hence, the citation might have to read ( Smith History13) as opposed to ( Smith Cooking33). If there are two different books by two different Smiths, the citation will have to include the first name as well as the last to make the distinction. The citation then might read (Smith, John 13) as opposed to (Smith, Tim 22). Whatever gets the reader to the right citation the fastest is correct.

Note that the punctuation falls outside the parentheses. The point of the parentheses is to separate the information from the surrounding sentence; it is thus within that sentence. A citation at the end of a sentence has a period to the right (Williams 190). Question marks also should go to the right. I have, however, seen cases even in the handbooks where a question mark came before the parentheses, but even these were followed by a period after the parentheses to make it clear which sentence the parentheses were within.