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CMP101 Composition 1 - Santos: MLA 8 (Citations)

Contributing to Scholarly Conversations

Academic discourse - the exchange of ideas, perspectives or findings on a topic - dictates that certain conventions are used where scholarly conversations are taking place.

The conversations can occur in various locales - in classrooms or online forums, through papers or presentations, in asynchronous or synchronous fashion.

One of the conventions used in academic discourse is to cite our sources each time we introduce an idea, perspective or finding into a discussion that is not our own.

When you think about it: good conversations take place with several people contributing, and meaningful scholarly conversations will require your own contributed ideas, perspectives or findings as well as the other conversation participants.

Integrating Sources

We can integrate these ideas, perspectives or findings into our scholarly conversations by:

  1. directly quoting the contributor (including statistics and data)

  2. paraphrasing - using the original thoughts of a contributor, but rephrasing them in your own words with often a similar structure and length

  3. summarizing - taking major talking points from the contributor, reducing the size of the content shared (think about creating presentations)

The contribution of visual research to the conversation (other than our own) like the use of a table, graph, figure or image must also be acknowledged through citation.

Citation is a Two Part Process

When working on academic research projects and contributing to conversations through online forums, papers, or presentations; convention also dictates the use of citation through a two part process:

  1. Acknowledgment of the source with a brief notation after you use it in the body of your work (a.k.a. parenthetical or in-text citation). This brief notation links your audience to the second part of your citation.

  • MLA style uses the author-date system

  1. A more detailed description of the source that is located in the Works Cited page at the end of your work. This detailed citation allows your audience to find the creator and source and reuse the information themselves.

  • Common elements of a detailed citation are Author, Date of Publication, Title of Work and Source Data (i.e. information on how to retrieve the source).

Note: The first word(s) in your brief citation should match exactly the first word in your detailed citation.

Common Knowledge - The Exception

There is one exception to these citation conventions, which is called common or foundational knowledge. Common knowledge statements are well known facts and do not need to be cited. Makes sense, but determining when information is common knowledge can sometimes be challenging because it depends on the context in which the conversation is occurring.

The graph below illustrates the various degrees of common knowledge based on different audiences (general common knowledge, common knowledge within a specific field, not common knowledge).

Credit: Vermont Community College

MLA Tutorials

These tutorials may provide additional help:

Recommended MLA Websites

MLA Templates

In-text (Parenthetical) Citations

How to Format a Paper in MLA 8

MLA Style Guides

The NSCC Libraries own these style guides in print that can be used in the Library. Ask a Librarian if you need help locating them.