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Documenting Sources

When you begin any assignment that involves research, you will always need to know which documentation style is expected by the discipline and professor of your course. The citations provided in the examples above adhere to MLA style, which is the documentation and bibliographic style described in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Your courses may require assignments to use MLA style, or they might require another documentation style, such as APA, Chicago/Turabian, ASA, ACS, CSE or another documentation style. The formats of these styles differ as the values of the disciplines differ. For example, in the sciences, parenthetical references always include dates because scientific research develops over time, and the date of a study is very important.

For every documentation style, you will need to always have a few important things in mind:

  • Styles using in-text parenthetical references are always accompanied by a bibliography, which may also be called a works cited list.  Styles using footnotes or endnotes may require a bibliography, or the notes may suffice as both citations and bibliographic entries.
  • You must use the documentation style accurately and provide complete information.
  • You must use any documentation style consistently.  You can't fudge it or use it as a vague guideline.
  • The purpose of citations and bibliographic information is to show that your work has relied upon the work of other experts in the field, and to help your reader track down and locate the sources that you used.

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