MODULE 2: The Research Process:
Section 5 of 6, OVERVIEW, page 1 of 1.


Documenting information sources

While module 8 of this tutorial presents, in greater detail, the topic of documentation and the closely related topic of plagiarism, only a few points are needed before embarking on an exploration of the Library's resources (in the next few modules).

Cite everything ... well, almost everything.

Every time a writer uses an information source, it gets documented. Even if the end product of your research is a speech or other type of presentation, you need to document your sources.

It does not matter if a source is paraphrased, summarized, or quoted—it is always cited.

You do not need to cite information that is common knowledge or generally accepted fact; or well-known sayings, mythology, folklore, or literary references. If there is ever any doubt, cite it!

Why document?

Excerpt from A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th ed., by Kate L. Turabian, pages 133-134:

To give credit. Research is hard work. Some who do it receive concrete rewards—money, promotions, good grades, degrees, and so on. But no less important is recognition, the pride and prestige of seeing one's name associated with knowledge that others value and use. ... (You also guard against the charge of plagiarism.)

To assure readers about the accuracy of your facts. Researchers cite sources to be fair to other researchers, but also to earn their readers' trust. It is not enough to get the facts right. You must also tell readers the source of the facts so that they can judge their reliability, even check them if they wish. Readers do not trust a source they do not know and cannot find. If they do not trust your sources, they will not trust your facts; and if they do not trust your facts, they will not trust your argument. You establish the first link in that chain of trust by citing your sources fully, accurately, and appropriately.

To show readers the research tradition that informs your work. Researchers cite sources whose data they use, but also cite work that they extend, support, contradict, or correct. These citations help readers not only understand your specific project but connect it to other research in your field.

To help readers follow or extend your research. Many readers use sources cited in a research paper not to check its reliability but to pursue their own work. So citations help others not only to follow your footsteps, but to strike out in new directions.

Examples of documentation.


Citations are brief entries in the body of a paper. They tell the reader that an outside source of information has been used.

The following are examples of citations in the style prescribed by the Modern Language Association (MLA).

...Shelley's monster exclaims, "You are my creator, but I am your master—obey!" (127).

...the monster exclaims, "You are my creator, but I am your master—obey!" (Shelley 127). this reasoning, a firm relationship can be established (Beauchamp 235-37).

Note that these brief entries may be referred to to by a variety of names, names such as reference citation, parenthetical citation, or parenthetic reference. For the sake of simplicity and consistency, this tutorial refers to these short, in-text entries as citations.


References provide detailed data on an information source ... the author, the title, the publication date, etc. Sometimes these entries appear at the end of a page in a paper, as in foot notes, but most frequently, they appear at the end of the paper. These long entries may be called notes, bibliography, or, in the case of MLA style, Works Cited. This tutorial refers to these long entries as references.

NOTE: The screen display width of the following references have been shortened on purpose in order to help ensure a presentation which is consistent with that which is prescribed for references, i.e., double spaced with indentions for all but the first entry line. (Should you be printing this, or other pages of this tutorial on which references appear, printing in the landscape orientation [11 x 8 1/2 rather than 8 1/2 x 11] , should allow references to display properly.)

The following are examples of references in the style prescribed by the Modern Language Association (MLA).

Beauchamp, Gorman. "The Frankenstein Complex and

     Asimov's Robots." Mosaic: A Journal for the

     Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, 13.3-4.

     (1980): 83-94. Print.

Dickerson, Vanessa D. "The Ghost of a Self: Female

     Identity in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

     Journal of Popular Culture, 27.3. (1993): 79-91.

     Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection,

     Web. 20 Sep. 2008.

Frankenstein. Dir. James Whale. Universal Pictures, 1931.

Mellor, Kate. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her

            Monsters. New York: Routledge, 1988. Print.

Lucas, Rose. "Radical Parturition and Literary Labours of

     Mourning: The Case of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

     Hecate 32.2.(2006): 58-68. Academic Search Complete.

     Web. 27 Aug. 2008.

Schor, Esther H. The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley.

     Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2003. Print.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus.

     New York: Signet, 1965. Print.

END OF SECTION: OVERVIEW, Documenting information sources


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