Incorrect Citations and Direct Quotes

In your Rhetoric class at UTD, you will use MLA style to cite outside sources. MLA, or Modern Language Association, is the style often used in the Humanities. If your field of study is not in the Humanities, you will have to invest a little extra effort in a learning a new citation style. To help you see the differences between MLA and other styles, see this table of comparisons <link to comparison table, included in a separate document>. As a brief overview, MLA requires (1) a page of works cited, to be included at the end of your paper, and (2) parenthetical or in-text citations. Plagiarism, when it happens as a result of incorrect citations, most often occurs in the misplacement or omission of in-text citations. (You should review the handbook for more information about MLA citation if you are feeling lost. )

Incorrect citations are an easy problem to fix, but this is an area where students often get sloppy. Working on citations usually comes at the end of a writing project, so many students have little energy left to devote to citations. Unfortunately, unintentional plagiarism is often the result of poor citation practices. As we saw in Section 2 on paraphrasing, plagiarism is possible even when the author's name is referenced. The same is true for citations. The following example includes a citation, but it also includes plagiarism:

Original source: One reason the global-warming problem seems so daunting is that the success of previous antipollution efforts remains something of a secret. Polls show that Americans think the air is getting dirtier, not cleaner, perhaps because media coverage of the environment rarely if ever mentions improvements. For instance, did you know that smog and acid rain have continued to diminish throughout George W. Bush's presidency?

A student uses the source: Americans have a grim outlook on the environmental situation, possibly because, as Gregg Easterbrook suggests, "media coverage of the environment rarely if ever mentions improvements" (par. 9).

In the student's passage, the paraphrase involving "the American outlook" should be credited to Easterbrook, but the placement of this paraphrase attributes it to the student. The structure of the quote integration implies that Easterbrook only comments on media coverage and not the American outlook. This is an inaccurate representation of the author's argument.

Plagiarism can also happen when students try to incorporate direct quotes into their own wording, or when they only want to use part of a direct quote and leave out a critical component such that it skews the author's meaning. Look at the following example, which uses the same original source:

A student uses the source: Easterbrook states that "smog and acid rain have continued to diminish throughout George W. Bush's presidency" (par. 9).

Although this is not a true case of plagiarism, the student has skewed the author's original meaning. Easterbrook does not claim to have discovered the information about smog and acid rain, though the student's citation implies that. In fact, Easterbrook phrases the passage as a trivia question for the reader. The signal phrase "Easterbrook states" distorts the intent of the author's passage, since it was not a statement at all. When splicing direct quotes into your own wording, you must be as cautious as you would be with a paraphrase. Fight the urge to "bend" the quote to fit your own meaning and your own argument. Resist that easy button! Keep researching until you find a quote that really supports your point accurately. If your research turns up no results, reconsider the validity of your point.

Citation Exercise: Working on your own or with a partner, read the following original source and complete each of the citation tasks listed below. Be prepared to discuss any problems or questions you have with the class.

Original source: Greenhouse gases are an air-pollution problem-and all previous air-pollution problems have been reduced faster and more cheaply than predicted, without economic harm. Some of these problems once seemed scary and intractable, just as greenhouse gases seem today. About forty years ago urban smog was increasing so fast that President Lyndon Johnson warned, "Either we stop poisoning our air or we become a nation [in] gas masks groping our way through dying cities. "

1. Cite a direct quote from the original source using a signal phrase.

2. Cite an indirect quote from the original source. (see the handbook for help with indirect quotes)

3. Combine a direct quote citation and a paraphrase in one sentence.

  MLA APA Chicago
Background Developed by the Modern Language Association. The MLA is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature. Developed by the American Psychological Association. The APA is a professional organization representing psychologists in the U.S. , with around 150,000 members. First published in 1906, it is one of the first editorial style guides published in the United States, and is largely responsible for research methodology standardization. It more flexible than MLA and APA, but more complicated.
Used for... Literature, arts, and humanities Psychology, education, and other social sciences History, business, communications… also publishers of books, magazines, newspapers, and other non-scholarly publications
  • In-text citations
  • List of works cited
  • Explanatory notes (where needed)
  • In-text citations
  • List of references
  • Numbered in-text citations
  • Numbered footnotes or endnotes
  • Bibliography of works consulted
In-text citations (Last Name of Author Page) placed at the end of the quoted or paraphrased text. WHY? Humanities research highlights how one piece of writing influences another. (Last Name of Author, Year, Page) appears at the end of the cited or paraphrased line. WHY? This style emphasizes the year the source was published, rather than the page number, which allows a reader to see quickly how the research has evolved over time-good for social sciences. Uses footnotes or endnotes. WHY? When developing a historical explanation from multiple primary sources, using footnotes instead of inserting parenthetical information allows the reader to focus on the evidence instead of being distracted by the publication information about that evidence.
Bibliographic record format "Works Cited" page at the end of the document "References" page at the end of the document List of footnotes or endnotes at the end of the document to show sources cited. Also includes a "Bibliography" that show all sources a writer consulted, even if they are not all cited.
* If you are ever unsure about which citation style to use, consult your instructor. *