This study guide will help you in multiple ways.  First, it will aid you in writing your research paper for this course.  Second, it will help you study for your midterm exam and final exam (the tests have questions regarding writing and grammar, so there is a help section on this study guide).  Finally, it will help you answer any research question that might arise during the course of the semester. The items highlighted are things to which you should pay particular attention, as these items are featured prominently on the tests.  Remember that you are not allowed this handout on the test itself; you are only allowed the MLA Quick Reference Guide (which only has information the English department feels cannot be memorized or retained; the highlighted information below reflects things you should know without any notes to help you).

Research Terms:

Academic integrity – doing your own work and giving credit to the source of any borrowed information to ensure that your readers can distinguish between ideas of other writers and your own contributions.

Annotated bibliography – a bibliography that includes a brief summary of the content of each source.

Attributive tag – a phrase that integrates quotes within your own sentence that ascribes/gives credit to a source.  

Block quotes – a quote that, when more than four lines long, is set off from the surrounding text by indenting all lines one inch (10 spaces) from the left margin.  The first line should not be indented further than the others.  

Brackets –  used when inserting clarification or your own remarks into a quote.  

Electronic databases – collection of articles compiled on a CD or online by a company that indexes them according to author, title, date, keyword, etc.

Ellipses – used for omitting words or sentences within a quote.

MLA  – Modern Language Association; provides guidelines for documenting research in literature, languages, linguistics, and composition studies.

Online database – provides a listing of articles that are published on various topics.  The database might also contain full-text articles.  An example of an online database is EBSCOhost.

Outside sources – others’ views in your essay that backs up your claims and establishes credibility.

Paraphrase – using your own words to present someone else’s ideas.

Parenthetical citation – information crediting the author of a piece of information; the author’s last name and page number from which the information was borrowed are included.

Periodicals – publications that appear at regular intervals, such as journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Plagiarism – using someone else’s words or ideas without giving that person credit. Examples include buying an essay and presenting it as your own, using ideas from another source without citing that source, and making slight modifications to an author’s sentences and presenting the work as your own. 

Primary sources – the main text with which you are working for a research project (for example, the story in the textbook).

Secondary sources – used to establish credibility, to back up your claims, and to bring in other viewpoints, these sources are considered the “research” portion of an assignment.

Summary – condensing and citing the main ideas of another work.

Works Cited – a page (alphabetized by the authors’ last names) at the end of your essay listing all the sources you used and documented in the essay.

Research Common Practices:

Plagiarism vs. Summary and Paraphrase

Plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas without giving that person credit.  There are two ways to avoid plagiarism – summary and paraphrase.  To summarize means to condense the main ideas of another work and then citing the information.  To paraphrase is to use your own words to tell of another’s ideas; again, the information must be cited.  Whichever method is used, always try to maintain your own style and vocabulary, maintain the original meaning or intent of the author, and avoid including your own opinions.

Original movie review from Roger Ebert on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, published in the Chicago Sun-Times on Nov. 16, 2001.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is a red-blooded adventure movie, dripping with atmosphere, filled with the gruesome and the sublime, and surprisingly faithful to the novel.  A lot of things could have gone wrong, and none of them have:  Chris Columbus’ movie is an enchanting classic that does full justice to a story that was a daunting challenge.  The novel by JK Rowling was muscular and vivid, and the danger was that the movie would make things too cute and cuddly.  It doesn’t.  Like an Indiana Jones for younger viewers, it tells a rip-roaring good take of supernatural adventure, where colorful and eccentric characters alternate with scary stuff like a three-headed dog, a pit of tendrils known as the Devil’s Snare and a two-faced immortal who drinks unicorn blood.  Scary, yes, but not too scary – just scary enough.

A faulty paraphrase copies sentence structure.  Here is a sentence taken from the above excerpt.

The novel by JK Rowling was muscular and vivid, and the danger was that the movie would make things too cute and cuddly.  It doesn’t. 

Here is an incorrect paraphrase that too closely mirrors Ebert’s.  This would be considered plagiarism.

According to Ebert, the novel by JK Rowling was brawny and brilliant, and the danger was that the movie would make things too delightful and cuddly.  It does not.

Here is a correct paraphrase that uses the same ideas but with different structure.

According to Ebert, the film avoids the trap of making Harry’s story too cutesy while remaining true to the novel’s power.

**Paraphrases differ from summaries in length.  A summary condenses information into a smaller number of words while a paraphrase might be closer to the length of the original passage.

A faulty summary copies exact words and phrases from the original.  Note the underlined words, denoting phrases exactly used by Ebert in the above passage (considered plagiarism).  If you write something like this in a paper, you must enclose the phrases in quotation marks and cite it correctly.

Roger Ebert notes that the film is an adventure movie with lots of atmosphere and that it does full justice to Rowling’s challenging novel.  Colorful and eccentric characters alternate with scenes that are scary but not too scary. 

Here is a correct summary that uses the same ideas as Ebert’s but in the student’s own words.

In Roger Ebert’s opinion, the film is a faithful rendition of the first Harry Potter novel, a rousing adventure story in the tradition of the Indiana Jones films.  It offers a not overly frightening experience along with Rowling’s “colorful and eccentric characters.” 

Parenthetical Citations, Introductory Phrases, and Quotations

There are two ways to use in-text citations.  A parenthetical citation is information crediting the author of a piece of information; the author’s last name and page number from which the information was borrowed are included. An attributive tag (or sometimes called signal phrase or introductory phrase) is a phrase within your own sentence that ascribes/gives credit to a source. 

A parenthetical citation looks like this:

Ultimately, it is the results of teaching, not the method or the quality of the teacher’s performance, that we must evaluate (Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff 29). 

A parenthetical citation gives the author from whom the information is obtained and the page number within the source where that information is found in parentheses. 

An attributive tag looks like this:

Glassick, Huber, and Maeroff state that “teaching, too, must in the end be judged not       merely by the process but by the results, however eloquent a teacher’s performance” (29).

**The difference between the two ways to cite is the whether you use the attributive tag.  If you use the attributive tag in your sentence, you do not need to re-write the author’s (or authors’, in this case) last name.  The page number alone is sufficient.  If you do not use the attributive tag, you must include the author’s (or authors’) last name.  Notice there is no comma separating the name and the page number.  Similarly, you do not write pg. to denote the page number.   Finally, note that the period comes after the parentheses, not before.

Evaluating and Organizing Sources

In doing research, you must evaluate all sources before using them.  This is particularly important when using Internet sources.  Evaluate your source for credibility.   Is the author an expert in his/her field? Does he/she show any bias?  Is the information correct? Look also at where the information was published.  It is a reputable place/company?  For example, anything published under an academic college would be reputable.  A .com site and some .org sites are not.

To keep your sources organized, always record the author and publication information so you can properly cite the source in your paper.   It is never a good idea to go back and find the publication information later; you might not be able to re-locate it.

To quote and cite a source with one author:

Set on the frontier and focused on characters who use language sparingly, Westerns often reveal a “pattern of linguistic regression” (Rosowski 170).


Susan J. Rosowski argues that Westerns often reveal a “pattern of linguistic regression” (170).

To quote and cite a source whereby the author of that source has written two pieces of your research:

According to one neurological hypothesis, “feelings are the expression of human flourishing or human distress” (Damasio, Looking for Spinoza 6).


Antonio Damasio believes that “feelings are the expression of human flourishing or human distress” (Looking for Spinoza 6).

**Note the title in italics to denote which source you are referencing. 

To quote and cite a source with no author:

The Tehuelche people left their handprints on the walls of a cave, now called Cave of the Hands (“Hands of Time” 124).

**Note the short title followed by the page number.

To quote and cite an indirect source (material that one of your sources quoted from another work):

The critic Susan Hardy Aikens has argued on behalf of what she calls “canonical multiplicity” (qtd. in Mayers 677). 

**The qtd. stands for “quoted”, followed by the author and page number of the source where you found the quote.

To quote and cite a source with two authors:

Some environmentalists seek to protect wilderness areas from further development so that they can both preserve the past and learn from it (Katcher and Wilkins 174).

**To cite a source (website or article) with no author, place a shortened version of the title in the parentheses.

To quote and cite a source that does not have page numbers listed in the citation:

             The role of a mother is vitally important to a child’s development (Smith, par. 3 ).

**On the citation, if there are no page numbers given, you cite the paragraph number (count the paragraphs). Note the difference in the citations for a paragraph and a page number. In the page number, there is no comma or “page” note. In the paragraph citation, a comma and par. are included.

To correctly incorporate a quote into a quote:

According to Anita Erickson, “when the narrator says, ‘I have the right to my own opinion,’ he means that he has the right to his own delusion.” 

**Note the attributive tag beginning the sentence.  The quote begins with the double quotation marks.  The internal quote (quote within a quote) begins and ends with the single quotation.

To correctly incorporate block quotations:

In Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich describes the dire living conditions of the working poor:

The lunch that consists of Doritos or hot dog rolls, leading to faintness before the end of the shift.  The “home” that is also a car or a van.  The illness or injury that must be “worked through,” with gritted teeth, because there’s no sick pay or health insurance and the loss of one day’s pay will mean no groceries for the next.  These experiences are not part of a sustainable lifestyle, even a lifestyle of chronic deprivation and relentless low-level punishment.  They are, by almost any standard of subsistence, emergency situations.  And that is how we should wee the poverty of millions of low-wage Americans – as a state of emergency. (214)

             A problem of this magnitude cannot be fixed simply by raising the minimum wage.

**Note the attributive tag that starts the quote.  A block quote does not begin with quotation marks, is indented 10 spaces from the left only, and the period comes before the page number in parentheses.

Works Cited Pages

To cite a book with one author:

             Jablonski, Nina G.  Skin:  A Natural History.  U of California P, 2006. 

**Note the author is followed by the title (italicized), the publication company (notice the abbreviations), and copyright year.

To cite a book with no author:

             Primary Colors:  A Novel of Politics.  Warner, 1996. 

**Note the title is followed by the publication company and copyright year.

To cite an anthology (a book with an editor but with chapters written by different authors):

Buranen, Lisa, and Alice M. Roy, editors. Perspectives on Plagiarism and Intellectual

             Property in a Postmodern World.  State U of New York P, 1999. 

**Note the reverse indentation and double-spacing.

To cite an article in a journal (such as an EBSCO source):

             Nair, Supriya.  “The Caribbean Unbound: Cross-Atlantic Discourses on Slavery and Race.”

American Literary History, vol. 14, issue 3, 2002, pp. 566-79.  EBSCO, Access no:


**Note the author is followed by the title of the article in quotations, the title of the journal (italicized), the volume number, the issue number, the publication year, the page numbers, the database used, and an access number.

**To cite an article without an author, follow the above format and begin your citation with the title.

To cite a website:

Felluga, Dino. Guide to Literary and Critical Theory. Purdue U, 28 Nov. 2003, Accessed 10 May 2006.

**Note the author is followed by the title of the article (italicized), the title of the site, the publication company, the date, the URL, and the date of access. 

**Should you cite a website without all this information, use the information you have and follow the given format as closely as possible.  Generally, you will begin with the website’s title.

MLA-Formatted Paper

Margins:  The page numbers should be a 1/2 inch from the top of the page, and the name, instructor’s name, course, and date should appear 1 inch from the top of the page.  The left and right margins should also be 1 inch.

To paginate:  Put your last name and the page number at the right-hand corner of each page, including the first page and the Works Cited page.

Heading:  The paper should have your name, the instructor’s name, course name and section, and the date double-spaced in the left-hand corner.

Spacing:  The paper should be double-spaced throughout.  Double-space between your heading and the title of the paper (center the title) and double-space between the title and the first line of text.

Reverse indent:  Each entry of your Works Cited page should be reverse (or hanging) indented.  This means the first line of the entry is at the left-hand margin, but the subsequent lines are indented.

Verb tense:  All research should be in present tense.

Point of view:  All research papers should be written in 3rd person.

Writing Terms:

An essay is a series of paragraphs about one central idea, generally consisting of an introductory paragraph with thesis statement, body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

A paragraph does not cover a topic as in-depth as an essay.

A topic sentence of a body paragraph should support the thesis statement.

The thesis statement declares the controlling idea or argument of the essay and is generally the last sentence of the first paragraph. The thesis statement should not make an announcement, be a question, or be intentionally vague.

The conclusion may evaluate the importance of the essay’s subject, give a brief anecdote that sums up the essay’s main points, or give a forecast based on the essay’s thesis. It emphasizes and validates the writer’s ideas.

Writing Common Practices:

Commas with conjunctive adverbs:
                      The TV was on; however, the sound was not working.

*Note the semi-colon joins the two complete thoughts. “However” is the conjunctive adverb.

Commas with subordinating conjunctions:
                      Because the day was sunny and warm, the kids decided to go to the pool.

*”Because” is the subordinating conjunction. Since the first half of the sentence is not a complete thought, the comma comes after the introductory phrase. The last half of the sentence is the complete thought, making the sentence complete (not a fragment).

Commas with non-essential information:
                      The green truck, the one with the large dent, is used to teach drivers’ education.

*The middle part of the sentence is considered non-essential. In other words, we can pull it out of the sentence, and the meaning of the sentence (“The green truck is used to teach drivers’ education.”) is still clear. The commas tell us the middle part of the sentence is not necessary to the sentence’s meaning.

Comma with coordinating conjunction:
                     I left my umbrella at home, and I got wet while walking to class.

*A coordinating conjunction joins two complete sentences. “And” joins the two complete ideas and must have a comma in front of it.

                      The cat doesn’t like the little boy’s electronic toy.

*Note the two apostrophes used here. The first is used with a contraction (doesn’t). The second is used to show one boy’s ownership of his toy.

Punctuation of titles:
                      The poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” is discussed in Jackie Simpson’s        
                      book The Portable Eliot.

*In grammar, titles of short works, such as poems, song titles, and magazine articles, are put in quotation marks. Longer work, such as book, album, and magazine titles, are put in italics or underlined. 

Pronoun-antecedent agreement:
                    The two girls decided to buy their prom dresses online.

*Plural antecedents, such as “two girls,” use the plural pronoun “their” whereas singular antecedents use a singular pronoun.

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