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How to Cite Your Source

Mr. Klingensmith's Online Writing Guide

An easy to understand Online Writing Guide for beginning writers.  Here you will find a list of various writing models, general tips and hints to help guide you to writing success.

The big idea

When you're writing about factual stuff, it's often a good idea to use a short quote from one of your sources to help you prove your point.  That way, if your teacher questions a fact you use in your paper, you can use a quote to help make your case stronger.  It's kind of like saying, "Listen: you don't have to take my word for it; here's what an expert on the topic says."

Remember, though: it's only okay to use somebody else's words in your paper if you do two things:

  1. Keep it short.  Nearly all of your paper should be your own writing;
  2. Tell whose words you're using.

If you don't do these two things -especially the second one- you'll be guilty of plagiarism.  This is absolutely not some thing that you want to do.

Before you begin

Make sure you've decided on a fact in your paper that you want to beef up with some expert opinion.  It should be something that is not common knowledge.

How to do it

  1. Read the passage you want to quote and understand it thoroughly.
  2. Say it in your own words.
  3. Prove that what you've said in your own words is true by using another writer's words.
    Be sure that you say where you got your quote by saying something like, "As Matt Rosenberg writes in the article 'The Eruption that Cooled the Planet'..." If you've already mentioned the author's full name, after that you can just say, "As Rosenberg writes..." If there's no author mentioned (like in a web page or an encyclopedia article), just skip the author's name and go directly for the title of the article.
  4. Explain the connection between your idea and the writer's words.
    Why did you choose this quote?  What are you proving by including it?  You can start this sentence with, "This shows that..."

An example

A lot of people were negatively affected by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo. As Rosenberg writes, “Up to 800 people were killed and 100,000 became homeless following the eruption of Mount Pinatubo.” This shows how disruptive the eruption was to the people of the Philippines.