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ENGL 101: English I: Citing Sources & Creating Annotated Bibliographies

Learn the basics of citations, MLA citation style, and annotated bibliographies on this page, and connect to other citation resources. 

Check your professor's instructions first! If they've given specific instructions about the citation style you should use or how citations should be formatted for their assignments, always follow those instructions. 

Why Do I Need to Cite?

Through research, you will gather information that supports your ideas from sources created by others. A citation identifies these sources and gives your reader the information needed to locate them. It also gives credit to the authors whose ideas you are using to support the arguments in your paper.

Citing sources is important because:

  • it shows your professor that you actually did research on your topic and gained new knowledge
  • anyone reading your work can check to see if they agree with your interpretation of the information
  • acknowledging other people's ideas is academically honest and helps you avoid plagiarism.

If you don't credit the authors of your sources by citing them in your paper, you are committing plagiarism, which is not acceptable at Northampton Community College and can result in a penalty against your work or other serious consequences.

Watch this video for an overview of how citations work.

Attribution: Anne Burke, Daria Dorafshar, Kyle Langdon, Andreas Orphanides, and Kim Duckett. 
(CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 US)

You need to cite:

  • anytime you use someone else's ideas
  • when you summarize or paraphrase text from a source
  • when you directly quote information that you took from a source 
  • if the information is highly debatable

You don’t need to cite your own opinions and insight, and you don’t need to cite facts that are common knowledge (information repeated in multiple sources that is widely known or accepted as a fact).

When in doubt, it's best to cite.

MLA Citation Style

MLA format, the citation style created by the Modern Language Association, is used often in English, in other language studies, and in the humanities.

It requires in-text citations (sometimes known as parenthetical citations) within the body of your paper, and a Works Cited list that includes all your sources at the end of the paper.  

Learn more about in-text citations and how they work alongside your Works Cited list in this video from our friends at Imagine Easy Solutions.

Resources to help you with MLA citations

From the NCC Libraries and Learning Center:

Other resources from across the internet:

Citation Generators -- a Disclaimer

citation generator or "machine" searches for the publication information of your source from across the web and crafts a citation or Works Cited entry for you based on this information. There any many different ones available, but if you decide to use one, know that no online citation tool or software is perfect. They could give you the citation in a different style than the one you need. They could find the wrong publication information for the source you are using. If you enter incorrect information or do not include some information, then the citation they create will be incorrect.

Some sources provide their own citation. The library's databases may also provide citations for sources you find in them. These should only be used as a starting point, as they may not be entirely accurate, either. They often include too much information or are formatted incorrectly (they might be missing hanging indents, italicization, or double-spacing).

It is up to you to check the accuracy of your citations before submitting research papers or other class assignments. 

Annotated Bibliographies

An annotated bibliography is a list of sources (books, journals, periodicals, and websites) used in researching a topic, with a brief (usually a short paragraph) summary and/or evaluation included with each source. This evaluation is called an annotation. 

Bibliographies sometimes differ from a Works Cited list in that they might list all potential sources a researcher may have read, whether they are referred to in the paper or not. Works Cited lists only include sources actually cited in the paper.

Your professor may have specific instructions for how they want you to structure your annotated bibliography, what sources should be included, and what they want you to include in the annotations. Always use those instructions for guidance. 

Here's an example of what an entry on an annotated bibliography typically looks like:

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Note: The sample citation included here is not formatted according to MLA 8th edition. 

The NCC Learning Center has a helpful handout explaining the details of annotated bibliographies, and Online Writing Lab at Purdue University also has helpful tips: