MLA Citation Help
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This guide provides information and links on literature.
Last Updated: Nov 20, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Writing and Citing Print Page

MLA Citation Help

Remember a new version of MLA was released in 2016 so some of these resources may not have been updated yet. Use the new Pocket Style Manual 7th. ed. for the most up to date information. The Pocket Style Manual is available in the Geisler Library and Writing Center. 

  • MLA Formatting and Style Guide
    MLA style in-depth with examples of frequently-used citation types from the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Includes 2009 updates. Linked with permission.
  • MLA Documentation
    A guide to MLA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's online Writing Center. Linked with permission.

APA Citation Help

  • APA Documentation
    A great overview of APA citation style from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center. Linked with permission.
  • APA Formatting and Style Guide
    An in-depth guide to APA citations from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Linked with permission.
  • The Basics of APA Style
    An online tutorial created by the APA that provides an introduction to APA style for first-time users.

Chicago Citation Help

  • Chicago/Turabian Documentation
    A great overview of Chicago's footnote and bibliography style from The Writing Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Linked with permission.
  • Chicago Manual of Style
    Chicago style in-depth with examples of frequently-used sources from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Linked with permission.


Evaluating Sources

No matter what kind of source (book, journal article, website, etc.) it is important to evaluate your source to determine if it is appropriate for your project. This can be daunting when you are not an expert, but use the SMELL Test to help you. 

Source - Who is providing the information? Can the author or the organization be readily identified and are his/her qualifications for providing the information clearly stated? (For scholarly sources you typically want someone with a PhD in the field of the work.) Is the information timely or too dated? Has the information been reviewed or refereed by other scholars?

When evaluating information sources and their creators, one word that professors and librarians like to use is AUTHORITATIVE. What makes a source more or less authoritative than another one? AUTHORITY is not an all-or-nothing concept; it is constructed (various communities recognize different types of authority) and contextual (information needs may determine the level of authority needed). The PIE Chart (below) helps us consider AUTHORITY in a thoughtful, critical way.

Motivation - Why does the author present this information? To inform, to persuade, to sell something? “Informers” usually can be relied on to have greater accuracy and less bias than “sellers”. Does the author analyze dispassionately or advocate for a particular stance? (Advocacy isn't bad - but you may have to see how others approach the issues.) Who is the audience (scholarly, general, etc.)?

Evidence - What evidence is provided by the author to support her/his claims? Are there notes, data, evidence, and/or a bibliography? Are any assertions made without evidence or examples to back them up?

Logic - Do the facts logically support the conclusions? Are there gaps in explanation or reasoning? Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?

Left out – What is missing that might change the interpretation? Compare sources to see where there are differences and conflict. Are any of the usual “markers” of scholarly reliability missing? What does it mean if we can’t identify an author or the creator of a resource?





 Proximity - how close is the writer to the point of origin of the information? First-hand observation and original research is "closer" than summary or hearsay.




 Independence - is the source of the information free from commercial or political controls or conflicts of interest?




 Expertise - does the source have the academic, scientific, artistic, or professional background to be an expert on this topic?





Based on: John McManus, “Don’t Be Fooled: Use the SMELL Test To Separate Fact from Fiction Online” Last modified February 7, 2013



Tutoring & Writing Center

Take your writing to the next level by consulting with one of the Tutoring & Writing Center's talented Writing Tutors. 

You may “walk in” to work with a tutor or schedule an appointment.

Evening contact number: 641.780.8811 (call or text)

§Also: note that the last appointment begins ½ hour before the tutor leaves.

Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Is It Plagiarism?
    from Purdue University's Online Writing Lab:
    "Summary: There are few intellectual offenses more serious than plagiarism in academic and professional contexts. This resource offers advice on how to avoid plagiarism in your work." Linked with permission.
  • Safe Practices
    Guidelines for safe practices to avoid plagiarizing throughout the research and writing process. From Purdue University's Online Writing Lab. Linked with permission.


Why Cite Sources?

There are at least three reasons why writers cite their sources:

  • To establish credibility with readers by calling on solid, reputable sources as "expert witnesses"
  • To provide readers with the information they need to delve further into the topic
  • To give credit where it is due and avoid plagiarism

The primary rule of thumb for when to include a citation is: Provide a citation when the words OR ideas are not your own. The exception to this rule is when the information is common knowledge - simple factual information found in multiple sources.


Don't Forget Your Hacker Manual!

Cover Art
A Pocket Style Manual - Diana Hacker; Nancy Sommers
Call Number: R 808.027 Ha 2, p, 7th ed.
ISBN: 1457642328
Publication Date: 2014-09-24
Your old standby, Hacker's Pocket Style Manual, can help with many citation questions. The newest version is always available at the Library Reference Desk.

Citation Management Tools

Zotero is a free program that allows you to collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. Click here for a video tour of the basics and a link to download the program.

Endnote Basic is a free, simplified version of a powerful citation management program. Click here for more information the the program and setting up an account. You also can bet more information by watching this video tutorial created by the Purdue University Libraries. 




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