Any use of another’s words or ideas without proper and complete citation.
The humanities, including English, use MLA guidelines, meaning that all sources must have an in-text parenthetical citation (author last name and page or line number) and a Works Cited entry (author name, work title, and publication information). Googling “MLA format” will usually take you in the right direction if you’re not sure how to format a citation; there are examples on the “quotation and citation” handout.
When to quote
You should quote anything that isn’t common knowledge—that is, something that you could expect any of your readers to already know, such as very common historical facts. If you don’t know if you should cite something, ask your teacher or consult a reliable source for citation information.
Three ways to use sources
1) Direct quotation
Using the exact wording of your source, with the quotation in quotation marks. You should only do this when the original wording is particularly effective and a paraphrase or summary wouldn’t work as well.
Any changes you need to make for the sake of simplicity or clarity must be indicated by ellipses ( . . . ) to remove part of the quotation or brackets ( [ ] ) to make additions.
Direct quotations need to be integrated into your sentences; this can be easily accomplished with a signal verb. A non-integrated quotation is known as a dropped quotation and should be avoided.
If the quotation is more than three lines or 45 words long, you must remove the quotation marks and instead make it a new paragraph indented ten lines from the left, which is known as a block quotation.
2) Paraphrasing: Restating another’s idea completely in your own words. All the information in the original source must be in the paraphrase, but the wording must be different. Citation is required, but not quotation marks because you’re only using their ideas and not their words.
3) Summary: briefly explaining a complex issue rather than rewording a specific idea—broader than paraphrasing. This usually won’t be necessary in our papers because your audience is myself and your classmates—people who are already familiar with the text you’re writing about.