Citing Your Sources

For our purposes, all quotes have three parts:

The Intro

The intro to the quotation consists of the name of the person you are quoting, added to a tag to introduce the quote. Tags can vary from the traditional "says" to "adds," "states," "writes," "acknowledges," "agrees," "thinks," "confirms," "believes," "emphasizes," "refutes," etc. See your style handbook for a more complete list. Varying the standards s/he "says" intro to a quote enlivens your writing and also helps to characterize the quotation itself; for example, is the author... disagreeing? critiquing? pointing out? arguing? yodeling? Making a decision about the author's action will help you to frame the quote and to clarify why/how you are using it.

The Quote

Our sample quote for this exercise will be from Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and is spoken by chaos theorist Ian Malcolm. Quotes must be accompanied by the name of the author and the page number of the work on which they were found. The title of the work will appear on your Works Cited page, and so it is unnecessary to include it in the parenthetical citation. Place the ending quotation marks after the final word in the quote and before the parentheses; plot the ending punctuation after the parenthetical citation (unless it is a question mark or an exclamation mark, in which case, they would follow the last word in the quote and be enclosed within the quotation marks; a period would then follow the parenthetical citation as well).

"Life will find a way" (Crichton 45).


Crichton, Michael. Jurassic Park. NY: Ballantine Books, 1990.

The Spin

With the spin, writers have the opportunity to "spin" a quote-- to make it clear why the quote is important, to highlight how it proves the argument, or to emphasize aspects of the writer's own biases or diction. The spin is the writer's chance to triumphantly shout, "I told you so!" or "See? Here it is! Right here! This proves it! The smoking gun!"

If you aren't too exhausted after all that enthusiasm, combine the intro, the quote, and the spin:

Ian Malcolm observes, "Life will find a way" (Crichton 45). The remainder of the movie affirms this prophecy by showing dinosaurs escaping the confines of Jurassic Park.

As your facility with quotes improves, vary the placement and integration of quotes within the text.

Ian Malcolm's observation, "Life will find a way" (Crichton 45), demonstrates the triumph of nature over restrictions invented by humans. "Life," Ian Malcolm observes, "will find a way" (Crichton 45). His insistence is similar to the insistence of the dinosaurs who, as he predicts, escape the "perfect" control of the Park.

Tip and Tricks:

  • Following MLA style (*your teacher may ask you to use a different style, like APA or Chicago), list all sources in alphabetical order by author's last name on a separate Works Cited page; include web site addresses and dates for the online sources.
  • Learn how to paraphrase information and give credit to the source.

Other Resources: