Citation Style

[Humanities Style] [MLA Style] [Internet ] [Examples ]

Citation serves several purposes. It gives authority to your argument, hence helps persuade. It sets your argument in its intellectual context and it acknowledges your honest debt to others. You should cite any fact or idea which you take from another writer except for the most general. This means that the first part of most essays will be full of citations as you present facts and ideas of others. The latter parts will have fewer, perhaps no, citations because you are presenting your own ideas. Your introductory paragraph may have no citations because it is highly general and readers know that the documentation will follow. All facts and ideas need to be introduced in the first part of the essay. Do not introduce new material in the conclusion.

The custom in political science is to introduce material using the name of the author, not the title of the book or article. Please use the full name of the author the first time; thereafter use only the last name. Do not use a title like Mr. Plato, Mr. Socrates, Dr. Jung or Professor Robbins.

For this class, use either humanities or MLA style. Robbins uses humanities style.1 See the endnote below. Do not confuse citation in endnotes with the (bad) custom of giving minor information in endnotes.

The location of the citation in a paragraph differs between the two styles. For humanities footnotes or endnotes, place the raised number at the end of all the material in each paragraph. Cite in each paragraph with the material; once is not enough. The citation is often just before the transitional sentence that ends the paragraph. In the case of a short essay that uses the humanities style, a bibliography is a waste of space. 

MLA style gives the author's name and page in parentheses and has a list of works cited at the end; it does not give the year in the text, for example (Robbins 29). Keirsey and Bates use MLA style, but make frequent mistakes. The MLA Handbook or any other style manual explains the style in detail. Place the parenthetical name and page number directly after the material cited, but before the period or punctuation ending the sentence. Give the page, but not the year. For MLA citations (in contrast to humanities style citations), place the page right after the name of the author the first time and both the name and the page (when the name is not given) at the end of the first sentence of the material. Cite in each paragraph with the material. MLA style must have a list titled "Works Cited" a few lines after the end of your essay. For a short paper (less than ten pages) do not have a separate page; it looks like you are padding and wastes trees. Here are two samples. References should be in alphabetical order by author's last name.

Keirsey and Bates (27) introduce four basic temperaments. The first is . . . The fourth temperament, labeled Apollonian, is intuitive and feeling (Keirsey and Bates 57).
The MLA style has the disadvantage of breaking the readers chain of concentration with its parentheses and sometimes long labels. It is like a pothole in the road. The best remedy is to make your references as short as possible. For instance write (NRDC 236) rather than (Natural Resources Defense Council 236).  This way the potholes will be smaller.

The rules for citing from electronic sources such as the Internet are still in flux. One problem is that citation is supposed to anchor your writing in the scholarly literature, but the Internet is always changing, hence it is sometimes best to find a printed source. Nevertheless you still need to cite your sources so follow these principles. First, mention the author (usually an organization) as best you can. Then give the title and date. Finally give the URL. It may be best to give the more general URL of the site rather than the exact page, which is subject to frequent change. Thus even if the particular page is moved, the reader can find it through the site. For example, although Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's URL has changed since last year, the University of Chicago Psychology Center remains the same. When your site is a list of links, it may be best to use the name of the overall topic rather than the compiler and to describe a well known author or organization to help in a Yahoo search if the page disappears.2 This is a tricky business. Any citation from the Internet should have an author and a title just like a regular publication. Then give the URL. Omitting the "http://" shortens it without leaving out any important information. Long suffixes are often confusing and unsightly. Omit them. In spite of perfectionistic guides, giving the day of access does not add much, because if the URL is changed, the old one does not help much.  

The merits of humanities versus MLA style are debated endlessly. The former has the advantage of less distraction to the reader and a better appearance. The latter has the advantage of simplicity. One way to decide is whether you use a computer with an endnote feature. If so, it is easy. If not, it might be best to retreat to the MLA style.

 Works Cited

Balch, Stephen H., 1985, "The Neutered Civil Servant," Journal of Social and Biological Structures, 313- 328. 

Bush, George "Progress in Afghanistan, Iraq" White House Press Office 16 July 2003

"Client Centered Therapy" (Carl Rogers and others), Links compiled by Matt Ryan,

Janda, Kenneth, Jeffrey M. Berry and Jerry Goldman 2003 The Challenge of Democracy Brief  ed. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Keirsey, David, and Marilyn Bates, 1984, Please Understand Me , 5th ed. Del Mar, California: Prometheus Nemesis.

McGregor, Douglas, 1960, The Human Side of Enterprise, New York: McGraw Hill.

Weber, Max, 1992, "Bureaucracy" in Classics of Public Administration 3rd. edition., edited by Jay Shafritz and Albert Hyde, Pacific Grove, California: Brooks Cole. 

Here is the way endnotes look:


1.Stephen P. Robbins, Essentials of Organizational Behavior , 3rd. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988) p. 29.

2."Client Centered Therapy" (Carl Rogers and other), Links compiled by Matt Ryan,

3.Kenneth Janda, Jeffrey M. Berry and Jerry Goldman  The Challenge of Democracy Brief  ed. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin 2003

4.George Bush "Progress in Afghanistan, Iraq" White House Press Office 16 July 2003

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Last Updated: 8/8/17