Read This Before Documenting Any Sources with In-Text Citations


            Much of composition II has to do with students demonstrating their skills in research and documentation. By research, I simply mean locating scholarly sources, such as books and articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Sometimes I will refer to these publications as scholarly journals, academic journals, refereed journals, or simply journals. This course has much less to do with training students to locate sources from newspapers, magazines, websites, and other mainstream sources, for they are not scholarly sources. Even so, in your final major project, the research paper, you may use these types of non-scholarly sources as additional sources, which means you may include them as sources beyond the scholarly sources required for the research paper.


            This lecture is largely unconcerned with books, and will focus on journals. At the outset of these lecture comments, I also mentioned documentation, which is defined as a parenthetical citation and its corresponding works cited page citation; however, there is a problem associated with the documentation of some journal articles, and the purpose of this lecture is to define that problem and then explain how to avoid it.


            The problem stems from the fact that when you research journal articles through Academic Search Complete, PROQUEST, or any of the Temple College Library databases, you will click on links to access those journal articles, and the link you choose will determine the display/print form in which you access the article. In most databases, the links will read PDF Full Text and HTML Full Text or something very similar to that. Use PDF whenever possible, for the article will open up in Adobe Acrobat Reader, and it will be a scanned image of the article’s pages as they originally appeared in the journal.


If, for example, the article begins on page 151 and ends on page 171, the in-text citations in your essay can document the actual page numbers from the article because you will have accessed the article in its originally published form. In other words, when you cite the original page numbers from the journal, it is a useful form of documentation to your readers, and that is the value of using PDF files.


However, if you access the article in HTML, it means that the article has been converted to the equivalent of a webpage. When you print the article in HTML form, your browser will number the pages for you. If the article is ten pages long, the pagination will read as follows: page 1 of 10, page 2 of 10, and so on. This is not a useful form of documentation to your readers.


Briefly stated, whenever you locate a source that you will use in an assignment, you must then render some judgments about how to document that source with parenthetical citations and works cited page citations; whether the article is in PDF with the original page numbers from the journal or HTML with no page numbers except the page numbers supplied by your browser has an impact on your choice of the correct citation style.


How to Document Correctly


There are no shortcuts to negotiating the documentation of sources correctly. You will simply have to spend serious time with the MLA Handbook.


After you locate a source from a book, journal article, newspaper, magazine, website, or other type of source, you are then making the determination about what type of parenthetical citation and corresponding works cited page citation you should use. Moreover, with regard to journal articles, you will choose your citation styles based upon whether you have engaged the journal article as a PDF or HTML source.


To negotiate these decisions correctly, study chapters 5 and 6 of the MLA Handbook, and use the Smarthinking service for assistance.


A Final Word About the Documentation of Sources


It is difficult to imagine that students could earn an adequate grade in any given assignment or overall in this course if they do not handle documentation skills well. Remember that I expect at least the fundamentals of good documentation, which means that parenthetical citations and works cited page citations will be correct, as well as the formatting of your assignments. Even so, you may choose to demonstrate in your assignments as many skills from the MLA Handbook as you want to learn, which will increase the chances of any given assignment receiving a higher grade.