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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Introduction to Literary Studies: Citing sources

Why is correct citing important?

If you have your references in order, your text is better readable, can be checked more easily and is more trustworthy.

By mentioning your sources correctly and in full, you make clear what information you have copied from other authors and where your readers can find the original information. In this way they can check if you have reproduced the information correctly.

Correct citing contributes to the transparency of scholarly communication and the prevention of plagiarism.

Moreover, you show your readers how your publication relates to other publications in the same field and you point out publications which might be of interest too. 

Creating literature references

References in the text itself, or in footnotes or endnotes, briefly indicate the source. They must enable the reader to retrieve the reference in the reading list at the end of a book/chapter/article. The terms references, citations, quotes are synonyms in most cases.


 Citing is to copy verbatim from a text in a publication. Citing is allowed if the following conditions are met:

  • the source is stated correctly (also if it is an internet source);
  •  the source is copied verbatim and in the original language;
  •  the beginning and the end is clearly indicated (for instance by putting the quote between inverted commas or indent a piece of text)

You use a citation to illustrate your point or if you want to analyse the original phrasing of somebody else. You are not allowed to use a citation as a replacement of your own text. This means that a paper may not consist of citations pieced together. That is plagiarism, even if you do refer to the source!

How much text you may cite exactly depends on the purpose of the citation and the length of the source text. It is difficult to give clear-defined rules on this subject. Sometimes one line is enough, another time you need a whole paragraph. Rule of thumb: for each cited line, write two lines yourself in which you elaborate on the citation.

Please be aware that you do not take the citation from its original context. For instance, it must be made clear if the citation is meant ironically. So always cite in accordance with the intentions of the author you are quoting.


​Paraphrasing is reproducing ideas of others in your own words, for instance if the original passage is very long or complicated. Paraphrasing is allowed if the following conditions are met: 

  • state the source correctly (also in the case of internet sources)
  • indicate clearly which part contains your own ideas and which is the part you have copied

When paraphrasing it is important that you really describe the ideas of others in your own words. Merely changing a few words or the order of the words is not enough. This is considered plagiarism. Verbatim copying of somebody else's text is usually better, followed by your own ideas.

Examples of citing

 Readers must be able to check the sources the information comes from. This means that the name of the author and the page number(s) must occur in the text of your essay. Below is shown how to do so, according to the MLA style, a citatiion style often used in the Humanities.


According to the American literary scholar Fredric Jameson the pastiche is  “one of the most significant features or practices in postmodernism today.” (4) 


Pastiche is “one of the most significant features or practices in postmodernism today.” (Jameson 4)

 From these sentences we understand that there is a reference to page 4 of a book (or article) by Jameson.

You include the complete reference to your source in the reading list at the end of your essay (see tab MLA style). Short citations of less than 40 words are preferable. If you quote the author verbatim, you use inverted commas. In the case of a longer citation, you start on a new line and insert a tab. This indicates that a citation follows, you do not need to use inverted commas.

It looks like this:

American literary scholar Fredric Jameson gives the following definition of pastiche:

Pastiche is, like parody, the imitation of a peculiar or unique style, the wearing of a stylistic mask, speech in a dead language: but it is a neutral practice of such mimicricy, without parody’s ulterior motive, without the satirical impulse, without laughter, without that still latent feeling that there exists something normal compared with which what is being imitated is rather comic. (4)

Lots of styles, two basic types

As to form, citation styles can be divided into two main groups;

1. In-text citations style  also known as bracket style: the references to the source are included in the running text (in full or abbreviated) between round brackets (Jameson 4). Examples of this citation style are APA and MLA.

2.  Numerical references style: consecutive numbers in the running text refer to footnotes/endnotes in which the source is mentioned and/or explained (1). 
For instance the Nature or the Vancouver Referencing Styles

                  1. Sacks O, Schulman M. Steroid Dementia: an overlooked diagnosis? Neurology. 2005; 64(4): 707-709.

3. Some citation styles have both versions, such as the Chicago/Turabian style.

Tips on citing

If you use the following tips, you will work more efficiently:

  1. Whether you use a formal set of citation rules, always keep in mind:
    •  Completeness: note down in your bibliography all information you need to retrace the source (in the version/edition you have used it)
    • Unambiguity & consistency: note down the same kinds of sources in a consequent manner
  2. Stick to the citation style recommended by your study programme or lecturer
  3. If you are going to use a lot of citation, use a reference management tool such as RefWorks, Endnote, Zotero, Papers or Mendeley: this will save you lots of time.