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Plagiarism & Documentation Resources - Sellersburg: What is Documentation?

What is Documentation?

When you conduct research for a paper or speech, you will consult sources of information (books, journals, etc.) relevant to your topic. In your paper or speech, you will use some of the words and/or ideas and maybe graphics from these sources. You must tell those reading your paper or listening to your speech from which sources the words/ideas/graphics came. This is documentation.

If you do not document your sources, the reader is led to believe the ideas/words/graphics are your own. This is plagiarism.

Documentation Styles

There are many different documentation styles.  Two of the most common in academic communities are MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association).  In addition to spelling out how to format your paper, both of these styles require two things:

  • Parenthetical (MLA) or in-text (APA) citations
  • Works Cited (MLA) or References (APA) page


Parenthetical or in-text citations:
Parenthetical or in-text citations are a way of telling the reader, “This bit of information came from this particular source on my works cited or references page.”  For example:


According to Sánchez-Jankowski, “youth gangs have been depicted as the trade schools for organized crime” (131).


According to Sánchez-Jankowski (1991), “youth gangs have been depicted as the trade schools for organized crime” (p. 131).


Works Cited or References Page:
The Works Cited or References page is a list (in alphabetical order) of all sources that the writer used.  It appears at the end of the paper.  Examples:


Works Cited

Sánchez-Jankowski, Martin. Islands in the Street: Gangs and American Urban Society. Berkley: California UP, 1991. Print.



Sánchez-Jankowski, M. (1991). Islands in the street: Gangs and American urban society. Berkley: University of California Press.


Style Guides