This post provides direction and best practices about properly incorporating MLA paraphrase/summary citation. First there’s an example of how to incorporate a paraphrase/summary citation using proper MLA formatting and Citation Sandwich body paragraph formatting. After that, you’ll find a description of “Paraphrase Best Practice” and a “Strong vs. Weak Examples” of a paraphrase/summary citation.
More detailed information can be found in the “Paraphrasing from Sources” page the IVCC Stylebook.
Example Paraphrase/Summary with Citation Sandwich Steps
Topic sentence of body paragraph. 1-3 sentences that set-up or build the paragraph’s claim. According to an article from The Atlantic, gender expectations can be established as early as toddler years. Researchers have seen children as young as two years choosing gendered toys when given the option. The article also makes the claim that children brought up in gender neutral environments do not show a marked difference in their choice of toys (“Kids, Gender, and The Complexity of Social Gender Norms”). It is easy to claim that parents are responsible for teaching a young girl to like pink or dolls or a young boy to like blue and trucks; however, the evidence it showing that parents can make all the effort at home to provide a neutral environment with little impact. Until the outside social exposure that children receive via television, grocery stores, day care providers, and the like becomes less gendered, there is little lasting impact parents will have.
Things to note about this example:
- The parenthetical documentation formatting of this source tells readers this article does not have a given author. On the Works Cited page, this entry would begin with the “Article Title.”
- The use of the introductory signal phrase as well as the continued reference back to the source (while including additional information) helps show readers where the paraphrase begins and where it ends as well as what source provided the info/idea.
- The explanation or context provided by you, the student, is nearly as long as the paraphrase citation, making your voice just as strong (or stronger) than the voice of the citation.
Paraphrase Best Practices
But wait…?! Some library database sources and Internet sources don’t have page numbers?! So plan ahead:
- Because parenthetical documentation will include author last name(s) OR “Article Title” when there’s no known author.
- Don’t use the author name in the signal phrase so you can save it for the parenthesis.
- That way instructors grading your writing and readers can clearly see where the paraphrase ends and where your voice picks up again.
Strong vs. Weak Examples
Strong Example: readers clearly see where the paraphrase citation ends.
- An article in Slate explains the importance of creative arts in the public school system and positive involvement in the arts raises student success and retention rates—students self report more involvement in the classroom and higher self-esteem outside of the classroom (Borne).
Weak Example: makes it unclear as to where the paraphrase citation ends.
- An article in Slate by Michael Borne explains the importance of creative arts in the public school system and positive involvement in the arts raises student success and retention rates—students self report more involvement in the classroom and higher self-esteem outside of the classroom.
And please please please: do not slap parenthetical documentation at the end of all your paragraphs “just in case.”
And here’s a link to transitional language post if you’re looking for ways to provide more transition within and between your paragraphs.