Writing an academic research paper not only means structuring your ideas, developing them, and relating them to your overall topic, it also implies that one has to follow certain conventions regarding thedocumentation of sources. In the field of English and American literary studies, the rules of documentation are particularly strict and have to follow the guidelines laid down in the Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (1999).

The reason behind documenting the sources, both primary and secondary, is to enable the reader to retrace the sources of all the quotations (direct and indirect ones) used in your paper. So for example, it is necessary to indicate the author's last and first name, the title of the article, monograph, edition, the publisher, place of publication, year of publication and page numbers in your bibliography depending on which type of source you quote.

For documenting the sources in your paper you have various possibilities at your disposal:

  1. the most common, and most widely used form of documentation within the text is the parenthetical documentation. In this case, either the name of the author and the page reference, or the title of the work and the page reference are directly cited after the quotation within the text. (see samples)

  2. Footnotes and endnotes are also used. Footnotes are positioned at the bottom of the page, endnotes at the end of the entire paper. Footnotes and endnotes are not only used to document the sources, but more often so, they are used for additional information, i.e. information, further sources, etc. that you do not wish to integrate into the paper as such.

Short, direct quotes of less than four lines are generally integrated in the text and placed in quotation marks (direct quotation). You can also use paraphrases, i.e. indirect quotations. Longer quotations are indented each line, i.e. set off from the text. If a sentence, or a passage is not quoted as a whole, the omitted parts are indicated by three periods [...].

Mind that you have to be consistent in your documentation of sources, i.e. don't mix up footnotes and parenthetical documentation, and also in your spelling.

For a more detailed version, check the (MLA) Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (1999), 5th edition, or the web-site: www.mla.org