What are book citations?

by admin on March 15, 2011

What exactly are book citations? For that matter, what are citations, period?


Starting with the last question, citations are a way of acknowledging your source, and they’re usually used in academic works—research papers, theses, dissertations and journal articles. If John Jones wrote a book titled “The effective use of white space in advertising” and you paraphrased or directly quoted material from his book in your paper on effective advertising techniques, you’d want to give him credit—and that, in a nutshell, is what a citation does.

Now, lets’ address our initial question—what exactly is a book citation? Borrowing from our previous answer, again, it’s a way of acknowledging that we’re used material from someone else’s published (or in some cases unpublished) work. There are many different styles of citations out there: APA, MLA, Turabian, and Chicago tend to be the most-often used, but there are others. We’re going to focus today on MLA book citations.
MLA citations require the author’s last name and the page number of the material cited. Using our example above, if I cited Jones’ book, according to MLA style, the citation would look thusly:

Effective use of white space can increase advertising profits (Jones 87).

This lets the reader know that I pulled material from page 87 of Jones’ book.

Ah, but what if I cite Jones differently?

According to Jones, the effective use of white space can increase advertising profits (87).
This is the proper MLA citation when the author’s name is used in the sentence.

Wait! Sometimes the original author’s words are so perfect that you quote them directly. What then? How do you cite that?

Jones states, “Effective use of white space can make advertising infinitely more profitable” (87).
Or even
“Effective use of white space can make advertising infinitely more profitable” (Jones 87).

Okay, that’s fairly straightforward, but what if Jones had a co-author or co-authors? How does MLA cite that?
For two to three authors, all names are listed:

(Jones, Smith and Doe 87)


For four or more authors, the primary author is listed, followed by “et al.”:
(Smith et al. 87)


But what if Smith, Jones and Doe aren’t co-authors? What if they all wrote their own books and you’re citing all of them in one sentence? Is there a proper MLA citation style for that? Yep:

(Smith 92; Jones 87; Doe 75)

All the entries are separated by semi-colons.

What if Jones has written several books and you’re citing from more than one of them? Again, MLA has you covered.

You just use an abbreviated version of the book titles in the citation:

(Jones, White space 87)


Notice the abbreviated title is italicized and there is no comma between it and the page number.
Okay, is MLA citation style beginning to make sense now? Hmmm…let’s test that: How would you cite a specific volume of a multi-volume work?

Stumped you, huh? It’s not all that difficult, actually, although there are a couple of variations. If you’re referring to a specific page in a certain volume, MLA requires that you cite author, volume and page number, as follows:

(Smith 3: 45)


If, on the other hand, you make a sweeping reference to the entire volume, you cite author and volume number:

He devotes an entire volume to the description of quarks (Smith, vol. 3).

This is by no means an exhaustive look at the proper use of MLA citations, but it will serve as a handy guide to some of the more common citations used. An even better idea, though, is to let one of the professional editors at Book Editing Services (Book-Editing-Services.com) assist you in making sure that all your citations are properly formatted, whether in MLA or another style of your preference.

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