What You Need to Know About Citation Styles | Writing

January 23, 2015 thetasctest
133822830_837x563px A citation refers to a moment in a piece of writing when you, as the writer, note that something you have written comes from another source. Citations serve two purposes: most importantly, they add weight to your argument – if a source has a certain level of authority or expertise, quoting that source adds to your authority. Secondly, citations enable your reader to follow your train of thought and trace back your argument. Different citation styles serve specific purposes. They were created, and are regulated, by institutions that govern types of research. For example, two of the citation styles discussed below were established by the primary institutes in their respective fields: MLA by the Modern Language Association, and APA by the American Psychological Association. Some of the best writing guidance we can give you is how to use citations on your TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ Writing subtest. Being able to conform to the guidelines in a style manual that is appropriate for your discipline and writing type is a high emphasis topic. We introduce three types of citation styles below, and give you some tips regarding when you should cite – and the difference between quoting and using your own words. Navigating this distinction can improve your writing and your overall argument.  


  MLA is traditionally used for writers working in the Humanities, in disciplines such as Art and English Literature. When citing in MLA, the emphasis in your citation is on the author’s name rather than on the year the material was published (regardless of how well-known the author is). Additionally, in writing, the emphasis is on “unpacking” what is important. By unpacking, we mean explaining and interrogating why a given quotation from a source is important and worth quoting. This is sometimes referred to as close reading. In more formal writing, you would have a Works Cited page that collects all of the information about the sources included throughout your paper. On the TASC Writing subtest, however, you only need to include in-text citations. For that reason, we’ve outlined a few types of in-text citations that may be helpful to you:
  1. If you are referring to a quotation from a passage that has an author or organization indicated, format your parenthetical citation this way:
(Last Name Page Number) (Dickens 101)
  1. If there is no author, you’ll format it this way:
(“Title of Passage” Page Number) (“A Rose for Emily” 2)
  1. If there is no page or line number, only use the author’s name.
Always place in-text citations in parenthesis at the end of a sentence. Remember, you can only work with the information provided with the passage on the TASC Writing subtest. Be sure to note the author’s name, the publication year, and any other additional information that can help you clarify your in-text citation.


Unlike MLA, APA was designed for writers working in the Sciences and the Social Sciences. The emphasis in this style is on the year the material was published. This emphasis is primarily because in these fields the most recent research is the most important, and older research is outdated. In writing, quotations are typically used to introduce or to reinforce data. It is less about close reading, and more about providing essential information that supports the writer’s hypothesis. The general style is similar to MLA. You will still use parentheses for your in-text citation at the end of your sentence. Additionally, you would include a Works Cited page at the end of a more formal writing assignment. For the TASC Writing subtest, however, you’ll want to use only in-text citations from any quotations you pull from the passage you’ve read and are responding to. Here are the same styles we presented in MLA, in APA format:
  1. For a passage with an author or organization:
(Author, Date, Page Number) (Dickens, 1859, 101)
  1. If there is no author:
(“Title of Passage,” Date, Page Number) (“A Rose for Emily,” 1930, 2)
  1. If there is no date:
(Author, Page Number) (Dickens, 101)
  1. Like MLA, if there is no page number, only include the author and date.

When to Cite

You cannot cite everything, and when you are reading a passage on the writing subtest, be selective about what you include in your response. If a quote meets any of these criteria, we think it’s a good rule of thumb to include it:
  • Language is especially vivid or expressive
  • Exact wording is necessary
  • Debater’s voice is important
  • Authority lends weight to your argument
  • Analyzing or interpreting
If not, you can probably paraphrase or summarize the information. Paraphrasing refers to discussing something that was written about in a passage, in your own words. If you can say it just as well – or more concisely – than the author of the passage, you should paraphrase. If there is a page number, you should still include that in parentheses after the paraphrase. The above citations are just a few examples of the rules for citing for these different styles. Websites like the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue, Diana Hacker’s Style Guide, and Turabian’s Manual for Writers can help you navigate more nuanced citations, such as online periodicals or media. If you are planning on pursuing a post-secondary degree after completing your high school equivalency, these websites are helpful for writing research papers.
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