Citing Sources

Learning Objectives

  • Understand what style is.
  • Know which academic disciplines you are more likely to use, American Psychological Association (APA) versus Modern Language Association (MLA) style.
  • Cite sources using the sixth edition of the American Psychological Association’s Style Manual.
  • Cite sources using the seventh edition of the Modern Language Association’s Style Manual.
  • Explain the steps for citing sources within a speech.
  • Differentiate between direct quotations and paraphrases of information within a speech.
  • Understand how to use sources ethically in a speech.
  • Explain twelve strategies for avoiding plagiarism.

By this point you’re probably exhausted after looking at countless sources, but there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. Most public speaking teachers will require you to turn in either a bibliography or a reference page with your speeches. In this section, we’re going to explore how to properly cite your sources for a Modern Language Association (MLA) list of works cited or an American Psychological Association (APA) reference list. We’re also going to discuss plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Why Citing Is Important

Citing is important because it enables readers to see where you found information cited within a speech, article, or book. Furthermore, not citing information properly is considered plagiarism, so ethically we want to make sure that we give credit to the authors we use in a speech. While there are numerous citation styles to choose from, the two most common style choices for public speaking are APA and MLA.

APA versus MLA Source Citations

Style refers to those components or features of a literary composition or oral presentation that have to do with the form of expression rather than the content expressed (e.g., language, punctuation, parenthetical citations, and endnotes). The APA and the MLA have created the two most commonly used style guides in academia today. Generally speaking, scholars in the various social science fields (e.g., psychology, human communication, business) are more likely to use APA style, and scholars in the various humanities fields (e.g., English, philosophy, rhetoric) are more likely to use MLA style. The two styles are quite different from each other, so learning them does take time.

APA Citations

The first common reference style your teacher may ask for is APA. As of July 2009, the American Psychological Association published the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.[1] The sixth edition provides considerable guidance on working with and citing Internet sources. Table 1 “APA Sixth Edition Citations” provides a list of common citation examples that you may need for your speech.

Table 1. APA Sixth Edition Citations

Research Article in a Journal—One Author Harmon, M. D. (2006). Affluenza: A world values test. The International Communication Gazette, 68, 119–130. doi: 10.1177/1748048506062228
Research Article in a Journal—Two to Five Authors Hoffner, C., & Levine, K. J. (2005). Enjoyment of mediated fright and violence: A meta-analysis. Media Psychology, 7, 207–237. doi: 10.1207/S1532785XMEP0702_5
Book Eysenck, H. J. (1982). Personality, genetics, and behavior: Selected papers. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers.
Book with 6 or More Authors Huston, A. C., Donnerstein, E., Fairchild, H., Feshbach, N. D., Katz, P. A., Murray, J. P.,…Zuckerman, D. (1992). Big world, small screen: The role of television in American society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Chapter in an Edited Book Tamobrini, R. (1991). Responding to horror: Determinants of exposure and appeal. In J. Bryant & D. Zillman (Eds.), Responding to the screen: Reception and reaction processes (pp. 305–329). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Newspaper Article Thomason, D. (2010, March 31). Dry weather leads to burn ban. The Sentinel Record, p. A1.
Magazine Article Finney, J. (2010, March–April). The new “new deal”: How to communicate a changed employee value proposition to a skeptical audience—and realign employees within the organization. Communication World, 27 (2), 27–30.
Preprint Version of an Article Laudel, G., & Gläser, J. (in press). Tensions between evaluations and communication practices. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. Retrieved from
Blog Wrench, J. S. (2009, June 3). AMA’s managerial competency model [Web log post]. Retrieved from
Wikipedia Organizational Communication. (2009, July 11). [Wiki entry]. Retrieved from
Vlog Wrench, J. S. (2009, May 15). Instructional communication [Video file]. Retrieved from
Discussion Board Wrench, J. S. (2009, May 21). NCA’s i-tunes project [Online forum comment]. Retrieved from
E-mail List McAllister, M. (2009, June 19). New listserv: Critical approaches to ads/consumer culture & media studies [Electronic mailing list message]. Retrieved from
Podcast Wrench, J. S. (Producer). (2009, July 9). Workplace bullying [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from
Electronic-Only Book Richmond, V. P., Wrench, J. S., & Gorham, J. (2009). Communication, affect, and learning in the classroom (3rd ed.). Retrieved from
Electronic-Only Journal Article Molyneaux, H., O’Donnell, S., Gibson, K., & Singer, J. (2008). Exploring the gender divide on YouTube: An analysis of the creation and reception of vlogs. American Communication Journal, 10(1). Retrieved from
Electronic Version of a Printed Book Wood, A. F., & Smith, M. J. (2004). Online communication: Linking technology, identity & culture (2nd ed.). Retrieved from
Online Magazine Levine, T. (2009, June). To catch a liar. Communication Currents, 4(3). Retrieved from
Online Newspaper Clifford, S. (2009, June 1). Online, “a reason to keep going.” The New York Times. Retrieved from
Entry in an Online Reference Work Viswanth, K. (2008). Health communication. In W. Donsbach (Ed.), The international encyclopedia of communication. Retrieved from doi: 10.1111/b.9781405131995.2008.x
Entry in an Online Reference Work, No Author Communication. (n.d.). In Random House dictionary (9th ed.). Retrieved from
E-Reader Device Lutgen-Sandvik, P., & Davenport Sypher, B. (2009). Destructive organizational communication: Processes, consequences, & constructive ways of organizing. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from

MLA Citations

The second common reference style your teacher may ask for is MLA. In March 2009, the Modern Language Association published the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.[2] The seventh edition provides considerable guidance for citing online sources and new media such as graphic narratives. Table 2 “MLA Seventh Edition Citations” provides a list of common citations you may need for your speech.

Table 2. MLA Seventh Edition Citations

Research Article in a Journal—One Author Harmon, Mark D. “Affluenza: A World Values Test.” The International Communication Gazette 68 (2006): 119–130. Print.
Research Article in a Journal—Two to Four Authors Hoffner, Cynthia A., and Kenneth J. Levine, “Enjoyment of Mediated Fright and Violence: A Meta-analysis.” Media Psychology 7 (2005): 207–237. Print.
Book Eysenck, Hans J. Personality, Genetics, and Behavior: Selected Papers. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1982. Print.
Book with Four or More Authors Huston, Aletha C., et al., Big World, Small Screen: The Role of Television in American Society. Lincoln, NE: U of Nebraska P, 1992. Print.
Chapter in an Edited Book Tamobrini, Ron. “Responding to Horror: Determinants of Exposure and Appeal.” Responding to the Screen: Reception and Reaction Processes. Eds. Jennings Bryant and Dolf Zillman. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1991. 305–329. Print.
Newspaper Article Thomason, Dan. “Dry Weather Leads to Burn Ban.” The Sentinel Record 31 Mar. 2010: A1. Print.
Magazine Article Finney, John. “The New ‘New Deal’: How to Communicate a Changed Employee Value Proposition to a Skeptical Audience—And Realign Employees Within the Organization.” Communication World Mar.–Apr. 2010: 27–30. Print.
Preprint Version of an Article Grit Laudel’s Website. 15 July 2009. Pre-print version of Laudel, Grit and Gläser, Joken. “Tensions Between Evaluations and Communication Practices.” Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management.
Blog Wrench, Jason S. “ AMA’s Managerial Competency Model.” Workplace Learning and Performance Network Blog., 3 Jun. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Wikipedia “Organizational Communication.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Vlog Wrench, Jason S. “Instructional Communication.” The Learning Journal Videos., 15 May 2009. Web. 1 Aug. 2009.
Discussion Board Wrench, Jason S. “NCA’s i-Tunes Project.” National Communication Association LinkedIn Group. Web. 1 August 2009.
E-mail List McAllister, Matt. “New Listerv: Critical Approaches to Ads/Consumer Culture & Media Studies.” Online posting. 19 June 2009. CRTNet. Web. 1 August 2009. 〈〉
Podcast “Workplace Bullying.” Narr. Wrench, Jason S. and P. Lutgen-Sandvik., 9 July 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Electronic-Only Book Richmond, Virginia P., Jason S. Wrench, and Joan Gorham. Communication, Affect, and Learning in the Classroom. 3rd ed. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Electronic-Only Journal Article Molyneaux, Heather, Susan O’Donnell, Kerri Gibson, and Janice Singer. “Exploring the Gender Divide on YouTube: An Analysis of the Creation and Reception of Vlogs.” American Communication Journal 10.1 (2008): n.pag. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Electronic Version of a Printed Book Wood, Andrew F., and Matthew. J. Smith. Online Communication: Linking Technology, Identity & Culture. 2nd ed. 2005. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Online Magazine Levine, Timothy. “To Catch a Liar.” Communication Currents. N.p. June 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Online Newspaper Clifford, Stephanie. “Online, ‘A Reason to Keep Going.’” The New York Times. 1 Jun. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Entry in an Online Reference Work Viswanth, K. “Health Communication.” The International Encyclopedia of Communication. 2008. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
Entry in an Online Reference Work, No Author “Communication.” Random House Dictionary Online. 9th ed. 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2010.
E-Reader Device Lutgen-Sandvik, Pamela, and Beverly Davenport Sypher. Destructive Organizational Communication: Processes, Consequences, & Constructive Ways of Organizing. New York: Routledge, 2009. Kindle.

Citing Sources in a Speech

Once you have decided what sources best help you explain important terms and ideas in your speech or help you build your arguments, it’s time to place them into your speech. In this section, we’re going to quickly talk about using your research effectively within your speeches. Citing sources within a speech is a three-step process: set up the citation, give the citation, and explain the citation.

First, you want to set up your audience for the citation. The setup is one or two sentences that are general statements that lead to the specific information you are going to discuss from your source. Here’s an example: “Workplace bullying is becoming an increasing problem for US organizations.” Notice that this statement doesn’t provide a specific citation yet, but the statement introduces the basic topic.

Second, you want to deliver the source; whether it is a direct quotation or a paraphrase of information from a source doesn’t matter at this point. A direct quotation is when you cite the actual words from a source with no changes. To paraphrase is to take a source’s basic idea and condense it using your own words. The following is an example of both:

Direct Quotation In a 2009 report titled Bullying: Getting Away With It, the Workplace Bullying Institute wrote, “Doing nothing to the bully (ensuring impunity) was the most common employer tactic (54%).”
Paraphrase According to a 2009 study by the Workplace Bullying Institute titled Bullying: Getting Away With It, when employees reported bullying, 54 percent of employers did nothing at all.

You’ll notice that in both of these cases, we started by citing the author of the study—in this case, the Workplace Bullying Institute. We then provided the title of the study. You could also provide the name of the article, book, podcast, movie, or other source. In the direct quotation example, we took information right from the report. In the second example, we summarized the same information.[3]

Let’s look at another example of direct quotations and paraphrases, this time using a person, rather than an institution, as the author.

Direct Quotation In her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, Mary George, senior reference librarian at Princeton University’s library, defines insight as something that “occurs at an unpredictable point in the research process and leads to the formulation of a thesis statement and argument. Also called an ‘Aha’ moment or focus.”
Paraphrase In her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, Mary George, senior reference librarian at Princeton University’s library, tells us that insight is likely to come unexpectedly during the research process; it will be an “aha!” moment when we suddenly have a clear vision of the point we want to make.

Notice that the same basic pattern for citing sources was followed in both cases.

The final step in correct source citation within a speech is the explanation. One of the biggest mistakes of novice public speakers (and research writers) is that they include a source citation and then do nothing with the citation at all. Instead, take the time to explain the quotation or paraphrase to put into the context of your speech. Do not let your audience draw their own conclusions about the quotation or paraphrase. Instead, help them make the connections you want them to make. Here are two examples using the examples above:

Bullying Example Clearly, organizations need to be held accountable for investigating bullying allegations. If organizations will not voluntarily improve their handling of this problem, the legal system may be required to step in and enforce sanctions for bullying, much as it has done with sexual harassment.
Aha! Example As many of us know, reaching that “aha!” moment does not always come quickly, but there are definitely some strategies one can take to help speed up this process.

Notice how in both of our explanations we took the source’s information and then added to the information to direct it for our specific purpose. In the case of the bullying citation, we then propose that businesses should either adopt workplace bullying guidelines or face legal intervention. In the case of the “aha!” example, we turn the quotation into a section on helping people find their thesis or topic. In both cases, we were able to use the information to further our speech.

Using Sources Ethically

The last section of this chapter is about using sources in an ethical manner. Whether you are using primary or secondary research, there are five basic ethical issues you need to consider.

Avoid Plagiarism

First, and foremost, if the idea isn’t yours, you need to cite where the information came from during your speech. Having the citation listed on a bibliography or reference page is only half of the correct citation. You must provide correct citations for all your sources within the speech as well. In a very helpful book called Avoiding Plagiarism: A Student Guide to Writing Your Own Work, Menager-Beeley and Paulos provide a list of twelve strategies for avoiding plagiarism:[4]

  1. Do your own work, and use your own words. One of the goals of a public speaking class is to develop skills that you’ll use in the world outside academia. When you are in the workplace and the “real world,” you’ll be expected to think for yourself, so you might as well start learning this skill now.
  2. Allow yourself enough time to research the assignment. One of the most commonly cited excuses students give for plagiarism is that they didn’t have enough time to do the research. In this chapter, we’ve stressed the necessity of giving yourself plenty of time. The more complete your research strategy is from the very beginning, the more successful your research endeavors will be in the long run. Remember, not having adequate time to prepare is no excuse for plagiarism.
  3. Keep careful track of your sources. A common mistake that people can make is that they forget where information came from when they start creating the speech itself. Chances are you’re going to look at dozens of sources when preparing your speech, and it is very easy to suddenly find yourself believing that a piece of information is “common knowledge” and not citing that information within a speech. When you keep track of your sources, you’re less likely to inadvertently lose sources and not cite them correctly.
  4. Take careful notes. However you decide to keep track of the information you collect (old-fashioned pen and notebook or a computer software program), the more careful your note-taking is, the less likely you’ll find yourself inadvertently not citing information or citing the information incorrectly. It doesn’t matter what method you choose for taking research notes, but whatever you do, you need to be systematic to avoid plagiarizing.
  5. Assemble your thoughts, and make it clear who is speaking. When creating your speech, you need to make sure that you clearly differentiate your voice in the speech from the voice of specific authors of the sources you quote. The easiest way to do this is to set up a direct quotation or a paraphrase, as we’ve described in the preceding sections. Remember, audience members cannot see where the quotation marks are located within your speech text, so you need to clearly articulate with words and vocal tone when you are using someone else’s ideas within your speech.
  6. If you use an idea, a quotation, paraphrase, or summary, then credit the source. We can’t reiterate it enough: if it is not your idea, you need to tell your audience where the information came from. Giving credit is especially important when your speech includes a statistic, an original theory, or a fact that is not common knowledge.
  7. Learn how to cite sources correctly both in the body of your paper and in your List of Works Cited (Reference Page). Most public speaking teachers will require that you turn in either a bibliography or reference page on the day you deliver a speech. Many students make the mistake of thinking that the bibliography or reference page is all they need to cite information, and then they don’t cite any of the material within the speech itself. A bibliography or reference page enables a reader or listener to find those sources after the fact, but you must also correctly cite those sources within the speech itself; otherwise, you are plagiarizing.
  8. Quote accurately and sparingly. A public speech should be based on factual information and references, but it shouldn’t be a string of direct quotations strung together. Experts recommend that no more than 10 percent of a paper or speech be direct quotations.[5] When selecting direct quotations, always ask yourself if the material could be paraphrased in a manner that would make it clearer for your audience. If the author wrote a sentence in a way that is just perfect, and you don’t want to tamper with it, then by all means directly quote the sentence. But if you’re just quoting because it’s easier than putting the ideas into your own words, this is not a legitimate reason for including direct quotations.
  9. Paraphrase carefully. Modifying an author’s words in this way is not simply a matter of replacing some of the words with synonyms. Instead, as Howard and Taggart explain in Research Matters, “paraphrasing force[s] you to understand your sources and to capture their meaning accurately in original words and sentences.”[6] Incorrect paraphrasing is one of the most common forms of inadvertent plagiarism by students. First and foremost, paraphrasing is putting the author’s argument, intent, or ideas into your own words.
  10. Do not patchwrite (patchspeak). Menager-Beeley and Paulos define patchwriting as consisting “of mixing several references together and arranging paraphrases and quotations to constitute much of the paper. In essence, the student has assembled others’ work with a bit of embroidery here and there but with little original thinking or expression.”[7] Just as students can patchwrite, they can also engage in patchspeaking. In patchspeaking, students rely completely on taking quotations and paraphrases and weaving them together in a manner that is devoid of the student’s original thinking.
  11. Summarize, don’t auto-summarize. Some students have learned that most word processing features have an auto-summary function. The auto-summary function will take a ten-page document and summarize the information into a short paragraph. When someone uses the auto-summary function, the words that remain in the summary are still those of the original author, so this is not an ethical form of paraphrasing.
  12. Do not rework another student’s paper (speech) or buy paper mill papers (speech mill speeches). In today’s Internet environment, there are a number of storehouses of student speeches on the Internet. Some of these speeches are freely available, while other websites charge money for getting access to one of their canned speeches. Whether you use a speech that is freely available or pay money for a speech, you are engaging in plagiarism. This is also true if the main substance of your speech was copied from a web page. Any time you try to present someone else’s ideas as your own during a speech, you are plagiarizing.

Avoid Academic Fraud

While there are numerous websites where you can download free speeches for your class, this is tantamount to fraud. If you didn’t do the research and write your own speech, then you are fraudulently trying to pass off someone else’s work as your own. In addition to being unethical, many institutions have student codes that forbid such activity. Penalties for academic fraud can be as severe as suspension or expulsion from your institution.

Don’t Mislead Your Audience

If you know a source is clearly biased, and you don’t spell this out for your audience, then you are purposefully trying to mislead or manipulate your audience. Instead, if the information may be biased, tell your audience that the information may be biased and allow your audience to decide whether to accept or disregard the information.

Give Author Credentials

You should always provide the author’s credentials. In a world where anyone can say anything and have it published on the Internet or even publish it in a book, we have to be skeptical of the information we see and hear. For this reason, it’s very important to provide your audience with background about the credentials of the authors you cite.

Use Primary Research Ethically

Lastly, if you are using primary research within your speech, you need to use it ethically as well. For example, if you tell your survey participants that the research is anonymous or confidential, then you need to make sure that you maintain their anonymity or confidentiality when you present those results. Furthermore, you also need to be respectful if someone says something is “off the record” during an interview. We must always maintain the privacy and confidentiality of participants during primary research, unless we have their express permission to reveal their names or other identifying information.

Key Takeaways

  • Style focuses on the components of your speech that make up the form of your expression rather than your content.
  • Social science disciplines, such as psychology, human communication, and business, typically use APA style, while humanities disciplines, such as English, philosophy, and rhetoric, typically use MLA style.
  • The APA sixth edition and the MLA seventh edition are the most current style guides and the tables presented in this chapter provide specific examples of common citations for each of these styles.
  • Citing sources within your speech is a three-step process: set up the citation, provide the cited information, and interpret the information within the context of your speech.
  • A direct quotation is any time you utilize another individual’s words in a format that resembles the way they were originally said or written. On the other hand, a paraphrase is when you take someone’s ideas and restate them using your own words to convey the intended meaning.
  • Ethically using sources means avoiding plagiarism, not engaging in academic fraud, making sure not to mislead your audience, providing credentials for your sources so the audience can make judgments about the material, and using primary research in ways that protect the identity of participants.
  • Plagiarism is a huge problem and creeps its way into student writing and oral presentations. As ethical communicators, we must always give credit for the information we convey in our writing and our speeches.


  1. List what you think are the benefits of APA style and the benefits of MLA style. Why do you think some people prefer APA style over MLA style or vice versa?
  2. Find a direct quotation within a magazine article. Paraphrase that direct quotation. Then attempt to paraphrase the entire article as well. How would you cite each of these orally within the body of your speech?
  3. Which of Menager-Beeley and Paulos (2009) twelve strategies for avoiding plagiarism do you think you need the most help with right now? Why? What can you do to overcome and avoid that pitfall?

  1. American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author. See also American Psychological Association. (2010). Concise rules of APA Style: The official pocket style guide from the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  2. Modern Language Association. (2009). MLA handbook for writers of research papers (7th ed.). New York, NY: Modern Language Association.
  3. Workplace Bullying Institute. (2009). Bullying: Getting away with it WBI Labor Day Study—September, 2009. Retrieved July 14, 2011, from
  4. Menager-Beeley, R., & Paulos, L. (2009). Understanding plagiarism: A student guide to writing your own work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pp. 5–8.
  5. Menager-Beeley, R., & Paulos, L. (2009). Understanding plagiarism: A student guide to writing your own work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  6. Howard, R. M., & Taggart, A. R. (2010). Research matters. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, p. 131.
  7. Menager-Beeley, R., & Paulos, L. (2009). Understanding plagiarism: A student guide to writing your own work. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, pp. 7–8.