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I am to write a book "review" as an assignment, but really it's just a book summary. Our professor wants us to use the MLA format in this book review. Of course, the format includes rules on how to do proper citations and such.

How do I cite anything when the entire report is a summary of a single book? I don't expect to use anything from other books in the report, and I expect to basically pull out the important sentences in each chapter and rearrange them into a paragraph (because we are expected to have one paragraph per chapter). I feel like if I were to properly cite this, I would have to end every sentence with a page number in parentheses. Is this not the case?

(Also, before it is brought up, I did look through the OWL and did not find an answer to this question)

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Why, oh why, do students today find it impossible to grab a copy of the MLA Handbook from their university library and look in it? It seems that today studying means having anonymous people on the net tell you how to do stuff. Is it weak leg muscles or a lazy mind that make students not study anymore? –  what Nov 3 at 8:49
@what Books suffer from their own medium, printed paper. To locate something you have to scan over a table of contents or an index; to correct something, the publisher must reprint and release errata and new versions. For color images, color ink must be used. For animations, diagrams and frame-by-frame slideshows must suffice. Students realize this and use books alongside the internet, both being tools for obtaining knowledge. Why is it less valid to read something on the internet than in a book? The author of the MLA handbook is just as anonymous to me in book form than in internet form. –  Ricket Nov 3 at 14:20
In any case, my question may have been new: "I feel like if I were to properly cite this, I would have to end every sentence with a page number in parentheses. Is this not the case?" Maybe the handbook covers this situation, in which case I have caused it to be transferred to the internet, and it was much more convenient to ask you folks who have become experts either by reading the handbook or hearing from other experts. Also please note I have since graduated, and even though it's @what's opinion against my own, I am not your average "lazy" student, if the average student is in fact lazy. –  Ricket Nov 3 at 14:25

2 Answers 2

MLA guidelines suggest that, when citing an entire work, "it is best to paraphrase the information being used. This way, the author's name (or the name of the work, if it is anonymous), is mentioned in the sentence, but there is no need for particular documentation at the end of the sentence." The example given is as follows:

Turner's study served to redirect radically the discourse on Gullah that had developed to that point.

So, even though there is no parenthetical citation, you're still clearly indicating what work you are citing. Then all you need to do is reference the work in your bibliography.

Finally, when it becomes necessary to quote from the work, or you want to make clear what page in the work you're referring to, simply provide an in-line citation referencing the page number, since you've already made it explicit what work you're referring to. Example:

The book "Blah Blah Blah" is an exploration of waffle in the 21st Century. As the author makes clear, "the advent of on-line communication has made it easier than ever before to disseminate blah blah to a wide audience" (5). He goes on to elaborate that "blah blah is also now a load of wibble" (32).

See "repeated citations from the same source" for a further example.

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One way to go at this would be to treat it like any other writing assignment. Include the book you are reviewing in your Works Cited list, in MLA or whatever format your professor prefers. Then in the paper, when quoting or paraphrasing, you can use a parenthetical like (Surname 71). Unless the book's chapters are extremely short, a one-paragraph summary of a chapter should not have too much direct quotation or close paraphrasing.

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