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MLA Style: 7th edition: Signal Phrase

Definition of Signal Phrase

Definition of Signal Phrase:

"In academic writing (as well as in speaking), a writer must use certain words and phrases to connect their ideas, show a logical relationship between ideas, and guide the reader in the direction that the writer wants them to go. We use signal words and phrases to do this."

Source: Words and Phrases.pdf

"Whenever you include a paraphrase, summary, or direct quotation of another writer's work in your paper, prepare your readers for it with introductory words called a signal phrase.  A signal phrase usually names the author of the source and often provides some context for the source material." (Hacker and Sommers 573) 

Source:  Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. The Bedford Handbook. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. Print.

Signal phrases usually include the author’s name and a verb to introduce the material. Using the author’s name in the phrase allows you to keep the parenthetical citation brief. If you do not include the author’s name in the signal phrase, then include the author’s last name in the parenthetical citation along with the page number.

Signal phrase with quotation:

Murray states that “personal electronic devices allow us to do more work in less time” (15).

Signal phrase with paraphrase:

Murray illustrates how personal electronic devices have changed our daily lives (15).



Examples of Signal Phrases

Introducing Quotations:

The signal phrases alert the reader that the author is about to quote directly from another source.  The writer is preparing the reader for the proper parenthetical citation.

X states, "__________________"  (page #).

In her book, Title of Book, X defined "_______________________" (page #).

According to X, "_________________" (page #).

Summarizing, Paraphrasing, & Quotations:

These signal phrases alert the reader that the author is about to summarize or paraphrase another idea established by an authority on a chosen topic.

X emphasizes ____________________ (page #).

X observes ______________________ (page #).

X reports ________________________ (page #).

Verbs in Signal Phrases

"When you write a signal phrase, choose a verb that is appropriate for the way you are using the source.  Note that MLA style calls for verbs in the present or present perfect tense (argues, has argued) to introduce source material unless you include a date that specifies the time of the original author's writing." (Hacker and Sommers 574)

Source: ​Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. The Bedford Handbook. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. Print

Examples of Verbs for Signal Phrases - MLA Style

Acknowledges          Comments               Endorses              Predicts                  States

Adds                         Compares                Estimates             Proposes                Suggests

Admits                      Concedes                Finds                     Reasons                 Supports

Affirms                      Confirms                 Grants                    Recognizes            Supposes

Agrees                      Contends                Illustrates               Recommends         Surmises

Answers                    Contrasts                Implies                  Refutes                   Tells

Argues                      Counters                 Insinuates             Rejects                   Theorizes

Asks                          Declares                 Insists                   Reports                   Thinks

Asserts                      Defines                   Labels                  Responds                Verifies

Attacks                      Denies                    Mentions              Retorts                     Warns    

Believes                    Disputes                 Notes                    Reveals                    Writes

Calls                         Echoes                   Observes               Says

Claims                      Emphasizes            Points out             Speculates