Documenting Using the MLA Citation Method
The Modern Language Association of America developed the MLA writing style. According to the MLA website, they work to “to strengthen the study and teaching of language and literature.”
What is it?
The Modern Language Association developed the MLA writing style in order for professionals and scholars to share and document ideas and research without crossing plagiarism boundaries. While this form is widely used by both professionals in the field and students taking composition, literature, or humanities courses; many professional publications prefer to utilize the Chicago style method of citation. If you are looking for a reference to format a professional paper for publication, click on the Chicago link for access to information on who uses this method, why it is preferable, and links to help get you started.
Who uses MLA?
Scholars and professionals in liberal arts and the humanities primarily use MLA to format their papers and to cite sources. Examples of disciplines that may use MLA style are studies in English, literature, art, drama, history, music, and philosophy. However, there are other instances for employing its use and instructors’ guidelines vary. It is important to note here that history now exclusively uses Chicago style, despite the claim that MLA is also acceptable. Instructors teaching students all three citation methods may want to suggest to students that they inquire from current and future instructors which method is required for a given course.
MLA style writing has specific guidelines for not only citing sources used in a research paper, but also formatting page layout and using stylistic technicalities such as using long quotations or making a Works Cited page. It is important to stress to students the consistent use of MLA for paper formatting and citations in order to ensure they have the proper forms mastered.
Knowing how to format quotations borrowed from secondary sources is essential in avoiding plagiarism. MLA style addresses how to use and cite both long quotations and short quotations. It may be necessary to provide in-class activities so students can apply the methods discussed first hand. The "How Do I" section of this page provides potential in-class group work which will reinforce the MLA guideline lesson given in class. For online instructors the methods can easily be adapted for individual or group work online.
Works Cited page:
A Works Cited page is located at the end of a research paper for readers to use as a reference to learn more about the sources used in the in-text citations. Just as MLA calls for specific layout of a research paper, there are also formatting rules for the Works Cited page. This is where many students run into difficulties. It is imperative that students are instructed on how to determine what type of source is being utilized and what specific MLA citation method example must be followed. Instructors cannot stress enough at this point that online citation machines are not reliable and are difficult to navigate.
How do I . . .
format my page for MLA?
do a long quotation in MLA?
do in-text citations in MLA?
do a Works Cited page in MLA?
I would like to see . . .
an example of a research paper in MLA format.
Have other MLA questions?
The Bedford/St. Martins Research and Documentation Online is a well-organized website with drop-down menus that take you directly the MLA information you need.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab website is the go to resource for all things related to MLA. The Purdue OWL is an invaluable resource for both instructors and students. Students can submit work to the OWL and receive feedback. Please make students aware, however, that the turn around time is not immediate. It will be necessary to provide adequate time for a response.
Handy Reference Guide:
A Pocket Style Manual (6th Edition) also known as the Hacker Handbook provides a quick portable reference for students needing on the spot information regarding MLA paper formatting and citation methods.
Potential for Learning:
Classroom instruction in MLA citation methods will be necessary to ensure students learn the necessary skills for proper MLA citation and paper formatting. This instruction can be done via videos using either Snagit, Jinga, or Camtasia. Also, simple group work such as identifying a given source and citing it properly using a style guide can ensure that students are familiar with the required documentation style prior to writing their first paper.