As we discussed last week, the Modern Language Association (MLA) establishes the style most often used in English and other humanities courses. This week, we will look at the MLA style standards for quoting and citing various kinds of texts. When we talk about citations, there are always 2 parts: the in-text citation and the Work Cited page.
It is important as you are writing your essays to signal to the reader when you are quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing the ideas of another author. Using citations helps you to avoid any appearance of borrowing someone else’s ideas without attribution (otherwise known as plagiarism) and it also helps your own ideas stand out.
To properly indicate that you are using a source in your essay, the MLA says you need to include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. As a general rule, the last name of the author and the page number from which the quote/paraphrase is drawn should appear in the parentheses, like this: (Fitzsimmons 25).
More complicated examples:
If, like a good writer, you have mentioned the name of the author as a part of the sentence (According to Lyman Tower Sargent, professor of Utopian studies . . . ) you would only need to put the page number in the parentheses.
If the text you are citing does not have an author, the rule of thumb is to use the first thing that appears in the citation as a reference: usually the title or an easily recognizable form of the title such as: (“3 Faces” 12). If you are using multiple texts by the same author, you would include the author’s name and a shortened version of the title to clarify which text you are using. (Sargent “3 Faces” 27).
If you are using an Internet source without page numbers, you do not need to include a paragraph or page number in the citation. Again, use the first item appearing in the citation in the parenthesis, (Collins) or (“YA Dystopias”) However, if the text is a print source placed online (like a journal article), you should cite the ORIGINAL page number, not the page of the PDF document. You will need to carefully evaluate Internet sources for reliability.
Other complications (authors with the same last name, muli-volume works, reprinted/multiple editions, other electronic formats) exist and you will likely need to consult your MLA handbook when trying to cite these types of sources. Also, for your classification papers, some of you may be citing non-traditional sources like book jackets, ads or interviews: citations styles exist for nearly all of these in your handbook, so be sure to look them up!
Work Cited Page
The second half of any MLA citation includes a matching entry in the Work Cited page. Every work that appears in a parenthetical citation in your paper must be listed on the Work Cited page, and every entry on the Work Cited page must also appear in your paper. The citation is broken if it doesn’t have both halves!
There are a few basic formatting rules to remember:
- Double space the work cited page
- Work Cited should begin on a new page (Insert -> Page Break)
- Work Cited should still have a page number in the header, continued from the original document
- The page should be titled “Work Cited” and the title should be plain text, centered, just like the paper title on the first page
- All citations should have a hanging indent (second and subsequent line indented 1/2″) so that the first line stands out. (Paragraph -> Indentation -> Spacing (pull down menu) -> Hanging Indent)
- All citations are alphabetized by the first word of the citation (usually the author’s last name)
- All book titles, names of publications or longer works are in italics
- All articles or titles of shorter works are in quotations
- All citations must follow the MLA citation style
For an example of an MLA citation page layout, see the Purdue OWL website.
At its base, the MLA strives to have all citations follow this basic formula:
Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.
Lastname, Firstname. “Title of Article.” Title of Publication. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.
If only every book and article published had one identified author, a single date of publication, was never republished or reprinted or transferred from print to the internet, the MLA citation section of your handbook would be very short. However, there are books that are written by more than one author, internet posts without a posted author, Tweets, blogs and internet versions of books and articles that we often want to cite. If your source is missing some of the information in the above format, or would need additional information in order for your reader to locate the source, you will need to use your MLA handbook to locate an adjusted citation format.
For example, if you wanted to cite one of the chapters in our CCUL textbook, you would not be able to use the basic format, because each chapter is written by a different author. You would need to use your MLA handbook to locate the citation style for “A Work in an Anthology, Collection or Reference Text.” In that case, the citation style looks like this:
Lastname, First name. “Title of Essay.” Title of Collection. Ed. Editor’s Name(s). City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Page range of entry. Medium of Publication.
The MLA updated their internet reference style in 2009, so it is very important to be sure that your MLA handbook reflects these changes. On a very basic level, your citation for an internet reference should include as many of the following as you can locate, in this order:
- Author and/or editor names (if available)
- Article name/Page name in quotation marks (if applicable)
- Title of the Website, project, or book in italics. (Remember that some Print publications have Web publications with slightly different names. They may, for example, include the additional information or otherwise modified information, like domain names [e.g. .com or .net].)
- Any version numbers available, including revisions, posting dates, volumes, or issue numbers.
- Publisher information, including the publisher name and publishing date.
- Take note of any page numbers (if available).
- Medium of publication.
- Date you accessed the material.
- URL (if required by your instructor or if the page is difficult to locate without the URL- you are NOT required to include URLs for this class).
Again, for the MLA clarifies guidelines for specific types of internet materials (newspapers on the web, blogs, social media). Since the Internet evolves faster than academic organizations, the key to successfully citing internet sources is to match the type of publication to the MLA citation that comes closest to the format you are working with.
If you have specific questions, please feel free to ask them here, or in class. Otherwise, keep your MLA handbook next to you as you are working and you should be fine!