LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Grammar Post: Medium of Publication

on April 8, 2013 12:35pm

After reading your annotated bibliographies, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss the fairly new MLA requirement of listing the medium of publication for each source.

According to the Purdue OWL site, you need the following information when citing electronic sources:

Basic Style for Citations of Electronic Sources (Including Online Databases)

Here are some common features you should try and find before citing electronic sources in MLA style. Not every Web page will provide all of the following information. However, collect as much of the following information as possible both for your citations and for your research notes:

  • Author and/or editor names (if available)
  • Article 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, or for your own personal reference; MLA does not require a URL).

It is very important that you cite the medium of publication correctly.

As a general rule, if you have gone to the library, walked into the stacks and physically picked up a book, journal or newspaper, you will cite the medium of publication as Print. To cite a source, you must have held the actual hard copy in your hand during your research process.

However, if you have searched the library database, located an e-book, online journal article or website, you will cite the medium of publication as Web. Even if the library has a hard copy of the book, if you did not hold that copy in your hand, it is a web source.

Here is where it gets a little tricky.

If you are consulting a printed copy of an online article (say, a PDF of an essay provided to you through our Sakai site), you must cite the medium of publication as Web.  The same goes for an article from a journal that is published in print, but that you accessed online via PDF.  If you are accessing a publication that appears both online and in print (like The New York Times or Time magazine), you must cite the medium of publication in the form you accessed it: if you read the article online, it is a web source.  If you went to the newsstand, purchased the paper or magazine and are working from the hard copy of the text, it is a print source.

I noticed that a number of you were correctly citing articles located through a database, correctly noting that you had found the source through EBSCO or LexisNexis, then listing it as a print source.  This is incorrect!  Also, a couple of you listed journal articles as print publications, even though that journal had switched to publishing exclusively online.

It is possible that you will have other mediums of publication, like film, interview, lecture, conference presentation, or digital files (like those PDFs of articles).  Purdue OWL has a full page of how to cite these other formats, and you should consult this site (or another MLA style handbook) when putting together your work cited page.

The rationale behind this distinction is, there can be differences and discrepancies between print and web versions of a story: a web version might be corrected after the print version has been published, may include more up-to-date information, or may have contained unsubstantiated material that was then removed for the print version.  Quotes may be added, updated or deleted based on space available in a print format.  It is important that any future scholars who might look at your Work Cited list (as many of you are doing for your own research) be able to locate the correct version of the text you cite, or at least account for any discrepancies between your quotes and what may appear online or in print.

If you ever have questions about what the correct medium should be, or how to cite a source correctly, first consult your MLA guide.  If you are still confused, you might seek out help from the librarians on the 3rd floor of Library West (or through the convenient Chat with a Librarian feature on the library website) or at the University Writing Program.  Or, come by office hours!

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