Introduction to MLA Documentation

Why Cite?

You will recall from the previous section that citing is important because:

  • citations help others find the information you used in your research paper
  • citing your sources accurately helps establish the credibility of your research
  • citations connect your work to the work of other scholars
  • citations are one way that scholars enter into a dialogue with one another
  • citations are a way to honor and acknowledge the work of others who have made your own research possible

The following video demonstrates the practical importance of always giving credit where credit is due.

MLA Documentation

MLA style is one of the most common citation and formatting styles you will encounter in your academic career. The MLA, which stands for Modern Language Association, is an organization of language scholars and experts that aims to present a straightforward process to standardize the format and presentation of academic writing. MLA format It is widely used by in many high school and introductory college English classes, as well as scholarly books and professional journals. If you are writing a paper for a literature or media studies class, it is likely your professor will ask you to write in MLA style.

The 8th Edition

The newest edition of the MLA Handbook, the 8th Edition, was released in April 2016. We will focus on the newest changes, but you should be aware that some institutions or instructors may still utilize the previous 7th edition of the handbook. While the overall principles of creating a works cited page and using in-text citations remains the same, there are a few key changes and updates that make the citation process easier for our modern uses. For example, the guidelines now state that you should always include a URL of an internet source, you can use alternative author names, such as Twitter handles, and you no longer need to include the publisher (in some instances), and you don’t need to include the city where a source was published. These new changes are less nit-picky and allow for a more streamlined citation process that will work with the wide variety of source locations (i.e., YouTube videos, songs, clips from TV episodes, websites, periodicals, books, academic journals, poems, interviews, etc.).

Citation Resources

There are many fantastic resources out there that can make the formatting and citation process easier. Some common style guides include the following:

  • The Purdue Online Writing Lab: this is a popular resource that concisely explains how to properly format and cite in various academic styles.
  • EasyBib: in addition to having a style guide, this website allows you to paste in information from your research and will create and save citations for you.

Reference management websites and applications can also assist you in tracking and recording your research. Most of these websites will even create the works cited page for you! Some of the most popular citation tools include the following: