Hopefully you all are a little familiar with MLA citation format and remember how to use it from ENG 101.
MLA stands for Modern Language Association, and it is the format we most often write in when we are writing in the disciplines that are part of the Humanities.
There are other citation formats as well like Chicago (sometimes used in History) or APA (American Psychological Association…used in the Social Sciences)
MLA citation is really all about one thing…giving credit to the original author of a text or an idea. People’s intellectual property is legally theirs; it belongs to them. Therefore, it is our responsibility as writers to give credit for ideas that are not our own.
Also, there are consequences for using others’ ideas without proper citation…or plagiarizing. Plagiarizing can be many things from copying an essay from the internet, down to not fully paraphrasing a sentence from a source. Each level of plagiarism has different consequences, but all plagiarism can be avoided with proper citation. If you are interested in YC’s definition of plagiarism, check out our syllabus, or the Student Code of Conduct. The library also has a couple of videos on plagiarism and citation called “Diagnosis: Plagiarism” which you will find under the “Resources for Students” tab on Blackboard.
When using MLA format, you need to be sure to cite in two places:
1. In-text using parenthetical citations.
2. At the end of your paper on a works cited page.
In-text citations are like the key to a map while the works cited page is the map. You want your reader to be able to easily match the two up. That is why the first thing that appears in the citation on the works cited page is the thing goes in the parenthetical citation. More often than not that thing is the author’s last name. Sometimes it is the title of the book or article if the author is unknown.
You also want your reader to be able to find the specific information in the book that you cited, so we also include the page number in the parenthetical citation, only if it is available.
Works Cited page
The Works Cited page is where the reader of your paper can find all the information he or she would need to go and find your source on the shelves in the library, or on the World Wide Web. Incidentally, works cited pages in articles you read are great places to find other articles and books on your subject. Keep that in mind when you begin doing research for Essay #3.
Here are some examples of how to cite some literary texts, in the text of your paper… We’ll start with poetry because it is a little different. With a poem, you still want to use the author’s last name, but you want to include the line number instead of the page number, so your reader can find the quote in the poem.
Sharon Olds’ “Rites of Passage”
In MLA format, titles of poems are always in quotation marks. Short story titles can be in quotes also, but the titles of book are either underlined or in italics.
Let’s pretend I want to cite Sharon Olds’ poem. You always want to introduce quotes with a signal phrase, so I might say: In Olds’ poem “Rites of Passage,” she describes the boys at her son’s party as, “short men, men in first grade/with smooth jaws and chins” (lines 3-4).
Notice a few things here: 1. There is a comma before the quote; 2. I use a slash to show that the line breaks in the poem (I would only make it a block quote if I were quoting more than 4 lines); 3. The period comes after the parentheses at the end.
Here I only use the line numbers in the parentheses because I already said the author’s name in the sentence. If I hadn’t the citation would be (Olds lines 3-4). Notice there are no commas in the parentheses.
If I were citing Atwood’s novel, it would only be a little different. I could say: Describing herself, Offred states: “We are two-legged wombs, that’s all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices” (Atwood 136). Here I introduced the quote with a colon because I was quoting a full sentence. Also, I included Atwood’s name because I didn’t mention her in my signal phrase. Finally, you will notice that the page number is simply a numeral with no pg. before it and no comma.
Here is an example of an end citation for that same poem:
Olds, Sharon. “Rites of Passage.” Poetry Foundation. 2004. 8 June 2010. Web. Then the URL, but it is long and messy to put here.
Citations are always double spaced with a hanging indent (first line is not indented, but all the others are) and they are in alphabetical order by the first word in the citation.
Here is one for Atwood (you can use it later in your Atwood paper):
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale . New York: Anchor Books, 1986. Print.
Resources for Citation
Feel free to use a citation generator, like www.citationmachine.net , to help you with citation. However, you always want to check to see that you’ve done it right. To do that, you can use a style guide (like the Little, Brown Handbook) or a website like the OWL at Purdue ( http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/11/ ). There are links to these sites on Blackboard under “Resources for Students.”
When do I cite?
You need to cite anytime you use material from the text. If it isn’t your idea…cite it.
Paraphrases must be cited and they also must completely change the wording and the sentence structure of the original material. Paraphrases are a sticky wicket and they are a place where many people get in trouble with plagiarism.
Other MLA stuff
MLA formatting also has requirements for page numbers and headings.
MLA headings appear in the upper left hand corner of your paper and contain: Your name, your assignment and class, your teacher’s last name, and the date, each on a separate line. Your heading should be double spaced.
Page numbers go on the upper right hand side of the page and should have your last name along with the page number (Darrow 1, Darrow 2, etc.).
If you did purchase the Little, Brown Handbook for this course, there are resources for MLA citation beginning on pg. 551. There is also a sample of an MLA style research essay beginning on pg. 600.