Wednesday, 16 May 2012

How to Use MLA Style in Writing Essays

This is only a brief overview of some of the issues of using MLA style in your text references based on some of the problems I've seen in the essays I've edited. If you want to source the details of MLA style, go to the source: The Modern Languages Association.
One major difference between referencing styles is how to format in-text citations. This means that the name of the author and the page the reference is from are inserted in brackets directly after the reference (Francis 56). Note that in MLA style, you are citing the page for paraphrases as well as the author's name, but not the date.
If there are multiple editions of the work, then you need to let your readers be able to locate the cited passage in their own edition. Help them out by including a reference to which volume (vol.), book (bk.), part (par.), chapter (ch.), section (sec.), or paragraph (par.) you are citing from. For example: (Plato 34; bk. 5).
If you cite more than one author with the same last name, use the first initial as well, in your in-text citations. (P. Francis 34)
With multiple authors, cite all names for three or fewer; use et al. for four or more. Write out "and" before the last name. Do not use an ampersand: &.
If the same author has multiple works cited, then include a shortened title of the work as well. (Francis, "Justin Bieber's love child" 56). Note, we use a comma after the author's name here. It's preferable to keep the citation smaller by including some of the information in the text, so the reader has a clue as to what work you are discussing. "In his memoir about growing up as Justin Bieber's love child, Francis confesses to space time anomalies that made him decades older than his father" (45).
If you don't know the author's name, then use the title of the work. The key is to use what ever is going to be the first part of the citation in the Works Cited page. When you are using the title of the work, enclose it in quotation marks ("How to make citations" 44).

Citing Sources from the internet in MLA style

Umm...don't. No seriously. Be careful. If you are using your school library to access on-line versions of print sources, treat them as print sources, citing date of publication, etc. But for web pages, first evaluate if it is a reliable source. Many teachers will not accept Wikipedia as a reliable source. If you writing on Wordsworth and you are citing the website of the Wordsworth Scholars' Association, then OK. But be cautious. Nonetheless, there is a citation style for you.
Since page numbers don't matter on the internet, forget them. In your in-text citation, use the first words you will use to reference the web page in your Works Cited page. This will be either the name of the author, the title of the webpage, or the domain name. Do not include the http:// and all the junk after the domain name. (How to use APA Style)
The first challenge for using APA style for in-text citations is when to use page numbers. "If you are quoting from a text, then you should use page numbers." (Francis, 2010, p 3.) If you are only paraphrasing an idea, then only use the author's name and date of publication. (Francis, 2010) If a work has two authors use both name joined by "and" in the text and both names joined by & in the parentheses (Francis & Francis, 2010). With three to five authors, cite all names in the first instance and use "et al." in subsequent instances. Six or more, simply use et al. For an unknown author, cite the name of the work (HGPublishing, 2010).
It is important to note that et al. is an abbreviation and ends in period. Do not put a period after a comma.

Reference page in MLA Style

At the end of your essay, you need a Works Cited page. This is a list of all the references you have used, in alphabetical order by last name of the main author. The Works Cited page should be a separate page from the body of the essay. Double space all citations, but do not put an extra space between citations. Use a hanging indent format.
As of 2009, MLA style requires you to state the type of resource such as print, web, CD, etc. You do not have to cite URLs. Sometimes instructors will insist on URLs, so include them in angle brackets followed by a period. Include a database name if you have retrieved an previously published article from an on-line database.
Capitalize each word in a title, except prepositions and conjunctions. (Basically the main words, and always the first word.)
Order the entries alphabetically by author's last name. If you are citing more than one work by the same author, order them alphabetically by work title. Only write out the author's name for the first entry. In subsequent entries, substitute three hyphens followed by a period (---.) for the author's name.
Where a work has no known author, place it alphabetically according to title.

Format for books

Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, year of publication. Medium of Publication.
Notice that the Title of the Book is in italics. The medium of publication would be "Print" for a book.
When a work is part of an anthology or collection, then cite the author of the key part first, followed by the title of the key part, then the main collection.
Last name, First name. "Title of Essay." Title of Collection. Ed: Editor's name(s). Place of Publication: Publisher, year of publication. Page range. Medium of Publication.
Notice that the title of the collection, the main title of the book, is in italics. Also notice the addition of the page range. This is because you are not citing the whole book. The page range should be cited as simply as possible. (33-78).
If you are citing several works from the same anthology, place one entry for the anthology alone such as:
Last name, First name. Title of Collection. Ed: Editor's name(s). Place of Publication: Publisher, year of publication. Medium of Publication.
Then an entry for each part of the collection you used:
Last name, First name. "Title of Essay." Editor's name(s) Page range.

Format for periodicals

The basic format of bibliographical references for journal articles is:
Author(s). "Article Name." Journal Name. Day month year: pages. Medium of publication.
Note the use of italics above. Only the name of the publication is in italics.

Format for internet sources

Like any other source, the key is that your reader can locate the document you are citing. Therefore the key information to include includes: author name, article name in quotation marks; title of website, project or book in italics; version numbers, dates or posting references; publisher information; page numbers (if available); date you accessed the information; medium of publication; and include URL only if specifically requested.
For an entire website:
Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of site. Version number. Name of institution, sponsor or publisher (if available). Date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.
Sometimes you have to dig for this information. Sometimes even when you dig, it's not available.
Here's the reference for this site:
Francis, P. HyperGraphix Publishing Services. n.d. Website. Date of access.
Here's the reference for this page:
Francis, P. "How to Use MLA Style." HyperGraphix Publishing Services. n.d. Website. Date of Access.