Help with Citatations: The MLA Online

In my last two posts I covered the Chicago Manual of Style, which is online in its full version with a university subscription. This week, I’d like to share with you some of the great resources that the MLA online has to offer.

The complete MLA Handbook (their manual of style) is not available online with or without a subscription. But they do have a great tutorial for MLA-style citations and other useful resources for both students and educators.  Here is a brief rundown of everything the MLA online has to offer.

MLA Homepage

Front and center is perhaps the crown jewel of the MLA Online (at least as far as students are concerned): the Quick Guide to the works cited. You should also notice the red Menu button in the upper right hand corner of the screen (we’ll get back to that in a minute). You can also see the link in the bottom right to order a copy of the MLA Handbook. The complete manual is available to order both in print and electronic editions (with formats compatible with Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and Apple Books).

The MLA has a great tutorial for how to use their manual of style to format citations.

Guide to Using the MLA for Citations

They explain, using examples, how not only to format the citations but how to find the information from your source that you need to include in the citation.  Clicking on the Get Started button takes you to the first example.

Example of Using the MLA style guide to format a citation entry

The example pages include a worksheet that you fill in with the necessary information for completing the citation. Not sure where to find all the info?  Take a look at the illustration on the left-hand side. It’s basically a tutorial. In the lower right corner you can see how all the pieces come together in the final works cited list entry. At the bottom of the page there are navigation buttons. You can go back (to the first page or previous screen shot in this case) or move on to the next example, where you can see how to find and format citations in various media. There are examples here for a video on a website and an article in a journal database.

At the bottom of the final example page is a link to a fillable template that you can use when making your own citations.

MLA online practice template

You can download the file and use it as many times as you want! And, of course, you can always go back to the Quick Guide for help locating the information. In older books, some items can be hard to find.

As much fun as the citation tutorial is, the MLA Online has some other exciting resources, too. Remember that red Menu button that I pointed out at the beginning of the post? When you click on it, you can find links to other resources.

MLA online menu of resources

If you still have questions about how to use the Style Guide, you can Ask the MLA! Make sure to search the questions that have already been asked first, though, to see if you can find an instant answer to your question. If you’re a teacher and you want some ready-made materials to teach your students how to cite, you can find them in the section on Teaching Resources. Useful for both students and teachers alike is the collection of Sample Papers written in the MLA style.

While the MLA Handbook is not complete in its online form, the MLA Online has many valuable resources for both using and teaching MLA style, as well as citation basics in general. I don’t know about you, but I found the practice template and associated examples useful for teaching students how to find the information that goes into a citation, regardless of what style their assignment requires. You can also buy the complete Handbook for a very wallet friendly price ($15 USD) after learning from the tutorials, so you have access to all the information that you’ll need!

Finally, it should be noted that Classics doesn’t have a single, go-to style for papers. You should follow your assignment instructions (or ask your instructor or TA) if you’re an undergraduate. For grad students, in general and with caveats, historical and archaeological papers are more likely to use either Chicago or Chicago-like (author-date) citation. Literary papers are likely to use either. You will sometimes see a combination of parenthetical citations (for ancient works) and footnotes/endnotes with author-date citation (for modern scholarship). And once you’re ready to publish, different publishers have their own house styles. So it pays to master the elements of both systems!



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