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In the database example in “Works Cited: A Quick Guide,” why is container 2 specified as EBSCOHost, not as the database searched on EBSCOHost (e.g., Academic Search Premier)?Answer
At EBSCOHost, visitors can search for articles in a range of databases at once. When an article is retrieved, the database containing it is not always evident to the user, as the screenshot in our example shows. The identity of EBSCOHost as the container of the article is always clear, however. MLA style encourages writers to document the facts they observe. This principle is especially important online, where the presentation of information changes constantly. An advanced user of EBSCOHost who determines that an article comes from a certain database would not be wrong to cite the database instead of EBSCOHost as container 2.
No. The MLA Style Manual will be taken out of print. The system of documentation explained in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook is the authoritative source for MLA style as of April 2016. The MLA is in the process of developing additional publications to address the professional needs of scholars.
Yes. Two kinds of notes are suitable with the parenthetical citations used in MLA style: content notes and bibliographic notes. These may be styled either as footnotes or endnotes.
Content notes offer the reader comment, explanation, or information that the text can’t accommodate. In general, they should be used only when you need to justify or clarify what you have written or when further amplification of your point is especially helpful.
Example in Text
Jane Austen’s 1814 novel Mansfield Park begins and ends with the topic of marriage. In this regard it seems to fit into the genre of the courtship novel, a form, popular in the eighteenth century, in which the plot is driven by the heroine’s difficulties in attracting an offer from the proper suitor. According to Katherine Sobba Green, the courtship novel “detailed a young woman’s entrance into society, the problems arising from that situation, her courtship, and finally her choice (almost always fortunate) among suitors” (2). Often the heroine and her eventual husband are kept apart initially by misunderstanding, by the hero’s misguided attraction to another, by financial obstacles, or by family objections.1
Green, Katherine Sobba. The Courtship Novel 1740-1820: A Feminized Genre. UP of Kentucky, 1991.
Hinnant, Charles H. “Jane Austen’s ‘Wild Imagination’: Romance and the Courtship Plot in the Six Canonical Novels.” Narrative, vol. 14, no. 3, 2006, pp. 294-310. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20107392.
In MLA style, bibliographic notes are best used only when you need to cite several sources or make evaluative comments on your sources.
No. There are innumerable ways to weave a quotation gracefully into your prose. As long as the quotation’s purpose and source are clear, you need not use a verb like writes or has said.
The paired examples below illustrate alternative ways of identifying authors:
Author’s Name in Text
It may be true, as Sharon Lubkemann Allen maintains, that “in modernist works charting their own becoming in the context of urban crisis, the multiplicity of the self is concomitantly represented in urban space” (15).
Author’s Name in Reference
It may be true that “in modernist works charting their own becoming in the context of urban crisis, the multiplicity of the self is concomitantly represented in urban space” (Allen 15).
Author’s Name in Text
Deborah Tannen has argued this point (178-85).
Author’s Name in Reference
This point has already been argued (Tannen 178-85).
What kind of number do I put in the parenthetical citation for a poem—a page number, a line number, or another part number?Answer
The ultimate goal is to be concise and to cite what is most useful to the reader. For quotations from a poem in a print or online source, there are three common possibilities:
- If the poem is short (no longer than a page or its online equivalent), do not cite any number in the text. The page number or Web location that appears in the poem’s works-cited-list entry will be specific enough to identify a borrowing from such a short text.
- If the poem is longer than a page (or its online equivalent) and is published with explicit numbers marking lines or other parts (e.g., stanzas, cantos, books), cite the line numbers and other part numbers but not page numbers. If lines alone are numbered, use the form “line 57” or “lines 119–20” in the first citation, and cite the line numbers alone, without the label line or lines, in the later citations. If other parts are numbered as well as lines, combine the numbers without a label. For instance, if books and lines are numbered, “9.19” means book 9, line 19.
- If the poem is longer than a page and is not published with explicit numbers marking lines or other parts, cite page numbers (as you would for a work in prose) if the poem is in print. If no page numbers are present (as is often the case online), none can be cited.
News articles are sometimes credited to agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press. Should the agencies be cited as the authors of these articles?Answer
No. News agencies distribute stories from a vast pool of journalists. The name of an agency is not a meaningful indicator of authorship. Moreover, local news editors may change stories that they receive from agencies, further muddying the authorship. If an article is credited only to a news agency, treat the article as anonymous and begin the entry with the article’s title.
The appropriateness of spaces before and after a dash depends on various considerations: the typeface used, the medium (print, online), and so on.
In the MLA Handbook, we show no space before and after dashes because that’s the standard format used by publishers in the United States. A student who follows that model will be sure of producing professional-looking work, at least as far as the dashes are concerned.
There is sometimes a good argument for spaces, however. In some typefaces, the dash is so short that it does not provide adequate separation by itself. The designers of such typefaces intend users to add spaces.
Online environments like e-mail and Web pages sometimes do not permit lines to break before or after dashes. In such a situation, when a long sequence like “perspective—considering” does not fit at the end of a line of text, it will be carried over to the start of the next line, leaving a hole at the end of the previous line. Typing spaces before and after dashes is a way to avoid this.
These comments refer to projects in which the decision on spacing is up to you. In a classroom, the teacher usually has the final say on the formatting of assignments.
The purpose of every parenthetical citation is to tell the reader to see a work, so the word see would almost always be redundant. See also can be useful when you want to follow a source citation with a reference to a supplementary work. For example, the citation “(Bruchac 9; see also Laurent 290)” means that Bruchac is the source of the preceding borrowed material and that Laurent—although not a direct source—offers a relevant additional discussion.
The rules for positioning a parenthetical citation next to a final period seem different with run-in quotations and block quotations. What is the logic here?Answer
Virginia Woolf describes the scene vividly: “Everything had come to a standstill. The throb of the motor engines sounded like a pulse irregularly drumming through an entire body” (14).The writer’s sentence begins with “Virginia Woolf” and ends with the citation, “(14).” The citation refers to the quotation and thus belongs in the same sentence with it. A period is needed after the citation to indicate where the writer’s sentence ends. In the source work by Virginia Woolf, there is a period after “body,” but it’s omitted here because the following period makes a period after “body” redundant. Now let’s consider a block quotation:
Virginia Woolf describes the scene vividly:Here, as above, the writer’s sentence begins with “Virginia Woolf” and ends with the citation. In the block-quotation format, however, no period after the citation is necessary: the reader knows that the writer’s thought ends at the citation because a block quotation is not normally inserted in the middle of a sentence. The period after “enquiry” is not the writer’s final period. It is Virginia Woolf’s period, found in the source work. It is retained in this format because there is no following period to make it redundant. The two examples present the same sentence (except for the contents of the quotations). But the examples have different formats, which call for different periods to be dropped.
Everything had come to a standstill. The throb of the motor engines sounded like a pulse irregularly drumming through an entire body. The sun became extraordinarily hot because the motor car had stopped outside Mulberry’s shop window; old ladies on the tops of omnibuses spread their black parasols; here a green, here a red parasol opened with a little pop. Mrs. Dalloway, coming to the window with her arms full of sweet peas, looked out with her little pink face pursed in enquiry. (14)