Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.

Lesson Plan


This assignment is intended for use with a class trip to a museum (but could be modified for other similar experiences). It aims to help students identify the differences between citing visual and textual sources, as well as the differences between citing sources they encounter firsthand and online—and, in particular, how to identify a source’s location and number of containers. It encourages students to think about the information that is essential to include in a works-cited-list entry in order for readers to understand what kind of source is documented.

Total Estimated Time

20 minutes

Course Work or Assignment Underway

The museum trip works especially well as part of a paper assignment so that the sources students find and the works-cited list students generate will become part of the larger assignment.

Work Completed before Class

At the museum, each student should choose a piece or exhibit to write about. It should have wall text or explanatory material provided by the museum. Students should record on a worksheet all the information they can find about both the piece or exhibit and accompanying text. (When allowed to do so, they can be encouraged to photograph the text to consult later.)

At home, students should generate a works-cited list that includes entries for the following sources:

Works Viewed Firsthand
  • The piece or exhibit (seen at the museum)
  • Wall text about the piece or exhibit (seen at the museum)
Works Viewed Online
  • The same piece or exhibit (from the museum’s website)
  • Text about the piece or exhibit (from the museum’s website)
A Secondary Source
  • An independent article that discusses the piece, exhibit, or museum generally
Audio guide (Extra Credit)
  • The museum’s audio guide describing the piece or exhibit

Ask students to bring the works-cited list and worksheet to class.

Sequence of Classroom Activities

  1. Instruct students to work with a partner and trade works-cited lists.
  1. Students should identify which work cited corresponds to each type of source: firsthand, online, secondary, and (if applicable) audio.
  1. Any sources that students could not identify or that they misidentified should be discussed with their partner. Why was a particular source difficult to identify? Was certain information missing or inaccurate? How could the entry be made clearer?
  1. Convene the class for a follow-up discussion. Direct students to identify the information that was missing on their partner’s works-cited list using the MLA template of core elements as a guide.

Follow-Up Activity

Students should be instructed to revise their works-cited list in the light of the feedback received in class.

Lesson Materials


MLA format template

Photo of Nora Carr

Nora Carr

Nora Carr is an instructor at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). She is a PhD candidate in comparative literature at the CUNY Graduate Center.