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


For students to practice editing in-text citations

Total Estimated Class Time

30 minutes

Additional Outcome(s)

Discussion and clarification of the MLA style guidelines

Course Work or Assignment Underway

This exercise could be introduced at any time during the semester but is preferable to assign while students are working on a paper that requires them to put sources into dialogue with one another and with their own writing.

Work Completed before Class

Read section of the handbook dealing with in-text citation (pages 54–58), as well as articles that cite sources in the text that are keyed to a bibliography (examples of any system of citation will work).

Instructor Preparation before Class

Write a paragraph (or model one on the handout I’ve created) that cites several sources keyed to a works-cited list. The paragraph should feature several errors, including common errors that students make, such as

  • using incorrect punctuation, particularly unnecessary commas
  • failing to distinguish among sources that are identified similarly
  • citing a source’s title in the parentheses when the author’s name sufficiently identifies the source
  • not indenting long quotations
  • omitting the page number
  • redundantly including the author’s name even when it is already mentioned in a signal phrase
  • citing a source not included in the works-cited list

Print out copies of the paragraph and bring them to class.

Sequence of Classroom Activities

  1. Pass out the paragraph to students.
  2. Give students a few minutes to read through the paragraph and note down the problems they find.
  3. Ask for examples of problems. Clarify rules or questions as they come up.

Reflection on the Lesson’s Success or Alternative Approaches

The nice thing about this exercise is that students get to demonstrate their knowledge of citation practices, and the discussion is based on observations they make.

Lesson Materials


Answer key for handout

Photo of Nancy Foasberg

Nancy Foasberg

Nancy Foasberg is the humanities librarian at Queens College, City University of New York.