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 worksheet is designed to be used in conjunction with a research-essay assignment and as part of ongoing discussion of the MLA Handbook and academic citation practices.

Total Estimated Class Time

20 minutes


The goal of this assignment is to ask students to make their learning and citation practices explicit by mapping how they engage with the MLA Handbook. By asking students to re-create how they located information and to reflect on any difficulties doing so, the assignment encourages students to think about process and makes student questions legible to both students and instructors. For example, in the second column of the assignment sheet, students will seldom answer no to the prompt (although if they do, they can still receive full credit if they explain why they have not completed that task in the comments section). This assignment is less about getting students to know what they don’t know and more about guiding them through a process in which they can confirm and identify issues.


This assignment can be one step in the scaffolding of research-paper assignments, an extra-credit option that accompanies research-paper assignments, an in-class free-write or journal exercise, or a springboard into peer workshops. This assignment is designed to be graded not on the basis of student accuracy but on the basis of students’ detailed engagement with the MLA Handbook. Does the student demonstrate a good-faith effort to use the handbook to approach specific tasks (as roughly demonstrated in the third column) and can the student articulate this process (as roughly demonstrated in the fourth column), or do the student’s selections seem overgeneral and without rationale?

Sequence of Activities

Before presenting assignment

  1. Spend class time discussing the approach to research and citation conveyed in part 1 of the MLA Handbook and modeling the use of part 2.
  1. Present a research-essay assignment.

When presenting assignment

  1. Hand out the worksheet and explain that it will be assessed according to the level of detail provided in responses.
  1. Allow approximately twenty minutes for completion of the worksheet if given in-class.

After presenting assignment

4. Cover areas of confusion in class or one-on-one.

Lesson Materials


Photo of Livia Arndal Woods

Livia Arndal Woods

Livia Arndal Woods is a teaching fellow at Queens College, City University of New York, where she teaches composition and British literature. She is working on a book project on reading practices and pregnancy in nineteenth-century realist fiction as well as a series of articles on digital pedagogy.