Understanding MLA Style (8th edition, 2016 updates)


This video is about understanding MLA
Style, and I mean the 8th edition, that’s the 2016 new one. To talk us through I want to talk about
some of the LOGIC of MLA Style, and then get into some of the details of
the little things that have changed. When I talk about the logic, I mean big-
picture stuff that hasn’t changed. Like, you wrote some work, and you sent it
to an audience, and that audience was like, “Hey, I want to know about the books that
you cited, or the journal articles, or the web sites that you went to!” In other
words, they’re reading your work, and they see this citation pop up, and
they’re like, “Man! I want to learn more! I want to go to the B section of your
works cited page, and oh! There it is! I can learn more, actually go to the
website, and learn more.” Now that hasn’t changed. That’s the same
logic as ever. So when I say I want to talk about “the logic” here, I really mean
the logic of documentation, on the list of works cited, like how
they’re put together. Ok, so: the thing that is new here is that
MLA has this list of 9 things that you might have or might not have for a lot of the
things that you want to cite. Whether it’s a book or a journal article
or a chair in a museum or a TV show you watch, whatever it is that you’re citing, you’re
gonna have some of these things. And they say, “Hey! Put things in that order,
with this punctuation, and everything will be fine.” Now notice that only 1, 2,
& 9 have periods. And it’s really subtle– do you see them kind of turning yellow? OK.
So they’re saying that after 1, 2, & 9, after you list the author, BAM! you put a
period. Then you list the title of the source, and then BAM! you put a period. And then,
all that other stuff, you kind of list it, and you do a comma after it, and a comma,
and a comma comma comma, until you get to the very last thing, and
you put a final period. BAM! It’s that simple. So. In practice, let’s
say I want to cite a book that I read recently. But when I start filling things in, with
the right punctuation, right? Put the author, period, BAM! The title,
BAM! And then I have, number 7 is a comma, and then I always put a period
after my last thing, even if it’s #8, not #9. Does that make sense? I list them
out, in the order they say, and then I type it out on my works cited page exactly
like that, with that exact same punctuation. You see, in this case, I only have 1 comma,
because I only have 1 thing in between all of the others. Ok. Let’s look at another
example. What about that website I mentioned earlier–there’s this article
on a website. In this case, I have the author, of course, I have a title of source,
of course, periods after both. In this case I have a container, and
“container” is kind of a complicated word, I’ll talk about a little bit more later,
but the simplest way to think of it is the container is where you get the smaller
thing. So we all know that web ARTICLES come on web SITES that have other titles.
We all know that we watch TV shows that the episode itself has a title, but
it’s part of a larger show! That larger show is the CONTAINER. You might have a
book that has a lot of chapters in it, and if you cite just one chapter, that’s
the title, #2, but it’s IN a larger container, the title of the BOOK, #3. Ok. We’ll talk
a little bit more about that as it goes. But for right now you notice that I put a
comma after #3, because you always put commas after #3; it came out on this
date, comma, in this location, period. So I put it all in that order, with that
punctuation, and I get my list of works cited. Not that hard. Well, what about one more
thing? I was reading this academic article the other day in this journal that I
subscribe to the print version. And we see the title of the article is #2, and it’s
in the larger container, which is the title of the journal itself. Now this time
I had #6, a number–I didn’t have that in the other ones! Great! So I’ll slap that in,
in the way I’m supposed to– of course I’m not covering every little
detail of how you write it out these days; you can look that up yourselves; this is
just big-picture. Now, notice #9, location, is the page number. In my last one, if I
can back up for a second, you saw my location was a website! So the idea is,
“Hey, you might get this stuff in the LOCATION of a website, or you might find
that article in the LOCATION of the page.” Those are parallel entries, here. The main
thing, of course, right now, is the punctuation. I put it in order, you see my
periods go exactly where they should be, and then I have commacommacommacomma,
before the final period. Ok. Logically, this makes a lot of sense for
most things, but I know what you’re thinking. You’re like, “Wait, you read that journal
article in print?! You didn’t find it on a website, where everyone else finds it?”
Or you’re like, “You read that book? That is SO 1998! What I do is read it on
the Kindle reader, or perhaps on my computer, or ebook, or you know, there’s
like electronic stuff.” Or–we haven’t talked much about TV shows–
but what if I like pull out my Lost DVDs because it’s the best TV show of all time,
and you’re like, “Ha ha ha! You watch the DVDs? Because I go to Netflix!” Well, MLA is
flexible enough, especially these days, to take that into account. It just takes a
little bit of getting to know. Quick warning: you have to “remember that
there is often more than one correct way to document a source.” And you’re like,
“YOU could say that,” but no! It’s not just me, the MLA Handbook itself says that!
That’s the real emphasis of edition 8, is that things change, and things can be
flexible. So–I mean, it’s right there in the book, that’s how I would cite it–
so keep that in mind as we go forward. Ok, so we’ve got our list of 9 things, right?
Well, if we’re doing some of this complicated digital stuff, we have to think of it this
way: you have the same stuff as before, author/title of source, period-bam, period-bam,
and then we have that first container, which has commacommacomma, ends with a
period–and then, what if that container is like INSIDE another container? Well
that’s what we’re gonna walk through. Now notice really quickly the punctuation
again: there’s only 4 periods here, max: the period in the middle, after #9, location
of the FIRST container, is essentially saying, “Hey, we’re done with the first
container here! Now let’s move into where you found, or where you accessed that.”
Ok. In practice, it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Remember that book I was
talking about earlier? Here’s the author, title of source–just putting it over there
because I don’t have room–same content as before: there’s the publisher, there’s
the publication date. Period, bam. Well, what if I was looking at it in the
Kindle Cloud Reader? Well that’s my 2nd container! That’s the place I accessed
that book. The location was at that location there. So in my actual citation, it’s as simple
as that: I have the exact same citation as before–that’s that first line–and then I
end it with a period, same as before, but I add on the content for my 2nd
container, ending that with a period. Again, like I said, 4 periods max here,
right? Bam bam bam bam. Let’s do another one. What about that
academic journal article? There’s my author, there’s my title. I have the exact same
stuff as before, but now what if I got that on a website? The article was in the container
of the journal, and the journal was in the container of this website, called
Conference on College Composition– I know it’s a lot of words, but it’s true.
But in this case, I got that in this place. Do you see a theme here? That my 2nd container,
in most practical cases–not always, often– will only have a title and a location. Because
it’s a digital thing. So I get this massive-looking works cited entry, but the 1st part is
exactly the same, and that 2nd part in red is the only new part here. Ok, what about
when I’m watching Lost, the best TV show ever, and I want to cite something from Season 5,
Episode 1, which is called “Because You Left.” Quick super-aside here is that when I’m
citing TV shows, there really are a lot of ways to cite it, based on what I want to emphasize.
If I was talking about the director of this episode, I could put “director” under
other contributors, #4. Or I could say, if I’m emphasizing Matthew Fox’s stellar
performance, I could put that. Or I could say, “co-created by J.J. Abrams & Damon
Lindelof & Jeffrey Lieber,”–I could put that under other contributors. Even that #9,
where I put “disc 1,” that’s kind of an option here as well: it’s me saying, “Hey
I want to emphasize in my essay something about the discs here.” I really could leave
that off and end it at 2009. But this is a standard, OK-enough, citation, because
things are inside other things, you know, right? Like the episode is in the show, ok?
So I could end up with this kind of entry. You see the period after the title of source,
then commacommacomma, period. So what if I got it inside Netflix and I’m
freaking out because like “Hey there’s this thing and it’s inside another thing!”?
Ok, so all I have to do is do the almost the exact same citation, but notice that in
this case, I don’t have disc 1–I end it after the 2009, and then I put my 2nd
container. It’s called Netflix, and the 2nd container is located at this web address.
It’s actually not that hard. Ok. So if we talk about the logic, I also want
to talk about some of the specific details, especially if you’ve been citing MLA a long
time, and you want to know what specifically is different. This isn’t everything, just
the things that to me, as a teacher, jumped out. Well one, there’s that string of commas,
that you know, commacommacomma, is new to me, and actually, I think that’s a good
thing. Compare that to the old version of this exact same citation: there’s all
this like “period there, & put a parentheses there, but then use a colon! And then put a…”
I think it was more confusing! Now it’s like, come on, just put a bunch of commas.
Another thing, if I compare the new to the old, is that I used to have to always put at
the end, “print” or “web” or “DVD” or, you know, “museum piece,” or “email” or
whatever kind of thing. Now they’re assuming, “You know what, that’s probably clear.”
They’re saying like, “If you have that page number there, that’s good enough;
it’s not really necessary to SAY the word ‘print’; you leave it off.” Kind of cool.
Another subtle difference you see in this one is that I write “volume” and “issue” different.
Again, I think if you’re a student, this is a good thing! There used to be that 66.3,
if you look at the old one, and I think a lot of people were like, “What does that
even mean–66 is what? And 3 is what? I don’t even know what a volume and issue
MEAN!” Now you actually write it out to make it a little clearer. Similarly,
you write page numbers a little different. If you look at the old one there, it’s like
402-26, And it’s like, “Is that VOLUME 402 to ISSUE…what does that even mean?”
So now you put pp. for multiple pages or just p. for one page, to make it really
clear: “Hey guys, we’re talking about page numbers.” It’s a clarity thing.
Another thing you’ll notice is that URLs are back. They used to be in MLA
and then they got rid of them, and now they’re back. This is the one thing that I’m
a little iffy about, I don’t know if you totally need it. This is what it looks like now;
if you look at the old one, you left it off. The idea was that, if people
can google this, they could probably find it. I think part of this is that a lot of people
are publishing things in digital spaces these days, right? So if I turn my essay
in digitally, someone might actually want to just click it and go straight to it!
They might not want to have to google it. My guess is that’s what they’re doing.
You also notice that in the old one, you have to put the date that you accessed:
“Hey, I got this on June 2nd, 2016!” You don’t have to do that anymore! I think
it means that in practice, you don’t have to keep quite as much track of exactly
when you got something. I think a lot of people just made that date up, anyway.
Come on, seriously. The thing I’m most glad about is you used
to have to put the “sponsor” of a site, so this article from a website CALLED
The Toast is owned by a company called The Toast. In this case, it happens to be
the same. It’s not always, of course; sometimes a website, it is useful to say,
“This is who owns that, just so you know.” But often–I mean, the classic case is
The New York Times: people are always citing, “Oh, this is from the website called
The New York Times, and it’s owned by… a company…called…The New York Times.”
You don’t have to do that anymore. Ok, so of those 7 things I just showed you,
3 of these are actually rules–like, those are things that no matter what,
you’re gonna do. But some of these are actually options! There actually is a place
in the book where they remind you that “Hey, you might want to include some of this
stuff.” In other words, maybe the sponsor of your site is crucial to what you’re talking
about, you want to draw attention to it. Maybe the medium of what you’re talking
about is really important, and you don’t want people to get confused. So you always have
to be thinking of real people: what might they need if they’re actually
looking up your stuff–what might they want to know? Or not know? It’s not just
about, “Oh, I will follow the rules, cause that’s what I have to do.” You’re
actually thinking of a real audience. I actually really kind of like that.
Big picture here: it means that MLA Style is flexible, which is another way
of saying that it varies by context, which I think is cool!

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