Formatting or Fetishism? What do we want from source citing anyway?

“Has an element of fetishism perhaps crept into what was once a necessary academic practice?” This is the first sentence in the preface to the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, published this past spring.

The new edition of the MLA Handbook acknowledges the confusion and futility associated with attempts to provide a definitive citation format for each and every source that could possibly be used in academic writing. In order to cite a book, one had to first identify what kind of book: Print book? Audiobook? E-book? E-book read on a Kindle? Downloaded as a PDF? Downloaded as a PDF and then printed and bound in collection?

Recognizing that no handbook can anticipate new formats and platforms for publishing information, the MLA has created a format-agnostic approach to documentation meant to replace the “forbidding level of detail” that had turned the Handbook into “a reference work… rather than a guide that taught the principles underlying documentation” (MLA Handbook, xi).

There are many stylistic changes between an MLA 7 citation and an MLA 8 citation, however, the role of the citation remains the same - “enabling readers to participate fully in the conversations between writers and their sources” (MLA Handbook, xii). With this in mind, we ask you to reflect for a moment on your own source citation requirements. When it comes to the rules that govern academic style, has as an element of fetishism crept into your own thinking about citations?

The introduction to the MLA Handbook recognizes the importance of rules in documenting sources, but suggests that our use of MLA be guided by three principles:

  1. Cite simple traits shared by most works.
  2. Remember that there is often more than one correct way to document a source.
  3. Make your documentation useful to readers.

As writing handbooks, citation management software, and Library databases make the transition from one version of MLA style to the next, we hope that COD instructors will keep these principles in mind when requiring students to cite their sources - whether MLA, APA, Chicago or another style. Depending on whether a student has access to MLA 7 or MLA 8, a citation may include a URL, or it may not. A citation may read “edited by” or “Ed.” A citation may indicate the day a source was last accessed, or it may not. Perhaps these differences shouldn’t matter much in the college classroom.

For, if we accept that the purpose of a citation is to be useful to readers, then we must accept that variations in citation formatting do not undermine that purpose.

So, how should we, as an academic community, help our students both comprehend the conventions of scholarly communication and manage the challenges of college writing and research?

The COD Librarians offer these suggestions:

  • Be explicit in both your style and source documentation expectations. Do you want students to include a URL for all online sources regardless of whether a DOI is available? Do you expect to see a “last accessed” date included in Web site citations? Tell your students this.
  • Consider grading your students on the utility of their citations rather than their exactitude. A number of studies have shown that an over-emphasis on proper citation may actually be hurting the quality of college writing. Students spend a disproportionate amount of time agonizing over the “correct” way to format a citation when compared to the actual time spent reading and understanding the same sources. We can help lessen student research anxiety by de-emphasizing our focus on “perfect” citations.
  • Address plagiarism concerns via alternative methods. Librarians and scholars believe that our fixation on citation rules stems from our fear of plagiarism. What strategies can you employ that might reduce intentional and unintentional plagiarism? Your liaison librarian can work with you to craft scaffolded assignments, authentic research experiences and other options.

COD Librarians are your partners in teaching and learning. Let us know how we can help you help your students succeed.

In-Text Citations - MLA

In-text citations are brief citations found after a direct quote or a paraphrase. They are located in the body of your work. For additional help formatting your paper, visit the College of DuPage Writing Assistance Area in SRC 2102.

In-text citations are placed in parentheses, and have two components:

  • The first word found in the full citation on the Works Cited page (usually the last name of the author)
  • The location of the direct quote or paraphrase (usually a page number)

In-text citations should be placed directly after the direct quote or paraphrase, or in a place that is a natural pause and does not cause the reader to become distracted while reading the body of your work.


In order to prevent starvation, Watney knew exactly what he needed to do. “My best bet for making calories is potatoes” (Weir 17).

When using the author’s name in the sentence, only include the page number in the parentheses.


Seuss’s use of words such as, “lurk” and “dank” help students understand the type of character that the Once-ler is (6).

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Content on this guide comes from EasyBib, thanks to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


MLA Style Basics

Three principles guide the use of MLA Style:

1. Cite simple traits shared by most works

Core Elements
MLA citations are made up of Core Elements in the following order:

1. Author

"Give the author's name as found in the work. Reverse the name for alphabetizing... When a source has two authors, include them in the order in which they are presented. Reverse the first of the names... follow it with a comma and and, and give the second name in normal order."

Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich. The Crown of Columbus. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.

--MLA Handbook, p. 21

2. Title of Source.

"Titles are given in the entry in full exactly as they are found in the source, except that capitalization and the punctuation between the main title and a subtitle are standardized...
A title is placed in quotation marks if the source is part of a larger work. A title is italicized...if the source is self-contained."

Puig, Manuel. Kiss of the Spider Woman. Translated by Thomas Colchie, Vintage Books, 1991.

--MLA Handbook, p. 25

3. Title of Container,

"When the source being documented forms a part of a larger whole, the larger whole can be thought of as a container that holds the source... The title of the container is normally italicized as is followed by a comma, since the information that comes next describes the container...
A container can... be nested in a larger container." Containers within containers could include: a blog published as part of a network of blogs, the back issues of a journal in a database, a book of stories read on Google Books, a television series watched on Netflix.

"Goldman, Ann. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88. JSTOR,

-- MLA Handbook, p. 30

4. Other Contributors,

"[O]ther people may be credited in the source as contributors. If their participation is important to your research or to the identification of the work, name the other contributors in the entry. Precede each name (or each group of names...) with a description of the role."

"Hush." Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, Mutant Enemy, 1999.

-- MLA Handbook, p. 38

5. Version,

"If the source carries a notation indicating that is is a version of work released in more than one form, identify the version in your entry."

Newcomb, Horace, editor. Television: The Critical View. 7th ed., Oxford UP, 2007.

-- MLA Handbook, p. 38

6. Number,

"If you consult one volume of a numbered multi-volume set, indicate the volume number." Other sources with numbers include: volumes and issues of journals, issues of comic books, seasons and episodes of a television series.

Clowes, Daniel. David Boring. Eightball, no. 19, Fantagraphics, 1998.

-- MLA Handbook, p. 39-40

7. Publisher,

"The publisher is the organization primarily responsible for producing the source or making it available to the public." Publishers names can be found on the title page of a book, the copyright notice at the bottom of a Web site, and in production or distribution credit for a movie.

Harris, Charles "Teenie." Woman in Paisley Shirt behind Counter in Record Store. Teenie Harris Archive. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh,

-- MLA Handbook, p. 41

8. Publication date,

"When a source carries more than one date, cite the date that is most meaningful or most relevant to your use of the source... Whether to give the year alone or to include a month and day usually depends on your source: write the full date as you find it there."

Deresiewicz, William. "The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur." The Atlantic, Jan.-Feb. 2015, pp. 92-97.

-- MLA Handbook, p. 42-3

9. Location.

"How to specify a work's location depends on the medium of publication. In print sources a page number or range of page numbers specifies the location of a text... The location of an online work is commonly indicated by its URL [or DOI]... The location of a television episode in a DVD set is indicated by the disc number."

Chan, Evans. "Postmodernism and Hong Kong Cinema." Postmodern Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, May 2000. Project Muse, doi:10.1353/pmc.2000.0021.

-- MLA Handbook, p. 47-49

If an element is not relevant to a source, simply omit it it from your citation.

Practice Template
MLA Style provides a practice template you can use to create entries for your Works Cited list.

2. Remember that there is often more than one correct way to document a source

We cite (document) our sources for several reasons: to support our points by referring to other people's work; to show that we are aware of research on our topics; to show that we have read and understood specific texts; and to give credit when we reference the words and ideas of others.

How we cite sources, however, can depend greatly on our audience. MLA wants us to ask "What is the writer's primary purpose?"

  • Give credit for borrowed material?
    • Generally, college research requires you to document your sources in a Works Cited list. Your citations should include the relevant Core Elements and any other information your instructor requires.
  • Examine distinguishing features of editions or versions of a text?
    • Researchers conducting textual analyses of different versions of a publication will usually need to provide more information in their documentation, with careful attention to core elements such as Version, Publisher and Publication date.
  • Share details of sources as part of a scholarly discourse?
    • Writers wishing to publish their research may be held to a higher standard of documentation than that required by college-level course assignments. Writers should strictly follow the publisher's style guide or the documentation style of their discipline.

3. Documentation should be useful to readers

The most important function of a citation is its ability to communicate information to the reader. Above all, citations should:

  • Demonstrate thoroughness of research
    • Have you read the most important, relevant and up-to-date information on your topic? Where does your contribution fit in?
  • Give credit to original sources
    • Is it clear which ideas are your own and which are from other people's work?
  • Ensure readers can find sources consulted
    • Have you provided enough information to allow a reader to locate the sources you have used?

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., The Modern Language Association of America, 2016.
"Works Cited: A Quick Guide." The MLA Style Center, 2016, Accessed 25 Aug. 2016.


Citing Sources: MLA

Below are examples of 8th Edition MLA citations that are most commonly used by students at the College of DuPage. For additional examples and rules, please consult the MLA Handbook (8th ed., 2016).

Download MLA's practice template to create entries for your works cited list.

  1. Citing Books
  2. Citing Periodicals
  3. Citing Web and Multimedia Sources

Citing Books

A Book

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date. Title of web site or database, URL (if applicable).

Hill, Fred James, and Nicholas Awde. A History of the Islamic World. Hippocrene, 2003.

Bohlmeijer, Ernst and Monique Hulsbergen. A Beginner's Guide to Mindfulness: Live in the Moment. McGraw-Hill Education, 2013. Ebook Library,

A Chapter or Article in an Anthology or Collection

Last name, First name. "Title of Chapter or Article." Title of Collection, edited by Editor's Name(s), Publisher, Year, Page range of entry. Title of the web site or database, URL (if applicable).

Stern, Katherine. "Toni Morrison's Beauty Formula." The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable, edited by Marc C. Connor, UP of Mississippi, 2000, pp. 77-91.

Berna, Serge, et al. "French Cinema is Over." Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures : A Critical Anthology, edited by Scott MacKenzie. U of California P, 2014, pp. 192-193,

An Article from an Encyclopedia

Last name, First name. "Title of Article." Title of Encyclopedia, edited by First Name Last Name, Edition if available, Publisher, Year. Title of the web site or database, URL (if applicable).

Kalyanaraman, Sriram. "Online Relationships." The Encyclopedia of Children, Adolescents, and the Media, edited by Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, 3rd ed., Sage Publications, 1997.

Little, Thomas. "Multimedia." Computer Graphics Companion, edited by Jeffrey J. McConnell, Wiley, 2003. Credo Reference,

Tip: For articles in encyclopedias and other reference books that are arranged alphabetically, omit the volume number and page number(s) of the entry.
A Government Publication

Author or Government Agency issuing the publication. Title of Publication. Publisher, Date of publication, URL (if applicable).

United States, Government Accountability Office. Climate Change: EPA and DOE Should Do More to Encourage Progress under Two Voluntary Programs. Government Printing Office, 2006.

United States, Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General. Adverse Events in Rehabilitation Hospitals: National Incidence among Medicare Beneficiaries. Government Printing Office, 2016,

HRAF Book Excerpt

Author(s) of book. Title of Book. Edition. Publisher, Year of publication. Human Relations Area Files Culture code microfiche collection.

Krige, Eileen Jensen. The Social System of the Zulus. 2nd ed., Shuter & Shooter, 1965. Human Relations Area Files FX20 microfiche collection.

Citing Periodicals

An Article in a Scholarly Journal

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Publication date, Page numbers. Title of the database (if applicable), URL or DOI (if applicable).

Davis, Robert, and Laszlo Sajtos. "Measuring Consumer Interactivity in Response to Campaigns Coupling Mobile and Television Media." Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 48, no. 3, 2008, pp. 375-91.

Wathington, Heather, et al. "A Good Start? The Impact of Texas' Developmental Summer Bridge Program on Student Success." Journal of Higher Education, vol. 87, no. 2, 2016, pp. 150-77. Academic Search Complete,

An Article in a Magazine
Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.

Conley, Kevin. "The First Secretary of Climate Change." Popular Science, 4 Mar. 2002, pp. 54+.

Bosker, Bianca. "Big in Canada: Throwing Axes for Fun." The Atlantic, Sept. 2016,

An Article in a Newspaper

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.

Martinez, Jennifer. "Anarchists Organize to Spread the Word." The Wall Street Journal, 1 Apr. 2009, p. A8.

Kamin, Blair. "Architect Jeanne Gang's Vision to Expand from the Skyscraper to the Police Station." Chicago Tribune, 13 Nov. 2015,

Tip: If the newspaper is a less well-known or local publication, include the city name in brackets after the title of the newspaper.

Citing Web Sources

A Web Source

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the website, Name of the publisher, Date of publication, URL.

White, Lori. “The Newest Fad in People Helping People: Little Free Pantries.” Upworthy, Cloud Tiger Media, 3 Aug. 2016,

“Giant Panda.” Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institute,

Tip: When giving a URL, copy it full from your Web browser, but omit http:// or https://

Citing Multimedia Sources

An Image

Lee, Jin. "Wave 1." College of DuPage Permanent Art Collection, College of DuPage, 2007,

Nutt, Jim. “What I've Got Is Much Worse.” University of Chicago: The Renaissance Society, 1984, ARTstor, .

Film, Television and Video

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, VICE Films, 2014.

The Lost World. Directed by Harry O. Hoyt, produced by David Shepard, Flicker Alley, 1925. Academic Video Online,

"Walking Distance." The Twilight Zone, directed by Robert Stevens, season 1, episode 5, CBS, 30 Oct. 1959. Netflix,

"How to Argue - Philosophical Reasoning: Crash Course Philosophy #2." YouTube, uploaded by CrashCourse, 16 Feb. 2016,

Sound Recordings

Gaillard, Slim, et al. "Opera In Vout (Groove Juice Symphony)." The Complete Jazz At The Philharmonic On Verve, 1944-1949, Universal Classics & Jazz, 1998. Music Online: Jazz Music Library,

Koenig, Sarah, "The Deal with Jay." Serial, season 1, episode 5, Accessed 9 Aug. 2016.

Creative Commons License
Select content in this guide comes from EasyBib thanks to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


MLA 8th Edition - What's New?


MLA 8th Edition

The 8th edition of the MLA Handbook is out and guess what? The guidelines for documenting sources have changed!
MLA now recommends one universal set of guidelines which can be applied to any source, regardless of the format – book, article, video, even Twitter tweets!

Learn about MLA’s radical new approach to building works-cited list entries before Noodlebib, Purdue OWL and even our own Citing Sources page make the switch from Seventh edition to Eighth. This session covers the new concepts of MLA Core Elements and Containers, plus other significant changes.

Do you use MLA style in the classroom? Please take this short survey:


Recorded Session (June 29, 2016):

View the Presentation Slides


Citing Sources

Citation styles provide rules for formatting your citations or references. Although there are many different citation styles, those most commonly used by students at College of DuPage are American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and Chicago/Turabian. The style you should use is usually determined by the discipline or course in which you are working. Ask your instructor what style is required or recommended.

Citing Sources: Information to Record

Although every citation style is different, there are some standard elements to record:

•    Title (of book or article and journal)
•    Author
•    Publication Date
•    Publisher or source
•    Start and end pages (for articles and book chapters)

For electronic sources such as Web pages, you should record this additional information:

•    The date you accessed the site
•    The digital object identifier (DOI) if there is one
•    The URL (Web address) if there is no DOI

Sample Papers & In-Text Citations

For additional help formatting your paper, visit the College of DuPage Writing Assistance Area in SRC 2102.

From MLA Style Center

  • MLA Sample Paper #1 This paper, on assisted reproductive technology and the family, includes an example of using ellipses when omitting words from a quoted source. For more on ellipses, see the MLA Handbook (1.3.5).
  • MLA Sample Paper #2 This paper, on Jacob Lawrence’s Migration series, shows you how to incorporate figures into your text, style a block quotation, and cite a variety of sources. Read about block quotations in the MLA Handbook (1.3.2–3, 1.3.7).


  • APA Sample Paper #1 This abridged manuscript illustrates the organizational structure characteristic of reports of meta-analyses written in APA Style.
  • APA Sample Paper #2 This sample paper is an example of a one-experiment paper that demonstrates APA Style elements.
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