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13.2: What is MLA?

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    Formatting and Citation Conventions for Literature Essays

    Every academic discipline abides by a certain set of norms for essay format and citation. Why are there such norms for writing? It might help to think of formatting and citation guides like work uniforms. Just like a member of the United States Marine Corps, a McDonald's Employee, or a Cheerleading Team might wear a uniform to convey a belonging to a professional group, so too do formatting and citation guidelines help writers convey their belonging in a given discipline. But the purpose is not simply aesthetic: using the appropriate citation and formatting style ensures that other writers and readers in your field will better understand your message, make finding and keeping track of sources more efficient, and your essay will appear more polished and professional. Along these lines, each discipline or profession abides by its own expectations for formatting and citations.

    Citation Styles and Academic Disciplines


    Formatting & Style Guide

    Science APA (American Psychological Association)
    History, Law Chicago / Turabian
    Humanities MLA (Modern Language Association)
    Journalism AP (Associated Press)
    Medicine AMA (American Medical Association)

    Since Literature falls under the Humanities umbrella, when writing about literature, scholars usually abide by the MLA (Modern Language Association) guidelines. The Modern Language Association was founded in 1883 "to strengthen the study and teaching of languages and literatures" ("About The MLA"). It is an international professional organization with over 25,000 members and it produces some of the most cutting-edge scholarship in the Humanities ("About the MLA"). They also publish the MLA Style Guide to help writers of all skill levels produce high-quality writing.

    This page titled 13.2: What is MLA? is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative) .