More MLA minutia

08 Mar

Based on astute questions asked by students in Dr. Spencer’s English 10 classes on Friday, here are three tips about parenthetical references in MLA.

Q: How do you differentiate between two sources in your Works Cited list that are listed by title (because they do not have an author) AND have similar titles (e.g. “Jealousy in Othello” vs. “Jealousy in Shakespeare’s Othello“)?

A:  Include enough of the title that the reader can differentiate between the two.  For the titles above, the best choice would be to cite the entire article title followed by the page number.  Example: (“Jealousy in Shakespeare’s Othello” 312).  See section 6.4.4 in MLA Handbook, Seventh Edition for more details.

Q: How do you differentiate between works with the exact same title if they do not have authors?

A: In this case, look for a detail about their publication that distinguishes between them, usually the title of the journal, collection, or anthology in which the work appeared, or the publication year.  Example: (“The Portrait,” New Anthology)  v. (“The Portrait,” Norton Anthology).  Notice the comma.  See section 6.4.4 in MLA Handbook, Seventh Edition for more details.

Q:  If you are citing information from a web site and do not have page numbers to reference, what do you do?

A:  Consult with your teacher for his/her requirements.  Some teachers may have you omit the page number or do a print preview from the browser window and use that page number.  MLA suggests referencing a numbered paragraph on the web page (if it has them) or a numbered or named section heading.   If there is an author’s name in the reference, then place a comma after the name.  Examples:  (Spencer, par. 6)    (Spencer, sec. 3)     (Spencer, introd.).  If a source does not have numbered paragraphs, MLA suggests NOT counting them yourself, but rather indicating the approximate location of the quote in the text of your sentence  (e.g. “Near the end of his article, Smith asserts…”).  See section 6.4.2 in MLA Handbook, Seventh Edition for more details.

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