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MLA Do's and Don'ts

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Lindsay Lu

on 7 March 2017

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Transcript of MLA Do's and Don'ts

MLA Do's and Don'ts

1. Look away from the source then write.

Read the text you want to paraphrase several times until you feel that you understand it and can use your own words to restate it to someone else. Then, look away from the original and rewrite the text in your own words.

2. Take notes.

Take abbreviated notes; set the notes aside; then paraphrase from the notes a day or so later, or when you draft.

General Guidelines for Paraphrasing
1. When reading a passage, try first to understand it as a whole, rather than pausing to write down specific ideas or phrases.

2. Be selective. Unless your assignment is to do a formal or "literal" paraphrase, you usually don't need to paraphrase an entire passage; instead, choose and summarize the material that helps you make a point in your paper.

3. Think of what "your own words" would be if you were telling someone who's unfamiliar with your subject (your mother, your sibling, a friend) what the original source said.

4. Remember that you can use direct quotations of phrases from the original within your paraphrase, and that put quotation marks around the whole paraphrase.

Consider the following passage from
Love and Toil
(a book on motherhood in London from 1870 to 1918), in which the author, Ellen Ross, puts forth one of her major arguments:

Love and Toil
maintains that family survival was the mother's main charge among the large majority of London's population who were poor or working class; the emotional and intellectual nurture of her child or children and even their actual comfort were forced into the background. To mother was to work for and organize household subsistence. (9)

Acceptable paraphrase:

Children of the poor at the turn of the century received little if any emotional or intellectual nurturing from their mothers, whose main charge was family survival. Working for and organizing household subsistence were what defined mothering. Next to this, even the children's basic comfort was forced into the background (Ross 9).
Direct Quotes
Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases.
When Using a Direct Quote
Works Cited
1. Begin this on a new page at the end of your essay and title it.

2. Like your paper this will also be double spaced.

3. The first line of each citation is flush left but every line after should be indented one space.

4. Alphabetize by author's last name or first letter of the title.
Sample quote: In illustrating these steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

1. Provide context for each quotation.

Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:

When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.

2. Explain the significance of the quotation.

Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:

With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.
When Using a Direct Quote Con't
3. Provide a citation for the quotation.

All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference name and number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt 11).

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (11).
Works Cited Con't...
5. Italicize titles, and capitalize all words in titles except articles (a, and, an, the, for, of).

6. List author's last name first, then first name.

7. If author unknown start with the title of work.
Newspaper article:

Brubaker, Bill. "New Health Center Targets County's
Uninsured Patients."
Washington Post
, 24 May 2007, p. LZ01.

Page on a Website:

"Athlete's Foot - Topic Overview."
, 25 Sept. 2014,


Henley, Patricia. T
he Hummingbird House
. MacMurray,
Where to find Works
Cited page citation info for website
Where to find Works Cited page citation info in a book
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