Guest Contributor: Tina Willhoite, San Jacinto College (Texas)

MLA first began in 1883 as a way to share scholarly findings and documentation with colleagues.  For over a century, the association has supported and strengthened programs within the humanities.  Just as new inventions and technology have made life easier for inhabitants of the 21st century, MLA, 8th edition, makes academic research much easier to cite in an era of digital publications.

The length of the handbook is down to nearly half the size of the seventh edition, which was a whopping 300 pages.  Many of the strict rules have been replaced with suggestions or choices outside the required template of information. The biggest change to the eighth edition is flexibility.

Life today is busy, and sources are no longer reserved to only hard-bound journals or books on stuffy library shelves.  Research can now be gathered in multiple ways from websites to tablets and even smart phones.  MLA simply had to change to keep up with the information overload available to students today.

MLA, 8th edition, makes citing much easier by following this general template:

Author (followed by a period)

Title of source (followed by a period)

Title of Container (followed by a comma)

Other contributors (followed by a comma)

Version (followed by a comma)

Number (followed by a comma)

Publisher (followed by a comma)

Publication date (followed by a comma)

Location (followed by a period)

Also, some components of MLA, 8th edition, are completely new or have been brought back from previous additions:

  • Containers –A smaller part within a whole is cited. Think of a small mixing bowl, inside a medium sized bowl, nested in a large bowl. All components of where material was assessed are given credit. Examples: chapter inside a novel, song on a CD, episode from a series, magazine article within a magazine, etc.
  • URLs are back – in most cases, they will be cited without the http://; however, this is at the instructor’s discretion as some works cannot be accessed without the http part of the web address.
  • Page numbers are noted now noted with p. for page or pp. for multiple pages in the works cited, but not in the in-text citations of the paper.
  • Citing DOIs is now recommended.
  • Scholarly journals are now documented as “vol. 3, no. 2” (rather than “3.2”).
  • Citing the date material was accessed is now optional.
  • The medium of the material is no longer necessary, except in rare cases for clarity.
  • Times are now cited for audio recordings and video.
  • The city of publication is no longer included, except for special clarification.
  • Three or more authors (rather than four or more) are now cited with the first one shown in the source followed by et al.
  • When an article (a, an, or the) appears in the title of a journal, magazine, or newspaper article, it is now considered part of the title and should be capitalized and included within the parentheses.

As the world becomes more modernized and information is accessed more quickly, from more sources than ever before, it is essential to evolve in the academic world.  The best point to keep in mind with the 8th Edition of MLA is there is often more than one way to correctly cite a source.