Whether you were ready for it or not, the Modern Language Association introduced the eighth edition of their style handbook in April 2016.
What’s different about this latest incarnation of MLA style? The eighth edition focuses less on citing by individual formats, and instead provides guidance on citing each individual element. Core elements of a container’s citation include the author, title of the source, title of the container, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, and location. To truly grasp how the eighth edition differs from the seventh, we will look at each of these elements individually.
Books, DVDs, websites—all formats of information are now referred to as “containers” in the eighth edition (MLA 8th). There can even be sources within larger containers, such is the case of works in anthologies, or pages on a website.
MLA 8th asks its users to consider who the content creator is. In other words, who is responsible for the source in its current state, coming into existence? One could easily speculate that this advice is a direct response to the Internet culture of reuse, and transformative use. An excellent example of this is Internet sensation Sam Tsui’s mashup of “Let Her Go” by Passenger and the Frozen theme song “Let It Go” [video here]. In the citation below, Tsui is listed in the author element because he is responsible for arranging the two original songs into a new creation.
The Internet’s influence on MLA 8th is also apparent in its acceptance of pseudonym authors. Pseudonyms can include Twitter handles, screen names, user names and other identities.
Documenting authorship in MLA 8th also depends on what your focus of research is. For example, if your focus is a performer in a television show, the actor is listed in the author element.
Focus on Actor
Title of the Source
If the work being cited can stand alone it is italicized. If it is one part of a larger work (essays, poems, short stories, etc.), the title is given in quotation marks. Standalone works that appear in a collection remain italicized.
A Novel from a Volume Containing Multiple Novels:
A Song from an Album
Title of the Container
No matter the format, this element requires you to list the name of what holds the source being cited. Is it the name of a website in which a webpage appears? Is it a streaming service such as Netflix where a movie being cited is hosted? List it in italics.
Those that were involved in creating a source, but are either not the focus of study, or are not responsible for its current state, may be listed in the “other contributors” element. Other contributors appear after the title of the container. You will also notice a lack of abbreviations with MLA 8th, “ed.” is now “editor” for example.
MLA 8th provides a list of how to describe the role of other contributors, but it is not an exhaustive list:
Original Author in the Author Element; Translator as Other Contributor:
Translator as Author; Original Author as Other Contributor:
A book might list an edition number, or that it is an abridgement. Software might have a version number. Movies might note if it is an extended edition or director’s cut. These are all listed in the version element.
Serialized works, periodicals, or lengthy works are often split amongst multiple volumes and issues. This information should be listed in the number element. Volumes and issues are now preceded by “vol.” and “no.” respectively.
Journal in an Online Database:
MLA 8th gives the simple definition of the publisher as the organization “primarily responsible for producing the source or making it available to the public.” For a book, the first source of this information should be the title page, followed by the copyright page. For TV and film there may be a group that distributed the work, but also a production company. MLA suggests you document the entity with the most responsibility for the item. For websites, look for the copyright holder or navigate to the “about” page to find the responsible party.
A source may have multiple dates associated with it such as the original publication date, reprint date, last updated date, etc. Use the date that is most applicable to your research, or context the source is used in.
Despite its name, the “location element” is not where the city of publication is listed. The location element describes where in the container the information appears. For a work in a book, MLA 8th now asks for “p.” or “pp.” to denote the page number or page range where the work appears. For an online source MLA 8th now asks that a URL* is provided. Other locations of or within a container might include disc numbers, physical locations like museums, and DOI* numbers for online articles.
Journal Article Retrieved from a Library Database:
Some information considered mandatory in MLA 7th has been relegated to an “optional category” in MLA 8th. Including…
A Note about URLs and DOIs in the NCTC Library Databases
Not every article in a database will have a DOI, and using the URL as an alternative may cause some confusion for students and faculty. If a person copies the URL from the address bar above an article, that link will not work for any other person. It is a URL unique to that one instance, or “session” of accessing that article.
Most databases provide a permalink to articles. Permalinks are URLs that do not change over time and should ideally always direct Internet browsers to the article. However, because users must first go through MyNCTC to access the library databases from off campus, the permalink will only work if the article is being accessed from on campus.
Speaking of Library Databases…
As of publication, citation information provided by library database vendors is still formatted according to MLA 7th, including our largest vendor EBSCO. EBSCO’s response when asked when their database citations would be updated to MLA 8th? They’ll get back to us.
As for Gale databases (such as Opposing Viewpoints, InfoTrac Newsstand, and Literature Resource Center), they now include MLA 8th in their Citation Tool. It does, however, contain the optional element of date of access.
Expect an updated citation guide from the NCTC Libraries before the end of the fall semester!
–Submitted by Sabrina McKethan, Librarian, Corinth Campus