MLA, APA, or Chicago?What reference and citation styles do you accept for your papers? Do you have a preference?

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litelle209 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am a stickler for MLA. I teach literature at the University of California and feel that it is part of the paper as a whole to be properly formatted. I emphasize that being in college means working in an academic environment and being able to adhere to certain conventions. In general, I have found that once students understand those conventions and why APA is less appropriate in the humanities than MLA, they are able to work with MLA.

Over the past year, I have noticed that students have become quite resourceful and make use of free citation software. On the one hand I like this and it certainly makes for almost flawless bibs and helps them transfer from one style to another quite easily, but on the other hand the works cited/bib can be slightly flawed because it is computer generated. For most undergrads this is really not a big issue, but I always advise seniors who are bound for grad school to spend some time reading the manual-especially if they are working with software. Graduate school is a lot more stringent in its guidelines and it is a good idea to learn it beforehand. Checking the entries in your works cited list is just like proof reading your paper.

In regard to epollock's concern that the students fail or try to cut corners when citing, I tell my students that citing is a way to show how deeply they have entered a certain scholarly discourse and are able to reflect epistemological dynamics in a respective field. Writing is a way of being part of that discourse.


booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I teach and use MLA style. The members of our department (English) have agreed to teach this, and try to encourage the rest of the departments conducting research units to do so as well so that the students can have some continuity.

What is a concern is that not everyone in other departments uses MLA formally. It may be easier for them to adapt it a little for their students, especially in light of the varying level of student capabilities within one class.

This becomes a problem when these students come into my classroom. I provide them with an entire set of guidelines, and we practice them in class. Some are willing to do it; some don't care and just lose the points. And some refuse to change what they have learned elsewhere. Oh, well...

I am not really familiar with Chicago, but have used APA-style in some of my graduate work. I think MLA is somehow more intuitive, at least for me. So given a choice, I would stay with the MLA-style.

howesk eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The school where I teach has a schoolwide MLA policy. This was meant to avoid confusion, but really creates more problems than it solves. Many teachers outside of the English department are unfamilar with MLA, and students will have no basis in APA before they go to college, even those who want to study science or education.

The problem is, the responsibility for teaching formatting falls entirely on the English department, and then we are blamed when students don't cite sources properly. Ideally, I'd like each teacher to spend some time reviewing his or her preferred formatting style in the high school years so that students are exposed to many styles of citation before being let loose in college. The most important thing is for them to know where to find the resources that teach them to cite properly, not to memorize the formulas.

James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the posters who are flexible about what they accept and are concerned about student preparation for college. I'm much, much more familiar with MLA than with APA or Chicago Manual, but I accept all three in my literature and language courses at the university level. Some English instructors at the university level only accept MLA, which is their choice, but many of the journals and edited collections in the field of literary studies don't completely follow MLA format themselves. Many use a house style; others even use heavily modified versions of APA.

For me, what's important in the end is -- for all of us, teachers and students alike -- to be able to understand, apply, and adapt. I'm not sure that adhering to any one particular style is a sign of anything other than attention to detail.

kristenfusaro eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I only accept MLA format. The general rule is that MLA is accepted for the humanities, while APA is for the math sciences. Chicago is an old form; this is hardly seen in modern publications for both scholarly science/math and humanities.

In any circumstance, I find that many of my colleagues get frustrated with their students for not citing their sources; however, they never actually stop and take the time out to teach the proper research method. We need to remember, as educators, that anything we "assign" is to assess the knowledge that we help students possess.

larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sorry to be the "lone wolf" in this discussion, but I prefer the Chicago (Turabian) style, and have instructed my students to use it. In all of my graduate level history courses, the Chicago style was preferred. Students learn the MLA and APA style in their other classes; but it is important for them to be familiar with Chicago also. At such time as they write papers in upper level college classes, they should be prepared to use whichever style is required. It never hurts to broaden a student's perspective, even on citation styles.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with epollock. The challenge I have is to actually get students to realise that they need to reference in the first place, so to be honest, as long as they pick one system and stick to it and I can see that they are trying to use it, that is good enough for me. The systems they will have to use will vary depending on which college they end up in anyway, and often depending on the professors they have, so there is no point just expecting them to learn one - they need to be aware of the existence of others.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Over the years, I have taught literature and composition classes at four high schools, a community college, and a university. At each of these schools, the English department had adopted MLA, and it was required in all English classes. I observed the requirement, of course, but I always made students aware of the other styles. My advice to college-bound students was to clarify with any instructor which style he or she preferred, if that information had not been given as part of the assignment.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Our English Department accepts only MLA because that is what Murray State University accepts in its English and Humanities classes.  Many of our students go there since it is close enough to drive daily and they save tons of money.

I know that MSU also accepts APA style for their different course offerings--business, psychology, and math.

MLA is my preference since I know it very well and don't usually have to look up any of the rules, whereas APA style is markedly different.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We teach MLA for 3 years in high school English classes. Then, we cause our seniors to perform an exit exam type task which requires the APA format. Our hope in our district is that students will learn MLA well, but understand that when they go to college, a professor might require a different source documenting format. So, we see if they can apply the task of looking up how to use APA in the senior year without teaching the format. It seems to work pretty well.

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While MLA is the format I was brought up on and as an English teacher still personally use, I must concur with those who say that the process is more important than the product. It is a relatively easy matter these days to find citation tools for help, so it seems more important that students learn and/or accept that citations must be used. I believe that the Associated Press uses Chicago style, but I might be wrong.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I use MLA, as do my colleagues.  Like others, though, I am quite clear with studentsabout how a stylebook is used and the fact that they may be required to use different styles in different settings.  We did some research of colleges in our state to see whether they predominantly require APA or MLA, and the numbers were clearly in favor of MLA. So, that's what I teach.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The English Department demands that MLA style be employed; however, when I had a journalism class in a high school, the group was instructed to use APA simply because they needed the practice in this style.  Also, it has always been a matter of contention with other departments that students are not taught both MLA and APA at this school.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At my level in the high school, I accept MLA style, and we are consistent throughout the disciplines in that regard.  We don't tend to emphasize alternative styles, as the stduents are still acquiring the basic skills of citation, bibilography and reference.  These will be easier to adjust to new styles if necessary at the college level.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I use MLA in my English classes and APA in my education classes.  I think that you should use the style that corresponds to the subject.  That way, students will theoretically be exposed to all of them.  Teach them to use citation generators and reference books because there is NO WAY they will remember it all.

Wiggin42 | Student

My teachers only allowed MLA for literature, argument, analysis, and history papers because its the standard. My science teachers on the other hand insisted on APA because that is their standard. In all honesty, students just use anyway so it doesn't matter to us which one teachers make us use. 

user9959216 | Student

i want a simple explanation af how to use the APA & MLA style in the text or parenthetical ! 

epollock | Student

I also think that as a mere convention skill, it is more important if the student is consistent and that the student recognizes and acknowledges other sources; that is the greatest hurdle to overcome. If they at least recognize other's material, plagiarism will go way down, and if the student makes a few mistakes in citing sources, it's of no concern; what concerns me is that the student actually cite sources in the first place.

epollock | Student

I accept either MLA or APA, it is up to the student to choose each one. A few times students might get them mixed up or not use them correctly, but as long as they are consistent, then it rarely matters in the understanding of their thoughts and ideas. I also use a sample research paper that is only two pages long and students get to do real research as opposed to "fake" research and many have published their woks in Korean journals, around 80 so far. There is no need to go over three or four pages unless it is for a very specific reason such as any journal which requires a minimum length, otherwise, it is almost unnecessary. I can show people the sample research paper if they would like by e-mailing me.

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