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«Critical Review on the MLA Handbook (7th Edition) Shahila Zafar (Corresponding Author) Asst Professor English Division School of Social Sciences and ...»

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www.the-criterion.com The Criterion: An International Journal in English ISSN 0976-8165

Critical Review on the MLA Handbook (7th Edition)

Shahila Zafar (Corresponding Author)

Asst Professor

English Division

School of Social Sciences and Languages

VIT University,

Vellore-632014

TN, India

Zaved Ahmed Khan

Dr K Meenakshi

Introduction

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers presents a set of conventions to help a researcher in

the written presentation of research. These guidelines follow current practices that are recommended by the Modern Language Association of America (a professional organization of some 25,000 instructors of English and other languages). These conventions are used primarily in the humanities. Joseph Gibaldi’s MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers provides the researcher with a streamlined and easily referenced guide to the MLA format.

A Research Paper based on MLA guidelines Definition of a Research Paper A research paper is a factual essay about a specific subject. The information used to write the research paper is taken from a combination of primary and secondary information sources, which must be cited throughout the paper and listed in a bibliography at the end of the paper. A primary source is original, unedited information; examples include letters, interviews, and firsthand accounts of an event or practice.

A secondary source analyzes or summarizes information and can provide a critical or historical perspective on a subject.

There are two types of research papers: informational and analytical. The informational paper summarizes and presents factual information in a coherent and organized way. The analytical paper includes research findings from primary and secondary sources, in addition to the writer’s own analysis of the research topic. Therefore, the analytical paper has some elements of persuasive writing in that the writer's conclusion is an opinion derived from factual evidence.

General Guidelines

The following are the general guidelines to be followed for the formatting of a research paper:

• The paper should be typed or written on a computer and printed out on standard-sized paper (8.5 X 11 inches).

• It should be double-space.

• The margins of the document should be set to 1 inch on all sides.

• A header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin should be created.

–  –  –

• Throughout the essay, italics should be used for highlighting the titles of longer works and providing emphasis.

• Title page for the paper should not be made unless specifically requested.

• A double-spaced entry in the top left corner of the first page that lists the researchers name, the instructor's name, the course, and the date should be provided.

• A header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin should be created. The title on the line below the header with the scholar’s name should be centered.

Thesis Statement A good research paper begins with a thesis statement, which clearly states to the reader what the writer

intends to cover in the paper. Here are two examples of a thesis statement:

The development of the automobile led to economic, social, political, technological and ecological changes.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories reflect a pattern in which characters who are innocent and trusting are destroyed by the stronger forces of evil.

The thesis statement provides the framework for the entire paper. Every section of the paper is tied to this statement, and the conclusion relates each section back to this original statement of the writer's intentions.

Avoiding Plagiarism When writing a research paper, lab report or any other type of academic assignment, a researcher generally uses resources such as books, articles and websites written by other people to support his/ her argument. However, when using someone else’s information, he/ she must indicate where that information came from (credit must be given where credit is due) by citing his/ her sources. If he/ she fails to acknowledge his/ her sources, he/ she is guilty of plagiarism.

When to Cite Before examining the specific formats of the MLA citation style, it is important to understand when to

cite to avoid plagiarism. A source must be cited or acknowledged within a paper when one:

• quotes material verbatim (word for word)

• rewords or paraphrases information

• includes statistics or findings from a survey or study

• incorporates facts, ideas or opinions that are not common knowledge Listed below are a few examples to illustrate when citations are required. MLA generally uses the author’s surname and page number to cite information within the body of the essay.

Quoting- When a researcher quotes someone, he/ she uses the author’s exact words.

In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King offers his personal views on writing: “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.” Paraphrasing- When a researcher paraphrases someone, he/ she uses his/ her own words and sentence structure to convey another author’s ideas.





Acceptable:

Stephen King blames fear for the overuse of adverbs and passive verbs, hallmarks of bad writing, and he/ she encourages fledgling writers not to resort to using such devices as a crutch.

Unacceptable:

Stephen King is convinced that fear is at the root of bad writing and encourages writers to energize prose with active verbs.

The words in bold in the above unacceptable example are exactly as King wrote them. They have not been changed therefore they are plagiarized. Simply eliminating one or two words is not paraphrasing.

Summarizing- To summarize is to condense ideas into fewer words and with fewer details. A paragraph, page, or even a chapter, might be summarized in a single sentence. The summary should Vol. II. Issue. II 2 June 2011 www.the-criterion.com The Criterion: An International Journal in English ISSN 0976-8165 accurately convey the author’s message.

Accurate:

For Stephen King, fear yields bad writing.

Inaccurate:

Stephen King says students should be afraid of writing the SAT writing sample.

King acknowledges that students often are afraid of writing the SAT essay. He/ she does not claim that they should be. The point he/ she is trying to make in this passage is about fear and poor writing. The SAT is mentioned only as an example of what types of writing tasks make writers afraid.

Notetaking Supplies for Notetaking Cards in one size (3"x5" or 4"x6") should be used. These cards can be sorted, arranged and rearranged before writing the outline or essay.

Types of notecards:

a. Source cards b. Note cards What to Include on Source Cards The researcher should write one card for each source to identify all the details needed for his/ her Works Cited page. He/ she should arrange these cards into alphabetical order to make the Works Cited page.

Information needed varies depending on the type of source one uses. Basic information for any source card includes Author, Title, Publisher, Date and Page (as available). A unique number or color code for each source card should be used and that code should be applied to information cards to eliminate the need to rewrite the source information (Author, Title, etc) on each information card.

What to Include on Note Cards Each information card should be given a topic heading. Only one piece of information related to that heading on each card should be included so that the researcher can sort related topic cards together later.

These topic areas will probably become the major divisions of the outline. Major ideas, significant details and quotations on the card should be written.

Finally, the card should be coded by color or number to tie the information to its source.

How to Outline Preparing an outline is a helpful step that comes between taking notes and writing a rough draft of the paper. It gives the chance to put one’s notes into a sensible order. When a researcher does this, he/ she can decide whether more of any special type of research is still needed. It also gives him/ her the opportunity to see if he/ she has really done what he/ she said he/ she would do in the thesis statement.

Once an outline has been sketched out, the researcher may decide to revise the thesis statement, or he/ she may decide to re-emphasize some points more than others in the paper. In this way, he/ she may find that his/ her research approach changes as he/ she goes about the research. He/ she might end up doing a series of outlines.

How to Organize Thoughts and Notes for the Outline Sometimes a teacher will require only a trial outline. This is a more-or-less organized listing of the topics a researcher plans to cover in the general order he/ she intends to follow in his/ her paper. He/ she should place the note cards into stacks of the various main topics they cover. These stacks should be placed into

a logical order. Several organizing techniques are possible, including:

1. Chronological (by time)

2. Cause and effect (what caused an event or series of events)

3. Process (what steps occurred in a specific sequence)

4. Inductive (moving from specific examples of a problem, such as food shortages and ammunition supplies, to broad, general statements about that problem)

5. Deductive logic (starting with a general problem, such as family problems, to specific examples, such as child abuse, divorce and poverty) Vol. II. Issue. II 3 June 2011 www.the-criterion.com The Criterion: An International Journal in English ISSN 0976-8165 Notes in the trial outline should be added to indicate which quotes and reference sources the researcher will be referring to at that point. If he/ she had numbered his/ her notecards, those numbers should be used to code those notes in the trial outline.

What the Outline Should Look Like A formal outline is typed and follows a specific format. The guide may request either a topic outline (short phrases) or sentence outline (full sentences with conventional punctuation). The parts of an outline

are typically labeled using this order:

I. Main idea A. Subtopic

1. Detail of subtopic

2. Another detail a. Related idea about the detail b. Another related idea (1) Supporting fact or related matter (2) Perhaps another supporting fact (a) Micro-detail (b) Another micro-detail B. Second subtopic

1. Detail of second subtopic

2. Another detail a. Supporting information for this second detail b. Added supporting information related to second detail In general, a researcher may find that he/ she will have different amounts of details for some topics and subtopics than for others. That is acceptable; he/ she should just seek to keep his/ her descriptions in balance, not overemphasizing some topics at the expense of others. When he/ she has a I, there should be at least a II and possibly a III. When he/ she has an A, there should also be at least a B, and so on.

Usually no element should occur singly; when one supporting point is listed, there should be at least one more at that level.

General Guidelines for Authors, Titles and Use of Numbers The following are the general guidelines given in The MLA Handbook about how the names of the

authors, titles and numbers can be mentioned in a research paper:

• The author should be referred to by his/ her or her full name the first time it is mentioned in the text, but by last name only thereafter, unless there are two authors with the same last name. In that case, both the first and last names should be used consistently.

• Titles of books, plays, magazines, journals, newspapers, movies, television shows, compact discs, and Web sites are to be italicized.

• Titles of articles, short stories, essays, poems, and songs are in quotation marks.

• The first and last words and all main words should be capitalize. Examples: “Eight Days a Week,” Great Expectations, Wall Street Journal, The Simpsons, “The Raven”.

• Numbers that can be written in one or two words (four, thirty-five) should be spelled out; to represent longer numbers (110, 5 ½), numerals can be used.

• If the paper calls for a series of numbers or frequent use of numbers, such as statistical findings, numerals can be used. Also, numerals can be used for numbers preceding units of measurement (17 amperes).

• A sentence should not begin with a numeral – it should be spelled out.

• Related numbers can be express in the same format (5 out of 50 states).

• Following are examples of inclusive numbers. The second number is given in full through ninetynine and when necessary for clarity. This format can be used for page number ranges:

13-35 83-110 101-07 191-217 1,954-59 Vol. II. Issue. II 4 June 2011 www.the-criterion.com The Criterion: An International Journal in English ISSN 0976-8165 Internal Documentation (In-text citations, parenthetical references) Every time a researcher paraphrases or directly quotes a source, he/ she must give the reader the author’s last name and the page number of the source, either in the tag (introductory) line or in parentheses. A comma between the author’s name and the page number should not be used. One should paraphrase wherever possible. When a source has no page numbers or any other kind of reference numbers, no number can be given in the parenthetical reference.

The following are the different ways in which in- text citations can be given:

Author’s Name in Tagline If the writers name is given in the tagline itself, the name should not be repeated in the parenthetical

reference with the page number:

“He was obeyed,” writes Joseph Conrad of the manager in Heart of Darkness, “yet he inspired neither love nor fear, nor even respect” (87).



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