April 14, 2009

New MLA Handbook Recognizes the Ascent of Electronic Information

The Modern Language Association has just released the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. This style manual – now over 50 years old – gives step-by-step advice on writing research papers to millions of college and university students across the United States. A large part of the Handbook focuses on correctly citing your references, so that anyone can find the information that you use in your writing.

This edition of the Handbook has finally been adapted to the electronic age. (The 6th edition was released in 2003.) As such, it is an attempt to really make sense of how we find information on the Internet.

For instance, the MLA no longer recognizes print as the default medium of information, and suggests that the medium of publication should be included in each citation.

In addition, the Association has stopped recommending that URLs be included in citations, saying that URLs have:
“limited value… for they often change, can be specific to a subscriber or a session of use, and can be so long and complex that typing them into a browser is cumbersome and prone to transcription errors. Readers are now more likely to find resources on the Web by searching for titles and authors' names than by typing URLs.

The MLA has published an online complement to the paper Handbook. Oddly, you cannot purchase access to the web version without first buying a paper copy. “We still think instructors will want their students to have a physical book,” said Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA.

I guess some old habits die hard.

The MLA Handbook, 7th edition, is available here.

[via Inside Higher Ed]

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