Friday, May 29, 2009

New MLA Citation Decision

The Modern Languages Association (MLA) provides some of the most important guidelines for citing sources. According to Print Goes Out of Style from the Scholarly Kitchen blog (hosted by the Society for Scholarly Publishing), the latest, 7th edition of the MLA handbook for writers of research papers, states:

"the Modern Language Association no longer recognizes print as the default medium, and suggests that the medium of publication should be included in each works cited entry"


"the MLA has ceased to recommend inclusion of URLs in citing Web-based works – unless the instructor requires it or a reader would likely be unable to locate the source otherwise.

Inclusion of URLs has proved to 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..."

This represents quite a change, and the blog entry talks about the importance of Google on this, where, if a site changes, Google will provide the new URL because it is constantly being updated.

Personally, I don't think this is a very good idea, especially for sites that disappear completely. There is the Internet Archive (which archives the web!) and in their page the Wayback Machine, you can look for specific pages, so long as you know the URL.
See Disappearing Websites in the AUR Library Information Wiki for guidelines on how to use the Wayback Machine.

So, my recommendation is to continue to put in the URLs for items on the web. It can't hurt, takes only a split-second with copy & paste, and it really might come in handy!

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