Defining MLA and APA

Information Literacy Module V: Preparing to Use Information Ethically

Documentation styles such as MLA and APA prescribe guidelines for citing and documenting the sources of our information. Citation and documentation work together. When we cite, we give credit to our source right when we introduce its information into our speech or writing. Because we want to stay focused on our topic, this is usually a brief reference, so we use documentation to provide a more thorough description of the source. As you can imagine, things might get a little bit messy if we each had to come up with our own sensible system of citation and documentation. That’s why the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), and other professional organizations have kindly provided guidelines for us to follow. Now, as long as we know which style a writer or a speaker is using, we can all understand each other and feel confident knowing that we’re following the same rules for citing and documenting our sources responsibly.

There are several styles of documentation, and depending on your discipline and your instructors’ preferences, you may be required to use more than one of these during your time as a student. Before you begin your research project, find out what’s expected of you by asking your instructor or consulting your assignment or course syllabus. Test Your Understanding


Guiding Your Research
What style of documentation are you required to use for the research project you’re working on now? Which reference guide will you be using to help you follow the guidelines of this style? (Example: Diana Hacker’s A Pocket Style Manual)

For helpful hints about note-taking, visit Module VI “Preparing to Use Information Effectively.”

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