English Department Social Media Intern
March 12, 2020
In Defense of MLA Format
As I approach the end of my undergraduate senior year, I find myself reflecting on my academic career as a whole. Now that I think about it, student teaching 11th and 12th grade English may be the cause of my introspection. When teaching high school, especially upperclassmen, they are no longer asking “Why”, but rather asking “How will this help me in my future?”. My classes are currently working on MLA Research Essays; they are only required to complete 3-5 pages, but no matter the number of pages I would have assigned, I would have gotten a response of moans and groans from the classroom. When I first started student teaching, I found myself telling the students “When you are in college, you will want to make sure you know these things because your general education or UCOR teachers may not walk you through this”. However, this statement would only be valid for the students in the classroom that choose to further their education past high school. In addition to this, what can MLA formatted Research Essays teach me past college? I promised my students I would do a little research on my own on the purpose of MLA Format and why it should be important to my students and me.
In exploring the purpose of MLA Format, I first have to start with what I already know: MLA Format is an acronym for the Modern Language Association which was founded in 1883. Although, the first MLA Guide was published in 1951. The most obvious purpose for MLA Format would be to provide the general public with a consistent essay form: High School writing argumentative essays in Washington would follow the same form as Graduate Students writing research essays in Florida. In John Alvis’ essay “In Recognition of Superior Sophistry: A Guide to MLA Documentation”, he states, “The MLA has developed a reliable standard, and A Guide retains most of what one expects of a standard: comprehensiveness (subject to the qualification hereinafter detailed), clarity, consistency, and simplicity” (Alvis 48). Additionally, MLA Format is supported by effective note-taking strategies and organization skills. In a high school setting, students are still developing these skills. Being able to have a form attached to them helps these developments progress. Furthermore, at the very center of MLA Format is the citations. When using MLA Format, you are training yourself to be able to back up your claim with credible evidence: “Once they have identified their purpose and their audience, some writers don’t know what to do next and stare at a blank page or computer screen waiting for inspiration” (Campbell 4). Even adults have trouble sticking with a claim and finding evidence. Think about job interviews: Employers ask you questions in which you have to have a claim and evidence from your personal experience and/or research to back it up. Unbeknownst to me, my High School English teachers prepared me for my future job interviews.
From this, MLA format has taught me to be consistent, develop note-taking & organization skills, and backup a claim. Does this mean all my text and social media posts are going to be in MLA Format? Not a chance. However, next time my students ask me what MLA can do for them, I will have a semi-MLA formatted blog with credible evidence to support my claim.
Alvis, John. “In Recognition of Superior Sophistry: A Guide to MLA Documentation.”Academic Questions, vol. 3, no. 2, 1990, p. 48. EBSCOhost. Doi:10.1007/BF02682731.
Campbell, William Giles. Form and Style: Theses, Reports, Term Papers. Up-to-Date Information on Chicago, MLA, and APA Documentation. Houghton Mifflin Company, College Division, Wayside Rd., Burlington, MA 01803, 1990.