History: MLA and Research Guidelines

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Research and MLA Overview

In this module you will become familiar with the expectations for research and Modern Language Association (MLA) formatting, which will be used for all discussions and projects in this course. It is essential that you follow these guidelines as they will keep you away from plagiarist activity and strengthen the structure of your argumentative writing.


Following completion of this module, you will be expected to learn the following:

  • How to structure an argumentative dialogue using a thesis and research to support your points.
  • How to format your document in Modern Language Association (MLA) format
  • How to format citations both in-text and in a works cited area so as to give credit to sources of information that you utilize to support your arguments
  • How to cite and provide images within a paper or post to provide proper credit to the artist


Research requires that you form arguments and support those arguments with academic sources. Academic sources are sources that have undergone some sort of peer-review process creating a checks-and-balance system for forming reliable information. In the arts academic sources often come in the form of art survey textbooks, museum exhibition catalogs, journals, and, in the case of contemporary art, formal critic reviews and news paper articles. Other sources may include textbooks on visual culture and theory, psychology, and other more scientifically or historically based research.

As this course focuses on visual culture, images play a large part in our arguments. Images, however, are not simply free for the taking as Google may make it seem. Images often have very strict copyrights attached to them that require that you also properly identify the image and its source. We will discuss this more in the Modern Language Association (MLA) portion of this module, but note that finding credible image sources is much like researching through textbooks, and there are good and bad practices for doing so.

Finding sources is often a challenge in a virtual environment. I always recommend actually going to a physical library and looking through physical copies of texts as not all texts are digitized. However, as this is often a geographical challenge for many, the University Library has a lot of good source material and knowledgeable librarians who will help you with your research needs. The University Library should be the first place that you look for any research as they pay to access many research journals and documents that are not publicly shared across the Internet. They also have staff who are willing to work with you to find sources for any topic that you may be working on. 

If you have little luck using the University Library, the Internet does have some good source material as well, though you will have to learn to become critical of the source, their biases, and the level of review conducted on the validity of any arguments. Here is a video from a source on YouTube (rmillroy28) that is helpful: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSK9dtE_tiU#t=2>

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Although you may have used another citation format in other courses (APA, Chicago, etc.) humanities often cite using the Modern Language Association (MLA) format as it is designed for research in these fields and contains a writing style that is much different from the others. The quick-reference guide to MLA is housed at the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). This format requires that you cite your sources both within the text of your writing and connect these citations to a works cited area following any paper. Conference posts are considered mini-essays and should be treated in the same manner as any formal academic writing.

Firstly, here are two helpful guides shared with me by an English professor:Tips for Citations and Quotes (Babcock) and Sample Works Cited (Babcock). Below are a few videos to help form your understanding on the subject:

MLA in 3 Minutes (Eastern Tennessee State University)

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Basics of MLA Citing by Jason Dockter

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In Text Citations by Research Tutorials

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Purdue OWL Guide to a Works Cited Page


Works Cited

Babcock, A. Sample Works Cited. Unpublished, 2013. 

Babcock, A. Tips for Citations and Quotes. Unpublished, 2013. 

Docter, J. Basics of MLA Citing. Youtube, 2 Jan. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2013

East Tennessee State University. MLA in Three Minutes. Youtube and East Tennessee State University, 15 July 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.

researchtutorials. In-Text Citations. Youtube, 21 Aug. 2008. Web. 28 Nov. 2013.

rmilloy28. Finding Credible Sources on the Web, Some Tips and Advise. Youtube, 17 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 Nov 2013.


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