To Be Civilized... Research

Ah, to be civilized...

Civilized Academic Writing Style FAQ

Q1: Can you be a good writer without knowing MLA style?

A1: Yes, of course! But, with academic writing, there are "rules" that define what a "civilized" research paper should look like. With this project, you will be practicing "civilized" academic writing.

Q2: What is MLA style?

A2: The MLA documentation style is one set of "rules" for academic and professional writing. There are other styles that you may encounter in your future college and career life, including APA, Chicago, Turabian, and more. At our high school, though, MLA is the most common style that teachers require.

Q3: Why does MLA matter?

A3: MLA and other documentation styles are important, because:

  • Consistent formatting makes your work easy-to-read for others.
  • Giving credit to your sources is an ethical practice and prevents unintentional plagiarism.
  • Mapping quotes to sources allows for others to cross-reference your work and explore further.

Q4: What exactly does MLA stand for?

A4: MLA stands for Modern Language Association, which is the group that defines MLA style "rules." Students today may associate MLA with rigid and stuffy guidelines, but the organization itself was far from traditional when it was founded in 1883:

  • "MLA began as a gathering of professors rebelling against the traditional college curriculum, which centered on the classical languages, Greek and Latin. . . . The goal of the MLA, in the words of an early president, Harvard's James Russell Lowell, was to assert that modern literature and the modern languages 'should have a more important place assigned to them in the course of instruction, assigned to them moreover as equals in dignity' to the ancients. In a sense, he and his colleagues were advocating for what was popular . . ." (Williams).

Q5: So, MLA has been around since 1883?

A5: While the MLA organization was founded in 1883, the current MLA documentation style was released in just 2016 as the 8th edition. Part of the reason why style "rules" continue to change is because information changes over time. For instance, the new guidelines for formatting source citations address different situations raised by the variety of emerging digital information source types.

Q6: Do I need to worry about making my MLA format perfect?

A6: As with everything in life, do the best you can. In terms of MLA perfection, know that expectations will vary throughout your academic career depending on your teacher or professor and the particular assignment or project. If you haven't already heard horror stories about people losing major points for citation errors, know that they really do happen. (Bonus Tweet: Some find it it fun!)

Q7: Do I need to memorize MLA format rules?

A7: No! If you write MLA style papers frequently enough, you will start to learn common rules and use them automatically. But, there are many unique situations that come up that you may not know how to handle, whether it is citing an uncommon information source or quoting content mid-sentence. What is important is that you understand MLA well enough to know how to find the rule you need when you encounter a new situation.

Q8: At what point of my research should I worry about MLA?

A8: From the beginning! If you start off your research understanding what information you need to gather to follow MLA "rules," you will save yourself a lot of trouble later. For help getting started, go to the page: Civilized Style.

Works Cited

  • Bates, Marcia J. "The Design of Browsing and Berrypicking Techniques for the Online Search Interface." Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of California at Los Angeles, 1989,
  • EasyBib. “MLA In-Text Citation Guide: How to Use Parenthetical Citations.” EasyBib, Chegg, 1 Jan. 2018,
  • Imagine Easy Solutions. "What Are In-Text Citations." YouTube, 30 Sep. 2014,
  • meandhinataforever. "The Magic Conch Shell has spoken!!." YouTube, 1 Dec. 2010,
  • Williams, Jeffrey J. "An MLA History, Minus the Nostalgia." Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 60, no. 17, 10 Jan. 2014, pp. B10-B12. EBSCOhost,