Lesson 1

 The Goal:

This lesson will familiarize you with the concept of MLA formatting.

MLA  stands for Modern Language Association. Though not super sexy or exciting, MLA formatting is important–it is a way of standardizing papers, so that academics can talk to each other and easily find and reference each others’ sources. As a comparison, most of you are familiar with the formatting languages of social media. For example, twitter can only be 140 characters. MLA functions similarly: no matter the content, the formatting is standardized.

MLA will be required in most humanities courses, including this one*. Other courses may require citation styles such as APA or the Council of Science Editors style; however, the basic concept remains the same… follow the handbook! Good citation style allows your professors to check your sources.

This course does not provide you with tutorials or examples of every possible type of source and its corresponding citation. You are expected to be able to use the tools you have to find out how to cite these things yourself. For instance, if you interview your grandfather for a research paper on the Vietnam War, YOU must determine how to cite such a source. You will be held accountable for citing any and all of your sources, regardless of whether your instructor has covered the details of a particular kind of source.

See the page entitled “MLA‘ for additional resources.

*In your second paper, which is a paper in your field, you may choose to use a different language association for practice.


What to Read

Everything Changes, or Why MLA Isn’t (Always) Right,” by Janice Walker in  Writing Spaces, Vol 2.

Read MLA1, 2 &3 in  A Writer’s Reference  (pp.395-412)

*”Consider the Lobster” by David Foster Wallace in  Gourmet Magazine

Watch the following video for a tutorial on formatting MLA papers in Google Docs:



Watch the following video for a tutorial on formatting MLA papers in Microsoft Word:


Download these documents for further understanding:

Pre-formatted MLA Template

MLA Basics Page

MLA Basic Formatting for a Works Cited Page

Writing Exercise:

You will have 10 writing exercises (including the MLA quiz) over the course of the semester. These allow you the chance to improve your basic writing skills and formatting concepts. You have quite a few in this first week, but don’t worry, it means you’ll have less to do other weeks.

Week 1 Assignment:

  • Write a one-page response to the following question:  How has your education shaped your view of what it means to be a good writer?  You should format your introduction according to the MLA guidelines you covered in  A Writer’s Reference.
  • Submit this assignment in  Blackboard  under “WA1,’ (Weekly Assignment 1). See the “How to Submit Work‘ page for more information.


First, introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your relationship with food–however you’d like to answer that question. You could tell us about your family’s fishing trips, or your interest in diet as medicine, or that you love fast food and you’re proud of it.

Second, talk a bit about David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster.”  What exactly does Foster Wallace want us to consider? Can you extrapolate what he might be considering beyond the lobster and into the realm of how we think and don’t think? Did he reveal in the essay something that made you think differently? What’s the point of his footnotes being so long? At the center of his argument is this question: “Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?’  What conclusion do you think he ultimately comes to?

We are using slack like you would use an in-person classroom: as a discussion forum. In order to facilitate a discussion, remember that you are  required to submit at least five short entries. You should be responding both to your peers, as well as the readings.

Head over to our slack page to discuss!

 Submission Checklist:

  • 1 page writing exercise “What is Good Writing” (20 points)
  • Contribution to the Discussion (30 points)