MLA Handbook: Exploring changes in the 8th edition

Female African American student studying in a library with laptop and many books

During a time of great proliferation of media produced online, you would think it would cause citation and style handbooks to double in size with new rules and formats. But the opposite is the case with the recently published eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. It now has half the pages of its previous edition. How can this be? What changed making the book more streamlined? In the podcast below we answer these and other questions in a conversation with Kathleen Fitzpatrick, who is the associate executive director and director of scholarly communication at Modern Language Association (MLA). Kathleen was integral to the work of completely rethinking and restructuring its trademark publication.

Here are a couple highlights:

“This new edition of the MLA Handbook focuses on critical thinking about sources. It is really attempting to get students to understand how and why they are documenting sources in their writing. The handbook is a really good teaching tool to introduce those concepts.”

“I would really love instructors to know that the new style has a great deal of flexibility to adapt to their preferences with their students. For instance, if you look at the section of the handbook in which we discuss the inclusion of urls in citations for work that is delivered online. We note that there are instructors who don’t want the urls cluttering up their papers, they find them to interfere with being ability to see the crucial information in the citation, and if that’s the case students should leave out the urls. We want the citations produced to have the maximum utility rather than to be focused on a set of rules that seem arbitrary.”

“This edition of the MLA handbook presents a more natural way of introducing students to the ways of understanding what scholarly writing is, what they are being asked to do in a research paper, and the role of citation.”

Listen to the full 10-minute interview as we explore the handbook changes further.

  1. Let’s start with Why. Why did MLA decide to make the changes? [0:40]
  2. What are the major changes in this edition? [1:42]
  3. Is there anything else new with this edition that was not part of previous editions? [2:50]
  4. What are the top three things professors need to know? [4:18]
  5. What are the implications for professors? [6:07]
  6. How will this affect higher education students in composition programs? [7:20]
  7. Do you think this might affect high school students as well? [7:58]
  8. Is there anything else you would like to add? [9:10]