Students are often very anxious about citation and find it... even punitive. I feel that there is basically nothing more... Citation Exercise

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Jessie Stickgold-Sarah
Brandeis University
Citation Exercise
Students are often very anxious about citation and find it mysterious and arbitrary, or
even punitive. I feel that there is basically nothing more boring than lecturing on MLA
style, so I like to make them do the work themselves. If you want to talk about more
interesting questions (like what the point is and why they’re formatted the way they are)
you can do that at the end when the stress level is down.
The activity: In pairs, students figure out full citations and write them on the board.
In advance: Ask them to read the MLA citation section from Rules For Writers.
Bring to class: Enough books for each pair of students to have their own, and xeroxed
title pages of the readings they’re using for an upcoming paper. Make sure to write up the
citations for yourself and bring them in too, so you don’t have to figure it out on the fly to
correct it.
Day of: Poetry books are light if you’re bringing in eight, but make sure they’re not the
same author with the same publisher. You may want to divide the students up yourself, or
let them split into groups on their own, depending on the class dynamic. Marking station
numbers on the blackboard helps mitigate the chaos. It’s a good way to wake up a quiet
class, and it gives them the confidence that with a book and the Hacker they can produce
the correct citation. At the end of the exercise, go over the citations and correct them, and
then you can talk about those more interesting questions.
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