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

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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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