MLA Handbook 8th Edition: A Change in Focus of Teaching Citation

The 8th edition of the MLA handbook came out recently, and the edition is very different from the 7th edition that we know so well.  Although it appears that there is not a free online guide to the 8th edition just yet, you can order the new version and/or you can check out the Purdue OWL’s list of the major changes between the 7th edition and the 8th edition.  The Purdue OWL will be updating all of its resources by June 2016.

From looking at the Purdue OWL, along with this Pearson blog post, it seems like the biggest change between the 7th and 8th edition is the shift from a prescriptive approach for specific types of sources to providing a heuristic to use for any type of source.  According to MLA, the shift occurred because “Works are published today in a dizzying range of formats.”  The authors of MLA have stepped away from trying to name each type of source and providing a citation formula, and instead have suggested that authors use the information that they know about the source (author(s), title, version, publisher, publication date, location, etc.).  Upon gathering the necessary information, the 8th edition suggests that writers order source information consistently throughout the works cited/referenced page.

In fact, this shift away from prescriptive guidelines has been adopted by various text books before the 8th edition was released.  Writer/Designer: A Guide to Multimodal Projects (Arola et al, 2014), for instance, provides a comprehensive heuristic for students to make their citations rather than attempting to create a format for specific types of sources.

The Purdue OWL gives the following as an example of the difference between the 7th and 8th edition style guides:

Difference between 7th and 8th editions

In terms of pedagogy, (I think) it is supremely helpful that MLA has adopted this heuristic approach in its latest style guide. Many students see citation, particularly in the rigid forms we have traditionally mandated, as an arbitrary convention that must be done.  Given the nature of the 8th edition, and just to unpack this genre convention of citation, we can use this opportunity to ask students: Why do we cite our work?  For what purpose?  This can lead to a discussion about intellectual property, credibility of sources, and the audience of a text having access to its references.  Students can begin to consider: Who is my audience?  What does my audience need to know in this citation?  What genre am I writing in?  What are the affordances and expectations of that genre for citation representation? These types of questions could lead students to consider their citation practices with an attention to audience and genre considerations.  For example, a student might intend to write an academic blog and decide upon using hyperlinks within the text (just like I did here) rather than parenthetical citations. She might still put a works referenced note at the end of the blog entry if it was for an academic audience (just like Ann Shiver-McNair’s recent post for the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative).   This kind of attention to audience, genre, and the ideologies embedded within our citation systems will (I hope) be helpful for student learning.

If you have more information or would like to give your opinions about MLA’s most recent style guide, post to the comments.

By Jacki Fiscus

CoMotion Makerspace: How to Utilize UW’s Makerspace in Your Own Classes

On Monday, Kimberlee and I went to check out UW’s very own makerspace, which is called CoMotion Makerspace.  For those of you who are not aware, a makerspace is a collaborative space with a variety of creation tools that can be used for DIY projects.  Spaces like these have proliferated around the country, particularly in urban areas.  There are other makerspaces in Seattle like SODO Makerspace, Seattle ReCreative, or Metrix: CreateSpace.  And of course there are many shops on UW’s campus.  CoMotion Makerspace is different than the shops on campus because the goal of the space is to host as many fabrication tools as possible and to welcome users of all skill-level.  What I feel like makes CoMotion Makerspace such an intriguing space and pedagogical tool is its ability to foster cross-disciplinary project based learning here on campus.

CoMotion Makerspace opened its doors just last year, and it is located at Fluke Hall in Suite 215.  For those of in Padelford, that’s a 5 minute quick walk.  We encourage you to check out the space when you have time!  In case you decide to visit the space on your own, want to use the space for a project you’re working on, or you’d like your students to use the space on their own time this quarter, here are their Spring Quarter Drop-In Hours: Monday-Friday 12:30pm-8:30pm // Saturday 9-6pm // Sunday 12-6pm.  Closed for University Holidays (Memorial Day, May 30th).

Registered matriculated UW Seattle students, full-time UW faculty and staff (all campuses), part-time UW faculty and staff (all campuses) who work an average of at least 16h/week, and visiting scholars all have access to the space free of change (see their FAQ for more information on eligibility for other users).

To use the space, you must do a safety training, which almost ~1,100 people have done in the past year. The event calendar hosts information about the safety training.  Once you’re done with the training, you can then use the space during drop-in hours.  There will be someone on-hand to ask for help on various machines.

CoMotion Makerspace also has the potential of hosting events, like the think-a-thon that you see the aftermath of below:

But perhaps most exciting for us, CoMotion Makerspace can host your classes in future quarters, either weekly, bi-weekly, or for one/multi-time use.  Their availability is in the mornings (typically before 12.30), and there is a Catalyst request form for you to fill out.  There is a fee for classroom use, and if you plan to use fabrication equipment, CoMotion Makerspace staff must be present ($30/hr).  Email CoMotion Makerspace staff at if you would like more information.

If you do decide to reserve this space as a classroom, you will have a teaching station with a computer, projector, and document camera.  Almost everything in the space is on wheels so you can configure and re-configure as appropriate for your classroom needs.  And of course, you will have access to all the equipment in the space. To list just a few things that might be of interest to you, they have laser cutters, industrial sewing machines, 3D printers, a circuit board mill.  It’s an adult playground.

Regardless of your experience or comfort level — or your students’ experience or comfort level — all are welcome to make and play in the space.  Perhaps what struck me most when we were touring the space is how much it inspired creativity and collaboration.  Some of us reading this blog (including me) sometimes struggle with stepping outside are comfort zone.  We’re experts in alphabetic writing projects, and it might be foreign to spend time in a space that incorporates so many other ways of meaning making.  I think this space welcomes us to interact with composing tools that we may or may not be familiar with, and (I hope) our experience in the space will broaden our understanding of what counts as composition, both in our classes and in our own work.

The equipment that CoMotion Makerspace has at its disposal is extensive, making the space valuable to various audiences: UW groups, classes, and individuals.

And to use the making equipment, you can bring your own materials or purchase from CoMotion Makerspace.

If you have any questions about the space, please feel free to leave them in the comments or contact me.  I have a lot of ideas for how EWP/IWP instructors might use the space for one-time use, sequence, or an entire class, so contact me if you’d like to talk more about that.  Feel free to leave your own comment with ideas of how you might use the space.  

By Jacki Fiscus