Academic Writing, Citations, and MLA Style

(updated September 2018)

An academic essay has particular standards for arguments and presentation or formatting. The School follows MLA format. The UCD library has a great, constantly updated guide to MLA.

Another great resource for citations, essay formatting, grammar, and other mechanics of university essays is the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University.

UCD’s Writing Centre is also a terrific resource for one on one help with essay writing (but they’re not your proofreaders!). They have drop in hours at busy times of the semester, or you can book an appointment online.

Finally, every English, Drama, Film, or Creative Writing student should own a copy of the MLA Handbook, currently in its 8th edition.

Why We Care About Citations and Formatting

Academic writing (yes, including your essays!) is a conversation. We’re not just reporting facts; we’re interpreting, updating, discussing and asking questions. We cite our sources for two reasons:

  • To make sure everyone gets credit for their contribution
  • So that our readers can find our sources, read more about our topic, and join the conversation themselves.

We care about formatting because part of communication is making your work easy for others to read. We make rules about what font to use, how to space your work, and what size margins to have so that we can more easily read your work and give you constructive feedback.

Why You Care about Citations and Formatting

Not citing your sources is cheating. It means you’ve claimed words or ideas are your own, when in fact you borrowed them from someone else. It’s just the same as looking at someone’s exam paper and copying their answer. And you should care about that because getting caught comes with penalties. Every year people  lose their real world jobs over plagiarism (those links are just a few recent examples). And at UCD, your grades suffer and worse. For details, see the School’s Policy on Academic Integrity.