Advanced Composition 13.1: MLA / APA Formatting

Today’s Plan:

  • Review Timeline
  • Guts of an Introduction
  • MLA and APA Workshop

Review Timeline

Here’s the rest of the semester:

  • Thursday, April 7th: No class
  • Tuesday, April 12th: Office hours [I’ll be here to read parts of your paper or help you find sources]
  • Thursday, April 14th: We will discuss Thomas Rickert’s conclusion to Acts of Enjoyment and Jenny Rice’s conclusion to Distant Publics. I will distribute these readings as .pdfs.
  • Tuesday, April 19th: A working draft of the paper (minimum 8 pages, including an introduction and thesis, in MLA or APA format)
  • Thursday, April 21st: Office hours [I’ll be here to read parts of your paper or help you find sources]
  • Tuesday, April 26th: A complete draft of the paper (I will comment on these over the weekend; note that if you have this prepared before the 26th, then you are free to send it to me. Given the time investment, I will comment on a complete draft only once, however).
  • Thursday, May 5th: Final due date

The Thesis “Statement”

The reason I highlight statement here is because I want to emphasize that the thesis isn’t always a stand alone sentence. Rather, it is the section of the introduction that makes clear the claim that the paper will argue. What are you trying to prove?

What specifically are you trying to prove? This is the point of the Booth et al reading–the best papers are able to narrow their focus as much as possible.

Road Mapping

Booth et al comment that you should be prepared to do a lot of writing as you figure out what you are trying to say. Essentially, everything you have written thus far this semester is this kind of inventive writing, “writing to understand” (38). Not all of this writing should be in the final draft, because much of it is there to help you discover your thoughts. 

As you move into the final drafts of a paper, then you are ready to organize or arrange it in a way that makes sense. Only after you have done all that work are you ready to craft a road map for your introduction. To get a sense of what I mean by road mapping, look at the introduction to this article I wrote with my grad students. Or the final paragraph of the introduction to the “Postpedagogy and Web Writing” article you read early in the semester. Or, for a “softer” version, look at the very short introduction to my essay on ethics, social media, and my experiences with my daughter’s cancer. I end the introduction to these works by laying out the major sections of the essay, letting the reader know where we will go, and often giving a sense of why I am going in that order. This provides a reader with a sense of direction and purpose–two things that help them digest and engage your writing. (Nigel did a great job of this in his third medium essay). 

Of course, you can’t road map a paper like this unless you have written it in a way that makes purposeful, rhetorical sense (first I need to x, then I can argue y, finally I suggest z). As you synthesize the material you have already read this semester, and add more (I hope) into the mix, you will need to think about how those things fit–what is the narrative trail you want, or need, your readers to follow?

MLA or APA Workshop

Today I want you to get some practice working with either MLA or APA citation. The choice of format is up to you. Purdue University’s OWL website provides usable versions of both formats, and we will use that as a resource. I also have a checklist of concerns regardless of which citation style you are using.

Your task today is to fix a broken paper. I have gone out of my way to “break” the paper. Using the checklist and Purdue’s OWL, fix it. You can leave when you are done–but I have to check your formatting first.


To reiterate, there is no class on Thursday. Paper drafts are due in class on Tuesday. I will be on campus for office hours on Friday if you want to talk about your paper (I will be available from 9:00 to 11:00 and from 2:00 to 4:00. Shoot me a dm or an email if you want to come during those times).

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