Thenew MLA rules (MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 4th ed.) generally treat electronic materials as if they were printed texts that require additional information to be fully described. Thus when a printed source or analogue has served as the basis of an electronic text, the works-cited listing (1) begins with traditional bibliographic data (author, title, etc.) about the printed text and (2) concludes with data about the electronic version's title, format, availability, and so on. Yet even when no printed source or analogue exists, MLA rules still treat the electronic material much as if it were printed, modifying guidelines developed for printed texts to the new digital environment in which the material is found.
Implicit in the new rules is a basic template for most electronic citations. The fullest possible bibliographic entry contains the following items:
Few bibliographic entries in a works-cited list will actually contain all of these items. Citations for electronic materials based on printed sources or analogues will have more; those for electronic materials that exist only online will have fewer. Further, some items may simply not be readily available to a researcher. At colleges where electronic data are distributed through a campus network, users may well be "protected" from dealing directly with the data source by the network interface, and thus they will not know whether the information on the screen comes from a CD-ROM, magnetic tape, or an online service. Likewise the seamless interconnection of networks and the mirroring of data (making copies of the same files on several computers around the world) often make it difficult to determine where the "original document" is. In these cases, researchers should include as much electronic bibliographic data as can be gathered from the screen, a manual, or a helpful librarian.
Examples for different types of electronic material suggest how this template works in practice.
Hardy, Thomas. Far from the Madding Crowd. Ed. Ronald Blythe. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978. Online. Oxford Text Archive. Internet. 10 May 1995. Available FTP: ota.ox.ac.uk/pub/ota/public/english/Hardy/madcrowd.1802
Linton, W. J. "King Alfred." Claribel and Other Poems. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co., 1865. 53-60. English Poetry Full-Text Database. Rel. 1. CD-ROM. Cambridge, Eng.: Chadwyck-Healey, 1992.
Cinderella, or The Little Glass Slipper. New York: W. M. Mather, 1830s. The Cinderella Project [de Grummond Children's Literature Research Collection, U of Southern Mississippi]. Ed. Michael N. Salda. Ver. 1.0. Feb. 1995. Online. Internet. 4 May 1995. Available HTTP: www.usm.edu/usmhburg/lib_arts/english/cinderella/cind6.html
William Faulkner in 1914, at age 17. William Faulkner, 1897-1962. Online. Internet. 17 May 1995. Available HTTP: www4.ncsu.edu/unity/users/s/sbcain/wfyoungpic.html
Zakour, John M. The Doomsday Brunette. 1994. Online. Internet. 15 May 1995. Available HTTP: zeb.nysaes.cornell.edu/ddb.cgi/go/c1
Churchyard, H. "Pride and Prejudice--Notes on Education, Marriage, Status of Women, etc." Jane Austen Information Page. 1994-95. Online. Internet. 28 May 1995. Available HTTP: uts.cc.utexas.edu/~churchh/pptopic2.html
The Hunt. Microsoft Dinosaurs. CD-ROM. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft, 1993.
Nichols, Stephen G. "Picture, Image, and Subjectivity in Medieval Culture." MLN: Modern Language Notes 108:4 (1993): 617-37. Online. Internet. 11 Oct. 1994. Available HTTP: muse.mse.jhu.edu/tocs.journals/mln/108.4nichols.html
"How Green Are You?" Consumer Reports Nov. 1994: 2 pars. Online. Prodigy. 10 Mar. 1995.
"Training Opportunities Increase." Academic Computing Newsletter June 1993. Acad Comp Newsletter 9306 (June 1993): 2 pars. Online. Internet. 26 Nov. 1994. Available GOPHER: darban.cc.usm.edu
Vranizan, Michelle. "World Library Turns Page." Sun-Sentinel 16 Feb. 1995: 3D. Business Newsbank. CD-ROM. 10 April 1995.
Porteous, Sandra. "Why Bedford Just Doesn't Want to Go." The Daily News [Halifax, Nova Scotia] 30 May 1995: 11 pars. The Daily News On-line. Online. Internet. 30 May 1995. Available HTTP: www.cfn.cs.dal.ca/GreenPages/DailyNews.html
Fox, David L. "The Fiction of Reason." Architronic: The Electronic Journal of Architecture 2:3 (1993): 24 pars. Online. Internet. 4 Apr. 1995. Available GOPHER: arcrs4.saed.kent.edu
"Let's Go to the Movies." American Heritage n. d.: n. pag. Online. Prodigy. 18 May 1995.
Shemeliuk, Rachael. "The 'Hela-Capsol.'" Club KidSoft: Club Stories 3:1 (1995): 4 pp. CD-ROM. Los Gatos, Calif.: KidSoft, 1995.
"Fall 1995 Course Descriptions: English and Comparative Literature." Humanities Newsletter [U of Calif., Irvine] 1995: n. pag. Online. Internet. 20 May 1995. Available HTTP: www.reg.uci.edu/HUMANITIES/ecl_f95.html
Wilkison, Brian. "Argentina Election." Voice of America's News and English Broadcasts no. 2-178417 (14 May 1995): 8 pars. Online. Internet. 15 May 1995. Available GOPHER: gopher.voa.gov
"Prez.: Shut Pa. Ave by White House." Headline News 20 May 1995: 7 pp. Online. Prodigy. 20 May 1995.
Pinti, Daniel. "Re: Arthur in America." Arthurnet 21 Jan. 1994: n. pag. Online. Internet. 30 Oct. 1995. Available HTTP (listserv archive): www.mun.ca/lists/arthurnet/
"Mountain." Random House Webster's College Dictionary. N. d. Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus. Ver. 1.0. Diskette. Reference Software International, 1992.
"Absurdity." Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. 1911. Roget's Thesaurus. Online. Internet. 26 Apr. 1995. Available HTTP: www.notredame.ac.jp/Roget/data/497.html
"Whitman, Walt." Academic American Encyclopedia. N. d. Online. CompuServe. 14 June 1994.
Hill, John M. Chaucerian Belief: The Poetics of Reverence and Delight. New Haven: Yale UP, 1991. Abstract. Online Chaucer Bibliography. Online. Univ. of Texas, San Antonio Library. Internet. 3 March 1995. Available TELNET: utsaibm.utsa.edu [type "library", "local", "chau"]
Psaki, Francies Regina. "The Medieval Lyric-Narrative Hybrid: Formal Play and Narratorial Subjectivity." DAI 50 (1989): 682. Cornell U, 1989. Dissertation Abstracts Ondisc. CD-ROM. ProQuest. Mar. 1995.
"Skillet." The Language Master Dictionary and Thesaurus. N. p.: Merriam-Webster, 1989. Microsoft Encarta. 1993 ed. CD-ROM. Redmond, Wash.: Microsoft, 1993.
"Phonetics." Global Encyclopedia. Online. Internet. 1 June 1995. Available HTTP: www.halcyon.com/jensen/encyclopedia/
"Hattiesburg." United States Geographic Name Server. Online. Internet. 2 Feb. 1995. Available GOPHER: gopher.stanford.edu
Mihos, J. Christopher. "Morphology of Galaxy Mergers at Intermediate Redshift." Astrophysical Journal 438 (1995): L75-78. NASA Astrophysics Data System: ADS Abstract Service bibl. code 1995ApJ...438L...75M. Online. Internet. 18 May 1995. Available HTTP: adswww.harvard.edu/
"Delphi, Treasury of the Athenians." Perseus 1.0: Interactive Sources and Studies on Ancient Greece. Ed. Gregory Crane. CD-ROM, videodisc. New Haven: Yale UP, 1992.
Note: Online resources may draw text, pictures, and sound from a variety of media. Because the user will usually not be able to determine the media formats of online resources, online multimedia applications should be cited following the pattern for one of the items A-F above.
Two kinds of electronic material have different citation rules: newsgroups and e-mail.
Newsgroups (e.g., Usenet and similar network newsfeeds), apparently because of their often nonacademic and ephemeral nature, hold a lower bibliographic status than their listserv conference counterparts. Consequently, a newsgroup citation has no underlining within it and is designated by the medium code "Online posting." In these examples, the first date is that of the posting and the second is that on which the researcher accessed the material.
Smith, David. "Aliens took my kidneys." 5 Jan. 1995. Online posting. Newsgroup alt.alien.visitors. Usenet. 14 Feb. 1995.
An equivalent citation for an online service such as CompuServe takes the following form:
Jones, Tonya. "Any good French software?" 7 Feb. 1995. Online posting. Foreign Language Education Forum. CompuServe. 20 Feb. 1995.
The MLA treats personal e-mail as a special form of unpublished correspondence. Two examples:
Sweet, Joelle. "Nabokov's Poetry." E-mail to Ralph Williams. 30 Nov. 1994.
Kreutzman, Mark. "Re: Death of King Arthur." E-mail to author. 1 Dec. 1994.
Note, however, that e-mail received through a listserv-type conference should be treated as shown in item D above.
If you encounter materials that do not correspond to these examples, return to the template. With it you should be able to construct a reasonably correct citation. It is difficult to make hard and fast rules to account for all the developments in today's rapidly changing electronic environment. When the rules do not seem to cover the situation at hand, it is wise to keep in mind the reason for a consistent list of works cited: to allow a reader to find the materials you used in your research. If you can do this, you have succeeded.