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Online Writing Lab Provides Style Guidance

by on October 24, 2013

Hoot! Hoot! Hoot! Hoot! Would you ever expect to get great citation information from an OWL? No? Well, Purdue University has created the Online Writing Lab or OWL. It provides students and the general public with writing guides for APA, MLA and Chicago. These online writing guides are easy to use because they are fully keyword searchable (unlike a book!), provide great examples, and use language that writers at all levels can understand.

Everyone from middle school to graduate students will find helpful resources. Writers will find help on formatting documents, writing job applications, conducting research, and help for English as a Second Language students. Of course, the most popular use is for all those pesky citation formats!

Do you know how to write a citation for an online newspaper article in APA format? Me neither! Fortunately, navigating to that section in OWL is pretty straightforward: from the main site, click on APA Formatting and Style Guide; then click on Reference List: Electronic Sources; then scroll down to find the section Newspaper Article.  Not sure about what you are citing? OWL provides great definitions for all types of sources. Generally, two examples are provided for each source type. The first will show how to create the citation. Meaning that for the author, the example shows Author, A. A. and for the date it shows (Year, Month Day). The second example is of an actual source citation.

            If navigating doesn’t work to find the source type you need to cite, the search box is very helpful. Let’s use the example of citing a book with three authors in MLA format. On the main site, type “MLA book three authors” and click search. The results provide a nice preview for each option. The second result is the most helpful: MLA Works Cited Page: Books – Purdue Online Writing Lab. Under the section Books with More Than One Author, there are two examples of how to cite the source.

I sometimes get questions from students who have to write their papers in APA format. It is so specific and can be quite difficult to follow all the rules (I remember getting points off in college for this!). OWL provides great examples of the structure for all aspects of the paper. One example is the title page. The requirements for an APA title page are extensive; being able to see an example helps all writers learn the material.

OWL is a source that has saved me while writing for different projects; I have the rules for APA, MLA and Chicago at my fingertips! For a chapter I co-wrote in Revolutionizing the Development of Library and Information Professionals: Planning for the Future (October 2013) we were required to use APA. In another chapter I co-wrote for Library Youth Outreach (Spring 2014) we had to use Chicago. For a United Way project our library helps with, we use MLA. I also refer to OWL when writing for Public Libraries Online (Chicago)!

So, the next time you have to cite your sources or help someone, remember the OWL! Hoot! Hoot!

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