MLA Keeps Up with the Times

Last week, I wrote a post about how Wikipedia is being seen more and more often as a legitimate source. Now Twitter is a source that you can cite in your academic papers. Although MLA (Modern Language Association) announced the correct way to cite a tweet back in March, I only just found out about it a few days ago, and it made my inner scholar squeal with delight. So this is the format you’d use:

So does that mean Twitter is becoming a legitimate news source? I suppose it could be, because the major news networks and many authoritative sources do have Twitter accounts, and because Twitter is updated constantly throughout the day, it often has the latest news before any other form of media. But there is the question of permanence. Online content can be changed, moved, and deleted so easily that the tweet cited may no longer be online even a week after it’s cited.

APA (American Psychological Association) also developed a way to cite tweets and Facebook posts back in 2009, so this really isn’t all that new. You can also cite YouTube videos, blog posts, etc.

What does this mean for academic scholarship, though, since Twitter and Facebook aren’t universally seen as legitimate sources? When is it appropriate to cite tweets and Facebook posts? I think that would depend on what kind of a paper you’re writing, and what kind of journal or publication you’d want to submit that paper to. I suppose the more prestigious the publication, the more legitimate sources you’d want to cite. But if you were writing for a college or high school class, those types of sources might be a bit more appropriate. I guess it’s a common sense or judgement kind of thing.

What do you think?

5 thoughts on “MLA Keeps Up with the Times

  1. I think much would depend on the nature of the post or tweet. A reference to a legitimate news source would probably carry more weight than someone’s gossipy comments. If one was writing a paper on topics where social media was a part of the paper, then it would be fair to comment and cite such sources as well. I think, overall, that it is a good change, but that most teachers will probably remain somewhat conservative on the sort of information they accept, being more prone to accept social media that bolsters traditionally accepted information sources.


  2. Me?
    I was thinking of writing a source worthy blog.
    I hated citing things in collage. It’s to linear for my crooked brain. With you, though, I celebrate that we bloggers, can now be cited. : )
    First blog I’d cite, after myself, of course, is ruleofstupid.
    Bet you would like it from what I read here.

    Always enjoy your posts, when I get to read them. : )



  3. I think there are times when Tweets can be a news source (for example, that’s how Bryan Singer announced that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan will be in the next X-men movie).

    Also, Tweets can be news even if they’re not necessarily true (for example, somebody is accused of something and then denies it on Twitter — true or not, it’s still news that they said it).

    So, as you say, definitely a judgment call.


  4. The problem I have with Twitter and social media is that there is a huge amount of ignorant claims, witch hunt guesswork, spiteful gossip, bad research, hidden agendas and general nastiness. It scares me a little that journalists are using it more and more as a source for their news stories. I would argue that social media should never ever be a single cited source of news and definitely not fact.

    Twitter is about what is happening right now and I think news networks can be a little too quick to post to be the first before knowing all the facts. Plus, it’s only 140 characters long and (even more than usual from the press) you never get the full story.

    I suppose it’s down to a basic rule of journalism and good research: ‘check your sources’.

    Nice post – it’s definitely a big question!


    • Exactly, but journalism is very different from the way it used to be in the past. Blogs are legitimate news sources now, and so is social media, when before, it was frowned upon. So many people are talking about the downfall of true journalism… and this may all be a part of that.


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