Adding Friction. A Student Asks, "How Do I Cite Sources I've Created Myself in MLA9?"

How Do I Cite Sources I've Created Myself in MLA9?

Citing Student-Authored Writing

A student's essay has been selected for a collection edited by her English teacher and self-published on Amazon (Brody). Now she wants to reference it in her college application. MLA's general rule for citing one's own writing is to format the reference just as if it had been authored by someone else. Therefore, the student should create an entry for the essay as a short work in an anthology. In citing the unpublished essay, the name of the class, the school for which the paper was prepared, and the type of work can be appended to the end of the entry ("How Do I Cite an Unpublished"). If the student wanted to quote a reflection from her online journal, "Typescript" could be added to clarify the format at the end of the entry ("How Should Authors").

Published Personal Essay or Unpublished Student Paper, Journal Entry (MLA9)

Martinez, Sofia. "One." The Class of Covid-19: Second Wave, edited by Shawn Adler, vol. 2, Cliffside Park High School, 2020, pp. 1-4.

Martinez, Sofia. "But Then Again, the Anger Wouldn't Fix Things." 29 Jan. 2020. English 101, Cliffside Park High School. student paper.

Martinez, Sofia. Journal entry. 28 October 2020. Typescript.

Student-Authored Interviews

Oral histories, focus groups, surveys, telephone, and even chat exchanges can be roughly grouped as forms of interviewing. Whenever possible, student researchers should offer stable public access to both the raw data and the published or unpublished source either on a website or in an appendix. When untitled, student authors should add a generic description without quotes or italics. If students are citing a Web page that also includes a transcript of an audio or video recording, they should include "Transcript" as a supplemental element (MLA Handbook 213).

Interviews (MLA9)

A podcast recording of an interview the student conducted or participated in. Ta, Thanh, and Nu Ta. "The Secret Diaries My Grandma Snuck out of a Communist Prison in Vietnam." Interview by Hong Ta. RadioActive, produced by Sonja Harris, KUOW / NPR, 12 Nov. 2019. KUOW, Transcript.
Unpublished personal interview the student conducted in person, on the phone, in an attachment to an e-mail, e-mail, text message or chat. Interviewee. Oral interview. By Interviewer. Date conducted.

Interviewee. Telephone interview with the author. Date conducted.

Interviewee: E-mail with attached interview responses to Your Name. Date authored.

Interviewee. E-mail interview with the author. Date Conducted.

Interviewee: Text message to the author. Date authored.

Note: Students may refer to themselves either as "author" or by their names in the title of the source.

A survey or questionnaire the student created and the results. Instead of a works cited entry, students should explain how the survey was distributed and how results were collected and sorted. The survey instrument (in simplified format) and the data set can be appended to the paper or project linked to in an endnote ("How Do I Format?" "How Do I Cite Raw").

[1] "Rye Town, High School Employment Survey."

[1] Rye Town, High School Employment Responses." Google spreadsheet.

Focus group notes Author. Facilitator's notes from fourth grade focus group. Daniel Warren Elementary School, 2 Apr. 2020. Unpublished typescript.

Understanding Researchers' Perspectives

When students do primary research, they will have to make choices about who to ask, what to ask, how to collect information, and how to interpret it. Archives are filled with examples of the potential and pitfalls. For example, due to the limited availability of recording devices during the Great Depression, over 10,000 Federal Writers Project (FWP) interviews now archived at the Library of Congress were transcribed manually and then edited. That process introduced biases that went unrecognized at the time. Students can recognize that vocabulary choices and narratives can reflect their viewpoints in the final research product, just as the "the memories and biases of the largely white FWP staff" color this collection (Levine).

An action research framework called "Tools for Change" finds merit in examining the circumstances and context that color a researcher's perspective (Tobin and Feit). Students are asked to inventory their own experiences, values, and beliefs, so they can both embrace and account for their personal motivations. Through introspection and investigation, they design an original social science research inquiry based on a community-identified issue. They look at puzzling aspects of the problem with fresh eyes and develop a plan to gather empirical evidence, which is then analyzed and shaped to shed new light on the options. The results may shift the community's thinking, prompt changes in a policy—or even shape legislation.

Consulting Experts

Students consult various kinds of experts throughout a primary research process (Tobin and Feit 54-55). In the early stages they may seek advice about methods. For example,

  • Prior to researching police accountability, a student might interview a librarian or a journalist about how to gain access to local government documents concerning the role of a new police auditor.
  • After writing the experimental procedures section of her science project, a student interviews an entomologist on how to design the control group for an experiment.

Once students have a current understanding of an issue, their needs shift toward identifying the type of evidence they want to gather and from whom.

  • After doing research on affordable housing options, students brainstorm how they could learn about their community's priorities.
  • After a literature review of research on microaggressions, a student asks the self-science teacher for feedback on her questions for a 4th grade focus group about playground put-downs.

When reporting their findings, students may gravitate toward experts who can help them with technology, graphic design, press releases, or public speaking. Expert advice can be credited in a variety of appropriate ways: a works cited list, a figure caption, an acknowledgments page, and endnotes.

Friction for the Future

You can show examples to inform students' work as social scientists and help them understand how their choices affect the value of their final research product. The recorded interviews archived in the Library of Congress's "Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories" provide powerful documentation of the perspectives of formerly enslaved people. Yet, the interviewers often failed to include supplemental biographical information that would have extended the value of the narratives.

Similarly, when educators look for guidance about implementing action research, we are presented with polished products when what would be most useful are interim insights. How did you begin building long-term relationships with the community? How much information about the research topic did students share with their survey participants? What does it look like to see a student's conversation with their sources? While it can be helpful to see annotated bibliographies with accurate citations of primary sources, one might benefit more from viewing survey questions, the raw data collected, and the ways in which evidence was interrogated, shaped, and presented.

The book Student Research for Community Change, its companion website, and video podcast series have excellent teaching advice in this area. Bill Tobin and Valerie Feit discuss how to help students make wise choices based on their goal and the limitations and challenges of data collection methods (59-61). Focus groups are a good way to generate spontaneous collective intelligence, but they don't compare with an in-depth interview to capture the richness of an individual's knowledge and beliefs. Surveys capture large samples and are executed quickly, but there's no way to ask a follow-up question to clarify an ambiguous answer. Their guidance can be supplemented with the Oral History Association's "Remote Interviewing Resources."

The creators of Tools for Change (TfC) have a longstanding interest in engaged civic action. Tobin has been an attorney and elementary school teacher and is now a research fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. Feit is Co-Director of School Counseling and K-12 Enrichment Coordinator at the Rye Neck New York School District where she works with the school librarian, Linda Costelloe, to coach project-based learning. She leads the "Independent Learner Program," a multiyear, multifaceted research and civic action initiative based on the TfC framework ("Implementing Tools").

Tobin and Feit have created a blueprint for primary research that is both extraordinary and feasible. Whether you start with short, experimental lessons or a multiyear initiative, you'll have the tools to orchestrate participatory civic inquiry in support of community change.

Works Cited

Brody, Leslie. "High School Students' Personal Essays Turn into a Memoir: 'The Class of Covid-19.'" The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, 7 Jan. 2021,

"How Do I Cite an Unpublished Student Paper?" MLA Style Center, Modern Language Association of America, 8 Feb. 2019,

"How Do I Cite Raw Date from a Survey or Poll I Created? How Do I Cite Published Data?" MLA Style Center, Modern Language Association of America, 27 Nov. 2018,

"How Should Authors Cite Their Own Work?" MLA Style Center, Modern Language Association of America, 10 Feb. 2021,

"Implementing Tools for Change." Tools for Change Research, Accessed 12 June 2021.

Levine, Lucie. "How to Gather the Oral Histories of COVID-19." JStor Daily, ITHAKA, 2 Dec. 2020,

MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

"Remote Interviewing Resources." OHA, Oral History Association, 26 Aug. 2020,

Tobin, William, and Valerie Feit. Student Research for Community Change: Tools to Develop Ethical Thinking and Analytic Problem Solving. Teachers College Press, 2020.

"Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories: About This Collection." Library of Congress,

About the Author

Debbie Abilock, MLS, cofounded and directs the educational vision of NoodleTools, Inc., a full-service teaching platform for academic research. Her column is based on over 60,000 research questions from educators and students that have been answered by NoodleTools' experts. As a former school administrator, curriculum coordinator, and school librarian, Debbie works with district leadership teams and professional organizations on curriculum and instruction. She was founding editor-in-chief of Knowledge Quest (1997-2010), writes for education publications, and has co-authored Growing Schools (Libraries Unlimited) about innovative site-based leadership and professional development led by school librarians.

MLA Citation

Abilock, Debbie. "Adding Friction. a Student Asks, 'How Do I Cite Sources I've Created Myself in MLA9?'." ABC-CLIO Solutions, ABC-CLIO, 2023, Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

View all citation styles.

Back to Top