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Common Core Standards: ELA See All Teacher Resources



Grades 9-10

Language L.9-10.3

Knowledge of Language

L.9-10.3. Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

  • Write and edit work so that it conforms to the guidelines in a style manual (e.g., MLA Handbook, Turabian’s Manual for Writers) appropriate for the discipline and writing type.

In grades 9 and 10, the Common Core Standards for Language expect students to develop their knowledge of the language and formatting used in the most common citation style guides.

To students just learning the ropes, documenting references and resources in a research paper feels like a lot of pointless busywork. It may help to remind students of the benefits of citing their sources:

1. It shows they’re not plagiarizing. Plagiarism, or using other people’s words or ideas without giving them credit, is the fast track to nowhere. Plagiarism can get a writer kicked out of college, fired, or both. It’s far better to put a citation after every statement - no matter how obvious - than to get caught passing off someone else’s work as if it came from one’s own brain.

2. It shows they’re not just making stuff up. Almost as bad as plagiarism, “making stuff up” implies that the writer’s arguments are so off-the-wall that no other human being agrees with them, but that the writer believes his or her audience is so ignorant they’ll never notice the difference. Some students believe that citing sources undermines their credibility by making it look as if their argument can’t stand on its own. In fact, the opposite is true: showing that the experts on the subject agree with the argument being presented makes it stronger.

3. It tells other readers in the field that the writer knows enough about the subject to “speak their language.” This is where citing sources properly comes in handy. Writers who can use the proper citation style for the topic their paper covers indicate not only that they can research and organize an argument, but that they’re familiar enough with the field that they know how people in that field communicate information on sources to one another.

Different fields of study have different ways to present information - everything from what information about a book goes in the bibliography to how to use a serial comma. Specialists in a particular field often memorize the rules of their particular style book through constant use, but it’s not as important to memorize the rules as it is to know which style book to grab when writing on a particular topic or for a particular publication.

The most commonly used style guides include:

The MLA Handbook. Published by the Modern Language Association, the MLA handbook is used by writers in the humanities: literature, philosophy, ethics, art, dance, and so on.

Publication Handbook of the American Psychological Association. Also known as “the APA handbook” or “APA style,” this style guide is used not only by psychologists, but also by other areas that are included in the social sciences, such as politics, public health, and social work. Warning: sociologists may use the handbook of the American Sociological Association, or ASA, instead. The two handbooks are similar but not identical.

The ACS Style Guide and/or the CBE Style Manual. The ACS guide is published by the American Chemical Society, and the CBE manual is published by the Council of Biological Editors. Both style guides are used when writing about scientific topics or for a scientific journal.

The Associated Press Stylebook. This book bills itself as “the Bible of the newspaper industry,” and for good reason: nearly every journalistic outlet in the U.S. uses AP style, as do a wide range of informative websites. If writing for a newspaper, magazine, or similar publication, AP style is the way to go.

The Chicago Manual of Style and/or A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, by Kate L. Turabian. These manuals describe the same style of writing and citation, which may be called “Chicago” or “Turabian” for short. The primary difference is that the Chicago Manual of Style is much more comprehensive and thorough than Turabian’s book. Chicago/Turabian style is used as a “catch-all.” If the writer has no idea which style guide is appropriate, Chicago is probably the right choice. (A note: law-related publications use Chicago style for grammar and punctuation issues, but use either the Bluebook, published by Harvard, or the ALWD Manual, published by the Association of Legal Writing Directors, to cite to law-related sources and for certain style issues such as abbreviations. As a rule, if there isn’t a rule for it in the Bluebook or the ALWD manual, the writer should use Chicago/Turabian style.)

P.S. If your students need to brush up on their spelling and grammar, send 'em over to our Grammar Learning Guides so they can hone their skills before conquering the Common Core.

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Teaching Guides Using this Standard

Example 1

Sample Activities for Use in Class

1. Name That Style Guide

For this activity, students will need either a stack of style guides or a list of style guides and the topics they cover, as well as several sample paragraphs from various publications. Sample paragraphs should be long enough to give the reader some idea what they’re about, but should not include any identifying information like footnotes (parenthetical references are okay) or the name of the publication the information came from. In groups, students should read through each paragraph and try to identify which style guide they would use if they were writing the paragraph.

To make this activity more challenging, try overlapping style guide subject areas. For instance, should an article on ethics in education use MLA style (ethics) or APA style (education)? What about a newspaper article (AP style) on how the atom bomb was constructed (science)? Have students back up each of their choices with reasons, and discuss as a class whether the reasoning makes sense or if another style guide would be a better choice.

Example 2

2. Citation Practice

For this activity, give each student three to five paragraphs of text from a source (or multiple sources) selected at random. Provide the name of the source, the author, and other information necessary to cite the source properly, but do not provide it in proper citation form. Students will also need access to several different style guides, either in the classroom, the library, or online. Have each student write a paragraph summarizing the text they’re given, citing quotes or paraphrases from the selection as appropriate and putting the information about the text into proper citation form. This activity requires students not only to identify the correct style guide, but to look up information in the guide and apply it to their own writing, including the all-important citing of facts and ideas not their own.

Quiz 1 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Aisha is writing a paper on the most recent Olympic gold medal winner in the women’s 100-meter dash. A style manual is least likely to tell her how to cite:

    Correct Answer:

    a personal message the runner wrote on a poster for a fan

    Answer Explanation:

    Ephemera is often not covered by style manuals, though Aisha could interview the owner of the poster and then cite the interview, if needed.

  2. A paper that discusses what rivers symbolize in Mark Twain’s books should use which of the following style guides?

    Correct Answer:

    MLA Handbook

    Answer Explanation:

    the paper discusses literature, which falls under the humanities and uses MLA style

  3. Suppose that you want to convert your paper on rivers in Mark Twain’s books into a newspaper article to run in a special Mark Twain anniversary edition of the paper. Which style guide should you check to change the citations in your paper?

    Correct Answer:

    The Associated Press Stylebook

    Answer Explanation:

    Newspaper = AP style.

  4. You’re interviewing the Secretary of the Navy for an article that will run in the New York Times, and you’re just minutes away from your deadline. Which chapter of the AP style guide is MOST likely to tell you how to refer to the Secretary of the Navy?

    Correct Answer:

    Stylebook: An A to Z listing of guides to usage

    Answer Explanation:

    Proper titles are a usage issue.

  5. Which of the following rules are all the style books MOST likely to agree on?

    Correct Answer:

    Most plural nouns end in -s or -es

    Answer Explanation:

    This is a rule of English grammar; grammar rules are uniform across the style guides because they aren’t a matter of style preference.

  6. Ayako needs to know the proper way to insert a table into her paper on child psychology. Which section of the APA manual would MOST likely contain this information?

    Correct Answer:

    Presenting Data in Specific Types of Tables

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - This is most relevant to the type of information she wants to present.

  7. Which of the following sections in the Turabian manual is LEAST likely to be about how to cite a book as a source?

    Correct Answer:

    Unpublished Musical Score

    Answer Explanation:

    (e) - The rest describe various kinds of books, while this one is “unpublished”.

  8. Which of the following style guides should you use if you’re writing a paper on painting techniques in the 18th century?

    Correct Answer:

    the MLA handbook

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - the paper discusses art, which falls under the humanities and uses MLA style

  9. Which section of the MLA handbook is MOST likely to tell you how to set up a bibliography page?

    Correct Answer:

    Chapter 4: Documentation: Preparing the List of Works Cited

    Answer Explanation:

    (d) - The bibliography is called “Works Cited” in MLA formatting.

  10. Sarah is conducting new research on the radioactive properties of a newly-discovered element. She wants to publish a paper describing her findings in the prestigious Journal of Nuclear Physics. Her lab partner, Ahmed, offers to loan her his copy of the CBE Style Manual. What does Sarah say?

    Correct Answer:

    “No thanks; my paper is about chemistry and physics, so I’ll need the ACS Style Guide instead.”

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - Yes, that’s right! The CBE Style Manual is used in the field of Biology.

Quiz 2 Questions

Here's an example of a quiz that could be used to test this standard.

  1. Adam Least Heat Moon plans to write an article about the psychological conditions that soldiers may suffer after fighting in a combat unit. However, he doesn’t know whether he wants to write something for a professional psychology journal or for his local newspaper. When it comes to picking a style guide to use, does it matter where Adam Least Heat Moon plans to publish his writing?

    Correct Answer:

    Yes, because newspaper articles use AP style, but professional psychology journals use APA style.

    Answer Explanation:

    (c) - Correct! Even though “AP” and “APA” sound similar, they are in fact two very different style guides.

  2. Which of the following topic headings is MOST likely to discuss how to use hyphens, no matter which style guide you’re using?

    Correct Answer:


    Answer Explanation:

    the punctuation section almost always gives the specific rules for using hyphens, even though these rules vary among different styles

  3. The Associated Press Stylebook begins with a large section explaining how to write or abbreviate people’s names, names of products, professional designations, compound words, and place names. This section is MOST likely added because:

    Correct Answer:

    There are several different correct ways to write these things, but writers using AP style should just stick to one way for consistency.

    Answer Explanation:

    The purpose of AP style is to create uniform text, eliminating personal preferences in usage of everything from clergy titles to serial commas.

  4. Which of the following is the MOST persuasive reason to use an up-to-date style guide instead of one that is twenty years old?

    Correct Answer:

    Style guides published before the Internet was commonplace do not explain how to do research or cite sources found online.

    Answer Explanation:

    Internet sources usually have their own citation rules, which of course did not exist before the Internet.

  5. Which of the following is NOT a good reason to use the appropriate style guide when writing a research paper?

    Correct Answer:

    Citing sources correctly takes time, and readers are more impressed if they know your paper took a long time to write.

    Answer Explanation:

    For the most part, readers neither know nor care how long it took you to write something.

  6. Which of the following topics is MOST likely to appear in every style guide?

    Correct Answer:

    How to cite a book

    Answer Explanation:

    This one is pretty universal, although the AP Stylebook buries this information in the back, as it’s relatively unimportant for journalists.

  7. The editors at the Columbia Journal of Literary Criticism were pleased to get your exhaustively researched paper on the images of birds in the short stories of author Flannery O’Connor. However, they want you to fix your citations, saying you used the wrong format. You used the APA style guide to write your paper. What do you do?

    Correct Answer:

    Change the citations to MLA format

    Answer Explanation:

    MLA format is used in the humanities, which includes literature and literary criticism

  8. Suppose you’re writing an article for the school paper on Zlata, the new foreign exchange student at your school who was born in Serbia-Montenegro. You’re not sure whether “Serbia-Montenegro” should be hyphenated, be two separate words, or be written “Serbia and Montenegro.” Which style guide is MOST likely to answer your question?

    Correct Answer:

    The AP Stylebook, because it gives the rules for writing country names

    Answer Explanation:

    (b) - This is the style guide used by the press. Since journalists often write about other nations, this guide has a section on the rules for writing country names.

  9. Which of the following rules are all the style guides LEAST likely to agree on?

    Correct Answer:

    Sources should always be cited in parenthesis after the end of a sentence, but before the period or question mark.

    Answer Explanation:

    This is one of the style preferences that makes different style guides necessary; no two guides use the same parenthetical reference format, and some, like Chicago and AP, try to avoid them altogether.

  10. It is MOST appropriate to use the Chicago or Turabian style guide when:

    Correct Answer:

    Writing a paper that doesn’t fall into any of the above categories.

    Answer Explanation:

    • (a) - both history and drama fall under the humanities, making MLA style most appropriate
    • (b) - AP style governs here
    • (c) - This is a CBE paper
    • (d) - either APA or ASA rule here
    • (e) - Chicago/Turabian is a “catch-all” category *correct answer

More standards from Grades 9-10 - Language