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How to Write a Debate in MLA Format


The Modern Language Association, or MLA, citation method, used most commonly within the liberal arts and humanities, provides no specific format for referencing a debate. You can effectively cite it, however, as you would any speech by including appropriate information in your in-text citations and on your Works Cited pages. The final form of the citation depends on whether or not the referenced debate has been published.

In-Text Parenthetical Citations for Unpublished Debates

The MLA method dictates that in-text citations accompany any direct citations and paraphrases included in your writing, even if the debate you source is unpublished. These references should be enclosed in parentheses and placed as close to the cited material as possible. In-text citations for unpublished debates should include the last name of the participating debaters. For example, if you are referencing a debate between John Smith and John Doe, any direction quotations or paraphrases of their exchange should be followed with (Smith and Doe). You can omit this parenthetical inclusion if you state the names of the debaters within the sentence, for example: When Smith stated “quoted text,” Doe volleyed with “quoted text.”

In-Text Parenthetical Citations for Published Debates

Debates that have been published are referenced similarly in the text. However, they should include the page number of the referenced portion, following the debater’s last name(s). If the debate has been published but does not have debate participants, authors or moderators associated with it, you can truncate the title of the debate to take the place of the author’s last name, as follows: (Debate title [italics], page number).

Works Cited Entry for Unpublished Debates

A full reference corresponding to the in-text citations used in your text should be included in your concluding Works Cited page. Unpublished source entries should begin with the names of the debate participants, followed by the title of the debate. The sponsoring organization, if applicable, should be the next item included. This could include, for example, a university or corporation that sponsored the debate. The next information included is the location of the debate, followed by the day, month and year of the presentation. Finally, list the type of debate -- for example, a conference round-table or televised debate. An example of this format, including appropriate punctuation, is as follows: Smith, John and Doe, John. “Title of Debate.” Sponsoring Organization (if applicable). Location, City, Day, Month and Year. Debate Type.

Works Cited Entry for Published Debates

Reference list entries for published debates follow a format similar to published interviews. The listing opens with the last name, then first name of the participating debaters, followed by the title of the debate, enclosed in quotation marks. After that, the title of the publication in which the debate was published should appear, displayed as either underlined or italicized, with the reference listing concluding with the city of publication, publisher, publication date and media type, such as print, web or film. An example of this is as follows: Debater’s Last Name, First Name(s). “Debate Title.” Title of Publicaton (in italics or underlined). Publication City: Publisher, Publication Date. Media Type.

About the Author

Teresa J. Siskin has been a researcher, writer and editor since 2009. She holds a doctorate in art history.

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