Two worlds have collided: the Modern Language Association has revealed the proper way to cite a tweet in an academic paper.
The format is pretty simple and intuitive, but as far as I know, it’s the first explicit academic nod to Twitter of its kind. By outlining the correct way to cite a tweet, the MLA is acknowledging that tweets are worthy of being cited as facts or opinions in academic literature.
It’s worth noting that the citation doesn’t require a link to the tweet’s URL, which, as The Atlantic points out, is strange given the ephemeral nature of tweets older than about 7 days (although Twitter has recently granted access to even older tweets… for a price).
The details from the MLA on how to cite a tweet include:
- Including both the username and real name of the sender, unless the real name is unknown
- Do not change the capitalization of the tweet
- Although the date and time are only approximate measures of when a tweet was sent (as they reflect the reader‘s timezone, not the sender’s), they are necessary in allowing researchers to compare the timing of tweets
And of course, simply because college students can now add tweets to their papers doesn’t mean they always should – a tweet from the man who inadvertently live-tweeted the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound holds more academic weight than a tweet from your best friend about the crazy prices in the school cafeteria.