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MLA Citation Style

How to Use This Guide

There are two ways to use this guide:

  1. You can learn the MLA citation template and formatting rules that can be applied to any source. Once you learn them, you won't need to refer back to each individual source type example.
  2. You can go straight to the information you're looking for or an example of a source you're trying to cite using the table of contents.

The What and Why of Citations

What are citations?

A citation is a marker in your project that alerts your audience to the use of an outside source and gives that source's information. There are two components of a citation in MLA:

  1. The works cited entry
  2. The in-text citation

Why Cite?

  • It shows the reader that you as an author have researched the background of the problem and are able to discuss previous research.
  • It gives credit to past researchers whose research has added to the body of knowledge on the topic. 
  • It allows your reader to find the source for themselves.

When to Cite?

Work should be cited if the work, ideas, theories, or research have influenced the your work. This also shows that you have read the work.

Citation Template and Core Elements Explanation

Author: The person, group, or organization responsible for the intellectual or creative work of a source.

Title of Source: The title of the specific piece of information you’re looking at.

Title of Container: The larger work that contains the smaller bit of information that you’re focusing on.

Contributor: Other people, such as editors, translators, directors, etc. who have put creativity and thought into the work.

Version: Indicates which variation of a source you are using, such as edition or director’s cut.

Number: Indicates where in a series your source is found.

Publisher: Who prepared and distributed the source to a wider audience.

Publication Date: When the source was published in print or online.

Location: Where in the source you found the information, such as page numbers of a book chapter or the url of a website.

 

tips Most sources don't have all the elements. The idea is to include as many as the source has. Also, if the source has more than one container, such as a journal article contained in a journal contained in a database, elements 3 through 9 will appear more than once. Each source will be slightly different, but the general format for each will resemble the examples below.

MLA Document Formatting

Formatting Requirements for a paper in MLA:

  1. Times New Roman 12 point font (or other easily readable font 11-13 points)
  2. Double spacing throughout
  3. 1 inch margins
  4. A running head with your last name in the top right corner
  5. Page numbers to the right of your name in the running head
  6. Heading with your name, your professor’s name, the class, and the date formatted Day Month Year
  7. Paper Title underneath the heading
  8. Works Cited page in alphabetical order by the first element in the citation

Articles Found Online

Journal articles from a database or Google Scholar have two containers: the journal and the database. 

Journal Article from a Database

Author, First and Second Author. Title of Article. Title of the Journal or Magazine in Italics, volume, issue, publication date, page numbers. Database Name or Google Scholar in italics, doi:(or https://doi.org/xxx.xxx). Access date optional. 

Rauer, Amy, and Brenda Volling.“More Than One Way to be Happy: A Typology of Marital Happiness.” Family Process, vol.52, no.3, 2013, pp. 519-534. Academic Search Complete, doi:10.1111/famp.12028. Accessed 13 Apr. 2018. 

Journal Article without DOI

Author, First. Title of Article. Title of the Journal in Italics, volume, issue, publication date, page numbers, Database Name or Google Scholar in italics, article's stable URL. Access date optional. 

Pollard, Stephen.“Mathematics and the Good Life.” Philosophia Mathematica, vol. 21, no. 1, Feb. 2013, pp. 93-109, Academic Search Complete, http://db26.lnccwb.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=85817538&site=ehost-live. Accessed 6 Aug. 2018. 

Print Articles

Article from a print publication

Author, First. Title of Article. Title of the Journal in Italics, volume, issue, publication date, page numbers. 

Verschoor, Curtis C. "How Colleges Hide Investments to Avoid Taxes: Should Universities Use Tax Haven Corporations?" Strategic Finance, vol. 99, no. 9. Mar. 2018, pp. 21-22. 

Print Books

Book by a single author

Author, First.Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date. 

Brettell, Caroline. Anthropological Conversations: Talking Culture Across Disciplines. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. 

Book by two authors

Author, First and Second Author.Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

Berger, Kathleen S. and Ross A. Thompson. The Developing Person Through Childhood. Worth Publishers, 2003. 

Books with three or more authors

Author, First, et. al. (Year). Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

Verdier, Thierry, et al. The Organization of Firms in a Global Economy. Harvard UP, 2008. 

eBooks

Electronic book (eBook) from a library database

Author, First.Title of Book. Database Name, Publisher, Publication Date, DOI or permalink.

Arthur, Charles. Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the Battle for the Internet. eBook CollectionKogan Page, 2012, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspxdirect=true&AuthType=shib&db=nlebk&AN=430356site=ehost-live&custid=secc. 

  • Like online journal articles, ebooks have two containers. The first part of the citation will be the same as a print book, but there are two additional elements you will need to find in order to cite an eBook.
  1. The Title of the Container, which is the database name.
  2. Location 2, which is the DOI if the book has one or the database permalink if it does not.

eBook Chapters or Works in an Online Anthology

eBook Chapter Example:

Author (s), "Title of Chapter or Work in quotations." Title of Book or Anthology in Italics, edited by editors names, Publisher Name, Publication Date, Page number rage. Database Name in Italics, DOI or url.

Welch, Richard E, Jr. “American Public Opinion and the Purchase of Russian America.” An Alaska Anthology: Interpreting the Past edited by Stephen W. Haycox and Mary Childers Mangusso,University of Washington Press, 1996, pp. 102-117. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/valencia-ebooks/reader.action.

  • Like online journal articles, ebooks have two containers. The first part of the citation will be the same as a print book, but there are two additional elements you will need to find in order to cite an eBook.
  1. The Title of the Container, which is the database name.
  2. Location 2, which is the DOI if the book has one or the database permalink if it does not.

tipsNotice how the database shows the book is by Stephen W. Haycox and Mary Childers Mangusso; however, we know from the title page that these are the editors. Databases commonly list the editors as authors in an anthology or reference work. Always double check the database record information against the actual source and use the information you find in the source for the citation.

 

Print Book Chapters and Works in an Anthology

Print Book Chapter Example:

Author(s), "Name of the Chapter or Work in Quotations." Name of the Book in Italics, edited by names of editors, Publisher, Publication Date, Page Numbers of Chapter. 

Welch, Richard E, Jr. “American Public Opinion and the Purchase of Russian America.” An Alaska  Anthology: Interpreting the Past, edited by Stephen W. Haycox and Mary Childers Mangusso, University of Washington Press, 1996, pp. 102-117.

When a book has an editor, it usually means the chapters or articles in the book are written by different authors. You will want to cite the specific chapter you’re using rather than the whole book. The chapter title will be the Title of Source and the book title will be the Title of Container, since the book contains the chapter. Look for the editor information on the title page and include it in the Other contributors element. You will also find the publisher information on this page and the publication date on the verso, also known as the copyright page. And don’t forget the page numbers of the chapter in the Location element! View the images below to see where to find each element and an example citation.

Webpages

Webpage Example:

"Name of Webpage." Name of Website. Publisher Name, date, url. 

“Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers.” Occupational Outlook Handbook. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9 Apr. 2021, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm.

Works Cited Citation Formatting Rules

One author is formatted last name, first name. Middle names are included after the first name.

Shakepeare, William.

Two authors are formatted last name, first name and first name last name.

Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner.

Three or more authors are formatted last name, first name, et al. Et al. stands for “and others.” Whether you have three authors or ten, all you need to cite is the name of the first author followed by et al.

Murphy, Ryan, et al.

Contributors in the Author Element space: Contributors are those who have creative responsibility besides writing. If you are citing a contributor in the author element space, include their contribution after their name separated by a comma.

McKellen, Ian, performer.

Contributors in the Contributor Element space: Format the contributor(s) with their role first – translated by, directed by, performed by, etc.

edited by Kelly J. Mays,

Multiple Works by the Same Author

Works Cited

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Committed. Grove Press, 2021.

---. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Harvard UP, 2016.

---. The Sympathizer. Grove Press, 2015.

tips When alphabetizing the Works Cited list with multiple works by the same author, alphabetize by Title of Source. The articles a, an, or the are ignored when putting sources in alphabetical order. 

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, edited

by Kelly J. Mays, shorter 11th edition, W & W Norton & Company, 2013, pp. 1309-1363.

 

  • Titles of whole works, such as books or websites, are italicized. For example, The Norton Introduction to Literature below is a whole work containing many smaller works.
  • Titles of containers are always italicized because they represent a whole work. Titles of sources are italicized only if you are citing a whole work.
  • Titles of sources are put in quotations if the source is a smaller piece of the larger whole. A chapter in a book or an article in a journal are two examples. So the play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the book The Norton Introduction to Literature would be in quotations.
  • Titles in MLA need to be in title case. Title case means that all the beginnings of important words are capitalized. Prepositions, conjunctions, and articles don't need to be capitalized unless they appear first or after a colon (:). This rule applies no matter the capitalization you see in the source itself.

THE NORTON INTRODUCTION TO LITERATURE

Dates, whether they are in your citation or the heading of your paper, should be formatted as day month year with no commas. Months longer than 4 letters can be abbreviated. You should include as much detail about the date as your source provides. This includes if a source gives a season instead of a month. Seasons are formatted as season year with no commas.

1 Aug. 2016,

Spring 2016,

Access dates are an optional element at the end of your citation for an online source. Some instructors prefer that you include an access date for websites and other electronic      sources. Make sure to check with your professor for their preferences.

Accessed 2 Mar. 2018.

Volumes and issue numbers are also abbreviated. They are formatted as vol. for volume and no. for number. Separate the two with a comma.    

vol. 19, no. 4, 

Pages are abbreviated as p. for a single page and pp. for multiple pages.

p. 17.

pp. 17-21.

Editions are abbreviated as ed., and numbered editions are represented with numerals.

5th ed.,  

Publishers with the words University Press in their name are abbreviated as UP. If University is not in the publisher's name, keep the full word Press.

Oxford University Press would become Oxford UP

State University of New York Press would become State U of New York P

  • The citation template does a nice job of illustrating where punctuation goes in your citation. The elements Author and Title of source are followed by periods. Periods also go after the end of the elements describing a Container.

  • The last element in a container is always followed by a period, even if it is not the location element.
  • If you use a period between core elements, the word following the period is always capitalized.

Murphy, Ryan, et al. “Showmance.” Glee, season 1, episode 2, 9 Sept. 2009. Netflix, https://www.netflix.com/watch/70177126?trackId=14170289& tctx=0%2C1%2C2e351d08-66da-4a28-b3a4-69e787fd8a77-7492535.

In-Text Citations

Parenthetical Example:

"A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge" (Martin 103).

Narrative Example:

George R. R. Martin writes through the character Tyrion, "A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge" (103). 

Works Cited

Martin, George R. R. A Game of Thrones. A Song of Ice and Fire, vol. 1, Bantum Books, 29 Oct. 2013.

Parenthetical Example:

“A demon can get into real trouble, doing the right thing” (Gaiman and Pratchett 5).

Narrative Example:

As Gaiman and Pratchett note, “A demon can get into real trouble, doing the right thing” (5).

 

  • Notice how the order is different in an in-text citation verses the Works Cited citation. The in-text is formatted last name 1 and last name 2.

 

Works Cited

Gaiman, Neil and Terry Pratchett. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. William Morrow,

2006.

Parenthetical Example:

The unholy trinity were initially let into the glee club when they sang ‘I Say a Little Prayer’ (Murphy et al. 00:36:00-50).

Narrative Example:

Murphy et al. decided to have the unholy trinity join the glee club with the song "I Say a Little Prayer' (00:36:00-50).

 

  • When three or more authors are listed, only include the first author followed by the abbreviation et al.

 

Works Cited

Murphy, Ryan, et al. "Showmance." Glee, season 1, episode 2, 21st Century Fox, 9 Sept. 2009. Netflix,

https://www.netflix.com/watch/70177126trackId=14170289&tctx=0%2C1%2C2e351d08-66da-4a28-b3a4-69e787fd8a77-

7492535.

 

Parenthetical Example:

Biomedical engineering requires at least a bachelors degree with some jobs requiring a graduate degree (“Biomedical Engineers”).

Narrative Example:

"Biomedical Engineers" states that a bachelors degree is the minimum for the field with some jobs requiring a graduate degree.

  • If no author is given or the source is anonymous, use the first core element in the citation to identify it. Usually this is the Title of the source.
  • If the title is a single noun phrase, do not abbreviate the title. A noun phrase is a noun and and all the words that describe it. For example, in the title Arabian Nights, Arabian is an adjective describing the noun nights. However, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has two noun phrases connected by a conjunction. It would be abbreviated to the first noun phrase, Sir Gawain, in an in text citation.
  • If your source has no page numbers, leave that information out.

Works Cited

“Biomedical Engineers.” Occupational Outlook Handbook. 2016-2017 ed., United States Department of Labor/Bureau of

Labor Statistics, 17 Dec. 2015, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and engineering/biomedicalengineers.htm.

 

 

Parenthetical Examples:

"I was born in Vietnam but made in America" (Nguyen, Nothing 3).

Short, simple sentences can convey a complexity of experience, for example, Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds" (Nguyen, Sympathizer 1).

Narrative Examples:

Viet Thahn Nguyen begins his prologue with the statement, "I was born in Vietnam but made in America" (Nothing 3).

Nguyen often utilizes short, simple sentences in The Sympathizer, yet also conveys a complexity of experience through them, for example, "I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds" (1).

 

  • When citing multiple works by the same author, also include a shortened version of the title in the in-text citation to differentiate between them. Remove articles - the, a, or an - from the shortened title.
  • Keep the same title formatting from the Works Cited Citation in your in-text citation. If the title is in quotations, the citation should be in quotations, and if it is in italics, the citation should be in italics.

 

Works Cited

Nguyen, Viet Thanh. The Committed. Grove Press, 2021.

---. Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War. Harvard UP, 2016.

---. The Sympathizer. Grove Press, 2015.

 

tips When alphabetizing the Works Cited list with multiple works by the same author, alphabetize by Title of Source. The articles a, an, or the are ignored when putting sources in alphabetical order. 

Citation Resources

For further help with citation questions and examples, consult some of the guides listed below ...they're great! You can also contact a librarian!