MLA Style of Citing Sources


All fields of research agree on the need to document scholarly borrowings, but documentation conventions vary because of the different needs of scholarly disciplines. MLA style for documentation is widely used in the humanities, especially in writing on language and literature. (1)
MLA citation style refers to the rules and conventions established by the Modern Language Association for acknowledging sources used in a research paper. MLA citation style uses a simple two-part parenthetical documentation system for citing sources: Citations in the text of a paper are used to point to an alphabetical Works cited list that appears at the end of the paper. Together, these references identify and credit the sources used in the paper and allow others to access and retrieve this material.(2)
MLA style has been widely adopted by schools, academic departments, and instructors for over half a century. The association's guidelines are also used by over 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, and magazines and by many university and commercial presses. The MLA's guidelines are followed throughout North America and in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries around the world.(3)

2.Citing sources in the text:

In MLA style, references to sources are placed in the text of the paper to “briefly identify sources for readers and enable them to locate the source of the cited information in the Works Cited list”. (4)These parenthetical references should be kept as brief and clear as possible. Here are some general tips for citing sources in the text:
  • Give only the information needed to identify a source. Usually the author's last name and a page reference are all that is needed.
  • The parenthetical reference should precede the punctuation mark that concludes the sentence, clause, or phrase that contains the cited material.
  • Parenthetical material should complement, not repeat, information given in the text. If you include an author's name in a sentence, you do not need to repeat it in your parenthetical statement.
  • Place the parenthetical reference as close as possible to the material being documented and where a pause would naturally occur, preferably at the end of a sentence.
  • Electronic and online sources are cited just like print resources in references cited in the text. If an online source lacks numbering, omit numbers from the parenthetical references. If a source includes fixed page numbers or section numbering, such as numbering of paragraphs (pars.), cite the relevant numbers.
  • All pages of the paper, including the list of works cited, need to be numbered consecutively and must appear in the top right hand corner of the page after your last name
  • You need to cite and document any sources that you have consulted, even if you presented the ideas from these sources in your own words.
About the citation sources in the text , there are still some diffirences. Here are some examples:
Author's name in text
Dover has expressed this concern (118-21).
Author's name in reference
This concern has been expressed (Dover 118-21).
Multiple authors of a work
This hypothesis (Bradley and Rogers 7) suggested this theory (Sumner, Reichl, and Waugh 23).
Two locations
Williams alludes to this premise (136-39, 145).
Two works cited
(Burns 54; Thomas 327)
References to volumes and pages
(Wilson 2:1-18)
References to an entire volume
(Henderson, vol. 3)
In text reference to an entire volume
In volume 3, Henderson suggests
Corporate authors
(United Nations, Economic Commission for Africa 51-63)
Works with no authorWhen a work has no author, use the work's title or a shortened version of the title when citing it in text. (If abbreviating a title, omit initial articles and begin with the word by which it is alphabetized in the Works Cited list.):
as stated by the presidential commission (Report 4).
Online source with numbered paragraphs
(Fox, pars. 4-5)

3.Works Cited list:

References cited in the text of a research paper must appear at the end of the paper in a Works Cited list or bibliography. This list provides the information necessary to identify and retrieve each source that specifically supports your research.(5)

Here are some general notes on works cited list:

  • Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper. (6)

  • Arrange entries in alphabetical order by authors' last names (surnames), or by title for sources without authors.

  • Capitalize the first word and all other principal words of the titles and subtitles of cited works listed. (Do not capitalize articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, or the "to" in infinitives.)

  • Shorten the publisher's name; for example, omit articles, business abbreviations (Co., Inc.), and descriptive words (Press, Publisher).

  • When multiple publishers are listed, include all of them, placing a semicolon between each.

  • When more than one city is listed for the same publisher, use only the first city.

  • Use the conjunction "and," not an ampersand [&], when listing multiple authors of a single work.

  • The works cited list is double-spaced throughout, both between and within entries. If a citation is more than one line, the second line is indented by 1.25 cm (0.5 inches)

  • Do not use the abbreviations p. or pp. to designate page numbers.

  • The publisher's name can be shortened (e.g. "Allen," instead of "Allen & Unwin")
Here are some specific requirements on each component of the words cited list:
1. Name:
  • Include the author's complete name if it is provided.
  • Include up to three authors. If there are more, you have a choice: you can list all of the authors, or you can list the first name followed by "et al." (Kirk, James, et al.). Whichever you choose, do the same thing in the parenthetical references (Kirk et al. 1701).
  • Authors of web pages may use screen names instead of their real names.
  • If there is no author, then start with the title.
2. Titles:
  • Capitalize the first letter of each significant word in the title。
  • Segments of larger works, such as chapters, articles, single web pages, and single episodes of series, should be placed within "quotation marks."
  • Complete works, such as books, periodicals, databases, entire websites, television series, and movies, should be placed in italics.
3. Periodicals:
  • Journal, magazine, and newspaper articles may be accessed in hardcopy (include the word, Print at the end); from a website (include the word Web, and the date that you looked at it); or from a database (include the Database Name, the word Web, and the date that you looked at it).
  • Do not include an initial article at the beginning of a periodical title.
  • Include the volume and issue numbers for all journals but not for magazines and newspapers
4. Place of publication:
  • List only the first city mentioned.
  • Do not include the state or country.
  • If no place is given, put N.p.
5. Dates:
  • The parts of the date are listed as day, month, year.
  • All months should be abbreviated except for May, June, and July (Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.).
  • If no date is given, put n.d.
  • For a website or other online source, also include the date that you looked at it.
6. Page numbers:
  • Cite the page numbers for the entire article in the reference list. Cite specific page numbers in parentheses in the text.
  • If possible, include only the final two digits of the concluding page number (ex. 393-94, 393-405, 1393-94, 1393-1405).
  • If the paging of a magazine or newspaper article is continued elsewhere in the issue, include only the first page followed by a plus sign (ex. 25+).
  • If no page numbers are given, put N. pag.
7. Websites:
  • Titles of single web pages within a website should be placed within "quotation marks."
  • Authors of web pages may use screen names instead of their real names. There might be a corporate author (a company, association, or government agency; see the example beginning "United States"). If there is no author, then start with the title.
  • Titles of entire websites should be placed in italics.
  • The name of the publisher may be the same as the name of the website, so it would be listed twice. If no publisher is given, put N.p.
  • If no date is given, put n.d.
  • If any of the other information is not available, it can be left out.
  • You do not have to include page numbers or paragraph numbers unless the web page specifically provides them.
  • Do not include the URL unless your teacher specifically requires you to. The reader is expected to use a search engine to find your source. If you are required to include it, place it after the final date and period. Place it inside angle brackets, followed by a period. Line breaks should be placed only after a slash.
  • Newspaper and Magazine websites may include articles that originally appeared in the printed versions; these are cited as articles. A website may also include pages that were specifically created only for the website; these are cited as web pages.
  • Videos that were created for the internet are cited as web pages.

3.1Citing materials from print scources:

Print scources refer to books, journals, magazines,newspapers and other print materials. Here are some different situations during the citation of print scources.
3.11 Book:
References to an entire book should include the following elements:
  • Author(s) or editor(s)
  • The complete title
  • Edition, if indicated
  • Place of publication
  • The shortened name of the publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Medium of publication

Different situations:
  • One author:
e.g. Rattenbury, Ken. Duke Ellington, Jazz Composer. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990.

  • No author or editore:
e.g.Peterson's Annual Guides to Graduate Study.33rd ed. Princeton, NJ: Peterson's Guides, 1999. Print.

  • Two or three authors:
e.g. Jakobson, Roman, and Linda R. Waugh. The Sound Shape of Language.Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1975.

  • More than three authors:
e.g. Gilman, Sandor, et al. Hysteria beyond Freud.Berkeley: U of California P, 1993. Print.

  • Another work, same author:
e.g. Gilman, Sandor. Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited. New York: Knopf, 1999. Print.

  • Multivolume work:
e.g. Samuel Eliot, Henry Steele Commager, and William E. Leuchtenburg. The Growth of the American Republic. 2 vols. New York: Oxford UP, 1980. Print.

3.12 Essay or Chapter in Edited Books or Anthologies:
References to an essay or chapter in an edited book or compilation must include the following elements:
  • Essay or chapter author(s)
  • Essay or chapter title
  • Book title
  • Book editor(s) or compilers
  • Place of publication
  • The shortened name of the publisher
  • Date of publication
  • Inclusive page numbers of the cited piece
  • Medium of publication
Different situations:
  • Article in a book:
e.g. Kowalewski, Michael. "Jack Kerouac and the Beats in San Francisco." San Francisco in Fiction: Essays in a Regional Literature. Ed. David Fine and Paul Skenazy. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1995. 126-43. Print.
  • Articles or entries from reference books:
If the article or entry is signed, place the author's name first; if it is unsigned, give the title first. For well-known reference works, it is not necessary to includ full publication information. Include only the title of the reference source, edition, and date of publication.

3.13 Article in Journals, Magazines, and Newspapers:
References to periodical articles must include the following elements:
  • Author(s)
  • Article title
  • Publication title (journal, magazine, etc.)
  • Volume number
  • Publication date (abbreviate months, if used)
  • The inclusive page numbers
  • Medium of publication

Different situations:
  • Journal article, one author:
e.g. Shefter, Martin. "Institutional Conflict over Presidential Appointments: The Case of Clarence Thomas." PS: Political Science & Politics 25.4 (1992): 676- 79. Print.

  • Journal article, two authors:
e.g. Ginsberg, Benjamin, and Martin Shefter. "Ethics Probes as Political Weapons." Journal of Law & Politics 11.3 (1995): 497-511. Print

  • Magazine article:
e.g. Pirisi, Angela. "Eye-catching advertisements." Psychology Today Jan.-Feb. 1997: 14. Print.
  • Newspaper article, no author:
e.g. "Africa Day Celebrated in Havana." Granma International 31 May 2009, English ed.: 16. Print.

3.14 Government Documents:
  • State document:
e.g. New York State. Commission on Capital Punishment. Report of the Commission to Investigate and Report the Most Humane and Practical Method of Carrying Into Effect the Sentence of Death in Capital Cases. Albany: Troy, 1888. Print.
  • International document:
e.g. United Nations. General Assembly. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. New York: United Nations, 1979. Print.

3.2 Citing materials from online sources:

Online sources refer to web page, Article in an online periodical, personal Web site and so on. Like those for print sources, citations for online sources, should provide information that both identifies a source and allows that source to be located and retrieved again. All citations should include the medium of publication (Web) and the date the content was accessed. If the source is difficult to locate or your instructor requires a URL, list the complete address within angle brackets after the date. In many cases, it is also necessary to identify the Web site or database that has made the material available online.(7)
3.21 Articles From An Online Periodical:
  • author’s name (if given)
  • "title of work" (if any) in quotation marks
  • name of periodical
  • volume number, issue number, or other identifying number
  • year of publication
  • range or total number of pages or paragraphs (if available)
  • title of database
e.g. Chaplin, Heather. "Epidemic of Extravagance." Salon 19 February 1999: n. pag. Web. 12 July 1999.

3.22 Online Reference Database, Scholarly Project, Professional, Personal Site:
  • author’s name (if given)
  • title of project
  • name of editor (if given)
  • electronic publication info, including version number, date of electronic publication or last update, and name of sponsoring institution
  • date of access and <URL>
e.g.Fox, Justin. "Who Wants to Be an Internet Billionaire?" Fortune 8 Nov. 1999: 40- . ABI/INFORM Global. ProQuest Direct. Web. 15 Nov. 2005.

3.23 Online Book:
  • author’s name (If editor, translator, etc., cite name followed by appropriate abbreviation.)
  • title of work
  • name of editor, etc. (if relevant)
  • publication information
  • date of access and <URL>
e.g.Dos Passos, John. One Man's Initiation: 1917; A Novel. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969. 1 January 1999. Internet Modern History Sourcebook. 22 December 1999 [[ wwone/initiation.html]].

3.24 Article In An Online Periodical:
  • author’s name (if given)
  • "title of work" (if any) in quotation marks
  • name of periodical
  • volume number, issue number, or other identifying number
  • date of publication
  • range or total number of pages or paragraphs
  • date of access and <URL>
e.g. Chaplin, Heather. "Epidemic of Extravagance." Salon 19 February 1999: n. pag. Web. 12 July 1999.

3.25 Publication On CD-ROM, Disk, Or Magnetic Tape:
  • author’s name (If editor, translator, etc., cite name followed by appropriate abbreviation.)
  • title of publication
  • name or editor, etc. (if relevant)
  • publication medium (CD-ROM, etc.)
  • edition, release or version (if relevent)
  • place of publication
  • name of publisher
  • date of publication
e.g. Singh, Susheela. "Early Marriage Among Women in Developing Countries."International Family Planning Perspectives 22.4 (1996): 148+. Contemporary Women’s Issues. CD-ROM. RDS, Inc. 1992-present.








Further reading:



Reference book:
1.MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2009. Print.