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Citing Your Sources: MLA Style

A guide to help you choose quality resources and how to cite those resources.

About MLA

Developed by the Modern Language Association, this style is most widely used for research papers in the humanities.

With the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, the approach to citing sources shifts from creating entries based on the type of source cited (books, articles, etc.) to recording common features of the work. While this approach is more flexible for new media, it may be challenging for you to know which core elements are relevant to the source you are citing. Thus, this guide also provides some examples of commonly cited sources.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style


MLA style is a standardized format for writing created by the Modern Language Association. It is used by students and scholars working within the humanities, such as English and other general studies.

Keep in mind that MLA Style refers to:

  • the format & structure of your paper
  • how you cite other authors within the body of your paper
  • how you compile a references page at the end of your paper

► To navigate this guide click on the above tab that corresponds with the material you are interested in citing.

Do you need to cite a different type of source that is not explained here? Consult one of the style manuals found in the Russell LRC or the Macomb LRC. Try the Purdue Owl as a excellent resource for college writers. 



Basic MLA Formatting:

• 1 inch margins on all sides

• All text is double spaced

• All paragraphs are indented on tab space or 1/2 inch

• Font is 12 pt. Times New Roman

• No title page is needed unless required by your instructor

• Heading:

       Begin 1 inch from the top of the first page

       Type your name, your instructor's name, the course number, and the date on separate lines

       Double space between each

• Title:

       Title should be centered

       Follow the rules for capitalization, capitalize the first word and all principal words

• Page numbers are flush right in the header:

       Type your last name before the page number

       Do not use the abbreviation p., or add a period after the page number


The image below shows how to format your MLA paper.

image identifies elements of formatting your MLA paper


In-Text Citations

MLA style is to be as brief as possible and to create the least possible interruption in your text so as not to disrupt the readers attention.

• Include the author's name in the text with a signal phrase then include in parenthesis the page number where the quotation can be found, e.g. Marshall Breeding points out how libraries have been "plagued with a proliferation of user interfaces" (32). 

• If you don't use the author's name with a signal phrase then put the author's name in parenthesis with the page number, e.g. The Americans with Disabilities Act is divided into five titles (Parry 8). 

                            ♦ Two authors in parenthetical form: (Arum and Roksa 117). For three or more authors,                                  include the last name of the first author followed by et al.: (Smith et al.).  

• Don't include a page number if the work doesn't have page numbers, and do not use page numbers from a printout from a website unless it is a PDF file. 

For more information or questions about in-text citations the OWL is an excellent resource. 

Works cited is its own page at the end of your paper.


Formatting Guidelines for the Works Cited page:

Works Cited title: Center the title Works Cited at the top of the page (if the list only contains one entry, make the heading Work Cited).

Line Spacing: Double space citations. 

Indentation: First line of each citation is flush with the left margin; indent all subsequent lines of the citation. Use the hanging indent for each citation. This can be found under the paragraph tools in Microsoft Word. 
hanging indent image

Order: Alphabetize citations by first author's last name. Alphabetize sources without authors by title.

Authors: Reverse only the first author's last name and give the other author name(s) in normal form. If more than 3 authors see the Citing Books tab.  

Capitalization: Capitalize the first word, the last word and all principal words in the source's title and sub-title. Don't capitalize articles (a, an, the), prepositions (in, between, of, to), or coordinating conjunctions (and, for, but, nor, or, so, yet). 

Issue Numbers for Journals: Include both volume and issue numbers for all journals. 

Date of Access: Give the most recent date you accessed the source.

Quotation Marks: Enclose the title of articles, book chapters, presentations etc. in quotation marks and end with a period inside the closing quotation mark. 

Italicize: Use Italics for book, journal, web site, and film titles. 


The image below shows how to format your works cited page. 
image MLA works cited page



General format for books:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

1 author:
Winfield, Jess. My Name is Will. Twelve, 2009.

2 authors:
Finebaum, Paul, and Gene Wojciechowski. My Conference Can Beat Your Conference. HarperCollins Publishers, 2014.

Note: When a book has multiple authors, order the authors in the same way they are presented in the book. The first given name appears in last name, first name format; subsequent author names appear in first name last name format.
* If there are three or more authors, list only the first author followed by the phrase et al.

3 or more authors:
Bulkeley, Kelly, et al. An Introduction to the Psychology of Dreaming. 2nd ed., 
Praeger, 2017. 

  • Note: For subsequent editions, add the number of the edition after the title.
  • A work prepared  by an editor:
  • Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. Edited by Margaret Smith, Oxford UP, 1998.


         The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for a print book. 

image MLA book


General format for periodicals:
AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName. "Article Title." Journal Title, volume,number, publication date, pages. Database name, DOI or permalink. 

Brands, H. W. "Hesitant Emancipator." American History, vol. 44, no. 2, 2009, pp. 54-59. Academic Search

Note: When an article has multiple authors, order the authors in the same way they are presented. The first given name appears in last name, first name format; subsequent author names appear in first name last name format.
* If there are three or more authors, list only the first author followed by the phrase et al.


The image below identifies elements of a MLA citation for a journal article from an database.

image MLA article



General format for a newspaper article:
AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName. "Article Title." Journal Title, volume,number, publication date, pages. Database name, DOI or permalink.

Gettleman, Jeffrey. "Somalia's Milestone Election, Fueled by Bribes and Coercion." New York Times, vol. 166, no. 57501, 07 Feb. 2017, pp. A1-A8. EBSCOhost Newspaper Source,


The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for an online newspaper article.

image MLA newspaper

General format for websites: AuthorLastName, AuthorFirstName (if available). "Title of Web Page or Article." Title of Web Site. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), Date of Publication (Day Month Year, if available).  URL, DOI or permalink. Date accessed (Day Month Year).

Tyson, Peter. “Dogs’ Dazzling Sense of Smell.” NOVA scienceNOW. 4 Oct. 2012. Accessed 22 Oct. 2017.

Note: MLA only requires the www. address so leave off the https:// when citing. If available use the DOI or permalink instead of the URL. 


The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for a website. 

image MLA website


General format for media: 
Title. Director. Major performers. Film Studio or Distributor, Release date.  

Lust For Life. Directed by Vincente Minnelli, performances by Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, and James Donald. Warner Home Video, 1956.


The image below identifies elements of an MLA citation for a media item. 
image MLA media

MLA Books

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