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How To Cite References In A Research Paper Mla Style

MLA Formatting and Style Guide

Summary:

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2017-11-15 10:07:19

The following overview should help you better understand how to cite sources using MLA eighth edition, including the list of works cited and in-text citations.

Please use the example at the bottom of this page to cite the Purdue OWL in MLA. See also our MLA vidcast series on the Purdue OWL YouTube Channel.

Creating a Works Cited list using the eighth edition

MLA has turned to a style of documentation that is based on a general method that may be applied to every possible source, to many different types of writing. But since texts have become increasingly mobile, and the same document may be found in several different sources, following a set of fixed rules is no longer sufficient.         

The current system is based on a few principles, rather than an extensive list of specific rules. While the handbook still gives examples of how to cite sources, it is organized according to the process of documentation, rather than by the sources themselves. This process teaches writers a flexible method that is universally applicable. Once you are familiar with the method, you can use it to document any type of source, for any type of paper, in any field.

Here is an overview of the process:

When deciding how to cite your source, start by consulting the list of core elements. These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

Each element should be followed by the punctuation mark shown here. Earlier editions of the handbook included the place of publication, and required punctuation such as journal editions in parentheses, and colons after issue numbers. In the current version, punctuation is simpler (just commas and periods separate the elements), and information about the source is kept to the basics.

Author

Begin the entry with the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the rest of the name, as presented in the work. End this element with a period.

Said, Edward W.Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1994.

Title of source

The title of the source should follow the author’s name. Depending upon the type of source, it should be listed in italics or quotation marks.

A book should be in italics:

Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House. MacMurray, 1999.  

A website should be in italics:

Lundman, Susan. "How to Make Vegetarian Chili." eHow, www.ehow.com/how_10727_make-vegetarian-chili.html.*

A periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper) article should be in quotation marks:

Bagchi, Alaknanda. "Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi's Bashai Tudu."Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.

A song or piece of music on an album should be in quotation marks:

Beyoncé. "Pray You Catch Me."Lemonade, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016, www.beyonce.com/album/lemonade-visual-album/.

*The eighth edition handbook recommends including URLs when citing online sources. For more information, see the “Optional Elements” section below.

Title of container

Unlike earlier versions, the eighth edition refers to containers, which are the larger wholes in which the source is located. For example, if you want to cite a poem that is listed in a collection of poems, the individual poem is the source, while the larger collection is the container. The title of the container is usually italicized and followed by a comma, since the information that follows next describes the container.

Kincaid, Jamaica. "Girl." The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994, pp. 306-07.

The container may also be a television series, which is made up of episodes.

“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.

The container may also be a website, which contains articles, postings, and other works.

Zinkievich, Craig. Interview by Gareth Von Kallenbach. Skewed & Reviewed, 27 Apr. 2009, www.arcgames.com/en/games/star-trek-online/news/detail/1056940-skewed-%2526-reviewed-interviews-craig. Accessed 15 Mar. 2009.

In some cases, a container might be within a larger container. You might have read a book of short stories on Google Books, or watched a television series on Netflix. You might have found the electronic version of a journal on JSTOR. It is important to cite these containers within containers so that your readers can find the exact source that you used.

“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, season 2, episode 21, NBC, 29 Apr. 2010. Netflix,www.netflix.com/watch/70152031?trackId=200256157&tctx=0%2C20%2C0974d361-27cd-44de-9c2a-2d9d868b9f64-12120962.

Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century England.” Historical Journal, vol. 50, no. 1, 2007, pp. 173-96. ProQuest, doi:10.1017/S0018246X06005966. Accessed 27 May 2009.

Other contributors

In addition to the author, there may be other contributors to the source who should be credited, such as editors, illustrators, translators, etc. If their contributions are relevant to your research, or necessary to identify the source, include their names in your documentation.

Note: In the eighth edition, terms like editor, illustrator, translator, etc., are no longer abbreviated.

Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Translated by Richard Howard, Vintage-Random House, 1988.

Woolf, Virginia. Jacob’s Room. Annotated and with an introduction by Vara Neverow, Harcourt, Inc., 2008.

Version

If a source is listed as an edition or version of a work, include it in your citation.

The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

Crowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students.3rd ed., Pearson, 2004.

Number

If a source is part of a numbered sequence, such as a multi-volume book, or journal with both volume and issue numbers, those numbers must be listed in your citation.

Dolby, Nadine. “Research in Youth Culture and Policy: Current Conditions and Future Directions.” Social Work and Society: The International Online-Only Journal,vol. 6, no. 2, 2008, www.socwork.net/sws/article/view/60/362. Accessed 20 May 2009.

“94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.

Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria. Translated by H. E. Butler, vol. 2, Loeb-Harvard UP, 1980.

Publisher

The publisher produces or distributes the source to the public. If there is more than one publisher, and they are all are relevant to your research, list them in your citation, separated by a forward slash (/).

Klee, Paul. Twittering Machine. 1922. Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Artchive,  www.artchive.com/artchive/K/klee/twittering_machine.jpg.html. Accessed May 2006.

Women's Health: Problems of the Digestive System. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2006.

Daniels, Greg and Michael Schur, creators. Parks and Recreation. Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2015.

Note: the publisher’s name need not be included in the following sources: periodicals, works published by their author or editor, a website whose title is the same name as its publisher, a website that makes works available but does not actually publish them (such as YouTube, WordPress, or JSTOR).

Publication date

The same source may have been published on more than one date, such as an online version of an original source. For example, a television series might have aired on a broadcast network on one date, but released on Netflix on a different date. When the source has more than one date, it is sufficient to use the date that is most relevant to your use of it. If you’re unsure about which date to use, go with the date of the source’s original publication.

In the following example, Mutant Enemy is the primary production company, and “Hush” was released in 1999. This is the way to create a general citation for a television episode.

“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, Mutant Enemy, 1999.

However, if you are discussing, for example, the historical context in which the episode originally aired, you should cite the full date. Because you are specifying the date of airing, you would then use WB Television Network (rather than Mutant Enemy), because it was the network (rather than the production company) that aired the episode on the date you’re citing.

“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, WB Television Network, 14 Dec. 1999.

Location

You should be as specific as possible in identifying a work’s location.

An essay in a book, or an article in journal should include page numbers.

Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi. “On Monday of Last Week.” The Thing around Your Neck, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, pp. 74-94.

The location of an online work should include a URL.

Wheelis, Mark. "Investigating Disease Outbreaks Under a Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 6, no. 6, 2000, pp. 595-600, wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/6/6/00-0607_article. Accessed 8 Feb. 2009.

A physical object that you experienced firsthand should identify the place of location.

Matisse, Henri. The Swimming Pool. 1952, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Optional elements

The eighth edition is designed to be as streamlined as possible. The author should include any information that helps readers easily identify the source, without including unnecessary information that may be distracting. The following is a list of select optional elements that should be part of a documented source at the writer’s discretion.

Date of original publication:

If a source has been published on more than one date, the writer may want to include both dates if it will provide the reader with necessary or helpful information.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine.1984. Perennial-Harper, 1993.

City of publication:

The seventh edition handbook required the city in which a publisher is located, but the eighth edition states that this is only necessary in particular instances, such as in a work published before 1900. Since pre-1900 works were usually associated with the city in which they were published, your documentation may substitute the city name for the publisher’s name.

Thoreau, Henry David. Excursions. Boston, 1863.

Date of access:

When you cite an online source, the MLA Handbook recommends including a date of access on which you accessed the material, since an online work may change or move at any time.

Bernstein, Mark. "10 Tips on Writing the Living Web." A List Apart: For People Who Make Websites, 16 Aug. 2002, alistapart.com/article/writeliving. Accessed 4 May 2009.

URLs:

As mentioned above, while the eighth edition recommends including URLs when you cite online sources, you should always check with your instructor or editor and include URLs at their discretion.

DOIs:

A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source is locatable, even if the URL changes. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.

Alonso, Alvaro, and Julio A. Camargo. "Toxicity of Nitrite to Three Species of Freshwater Invertebrates." Environmental Toxicology, vol. 21, no. 1, 3 Feb. 2006, pp. 90-94. Wiley Online Library, doi: 10.1002/tox.20155.

Creating in-text citations using the eighth edition

The in-text citation is a brief reference within your text that indicates the source you consulted. It should properly attribute any ideas, paraphrases, or direct quotations to your source, and should direct readers to the entry in the list of works cited. For the most part, an in-text citation is the author’s name and page number (or just the page number, if the author is named in the sentence) in parentheses:

Imperialism is “the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory” (Said 9).

or

According to Edward W. Said, imperialism is defined by “the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory” (9).

Work Cited

Said, Edward W.Culture and Imperialism. Knopf, 1994.

When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference, like so (00:02:15-00:02:35).

Again, your goal is to attribute your source and provide your reader with a reference without interrupting your text. Your readers should be able to follow the flow of your argument without becoming distracted by extra information.

Final thoughts about the eighth edition

The current MLA guidelines teach you a widely applicable skill. Once you become familiar with the core elements that should be included in each entry in the Works Cited list, you will be able to create documentation for any type of source. While the handbook still includes helpful examples that you may use as guidelines, you will not need to consult it every time you need to figure out how to cite a source you’ve never used before. If you include the core elements, in the proper order, using consistent punctuation, you will be fully equipped to create a list of works cited on your own.

How to Cite the Purdue OWL in MLA

Entire Website

The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2016.

Individual Resources

Contributors' names and the last edited date can be found in the orange boxes at the top of every page on the OWL.

Contributors' names. "Title of Resource." The Purdue OWL, Purdue U Writing Lab, Last edited date.

 

Russell, Tony, et al. "MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL, Purdue U Writing Lab, 2 Aug. 2016.

The Complete Guide to MLA & Citations

What You’ll Find on This Guide:

This page provides an in-depth overview of MLA format. It includes information related to MLA citations, plagiarism, proper formatting for in-text and regular citations, and examples of citations for many different types of sources.

Looking for APA? Check out Citation Machine’s guide on APA format.

How to Be a Responsible Researcher or Scholar:

Putting together a research project involves searching for information, disseminating and analyzing information, collecting information, and repurposing information. Being a responsible researcher requires keeping track of the sources that were used to help develop your research project, sharing the information you borrowed in an ethical way, and giving credit to the authors of the sources you used. Doing all of these things prevents plagiarism.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the act of using others’ information without giving credit or acknowledging them. There are many examples of plagiarism. Completely copying another individual’s work without providing credit to the original author is a very blatant example of plagiarism. Plagiarism also occurs when another individual’s idea or concept is passed off as your own. Changing or modifying quotes, text, or any work of another individual is also plagiarism. Believe it or not, you can even plagiarize yourself! Re-using a project or paper from another class or time and saying that it is new is plagiarism. One way to prevent plagiarism is to add citations in your project where appropriate.

What is a Citation?

A citation shows the reader or viewer of your project where you found your information. Citations are included in the body of a project when you add a quote into your project. Citations are also included in the body when you’re paraphrasing another individual’s information. These citations that are found in the body of a research paper are called in-text, or parenthetical citations. These citations are found directly after the information that was borrowed and are very brief in order to avoid becoming distracted while reading a project. Included in these brief citations is usually just the last name of the author and a page number or the year published. Scroll down below for an in-depth explanation and examples of in-text and parenthetical citations.

In-text and parenthetical citations provide us with a brief idea as to where you found your information, it doesn't include the title and other components. Look on the last page or part of a research project, where complete citations can be found in their entirety.

Complete citations are found on what is called an MLA Works Cited page, which is sometimes called a bibliography. All sources that were used to develop your research project are found on the Works Cited page. Complete citations are created for any quotes or paraphrased information used in the text, but also any sources that helped you develop your research project. Included in complete citations is the author’s name, the title, publisher, year published, page numbers, URLs, and a few other pieces of information.

Looking to create your citations in just a few clicks? Try Citation Machine’s MLA formatter! The Citation Machine MLA generator, which is an MLA citation website, will create all of your citations in just a few clicks. Click here to see more across the site. Also, check out this article to see MLA citation in the news.

Why Does it Matter?

Citing your sources is an extremely important component of your research project. It shows that you’re a responsible researcher. It also shows that you were able to locate appropriate and reputable sources that helped back up your thesis or claim. In addition, if your work ends up being posted online or in print, there is a chance that others will use your research project in their own work!

Scroll down to find directions on how to create citations.

How the Modern Language Association Helps You Become a Responsible Researcher

What is MLA format?

The Modern Language Association is an organization that was created to develop guidelines on everything language and literature related. They have guidelines on proper grammar usage and research paper layouts. In addition, they have English and foreign language committees, numerous books and journal publications, and an annual conference.

What are citations?

The Modern Language Association is responsible for creating standards and guidelines on how to properly cite sources to prevent plagiarism. Their style is most often used when writing papers and citing sources in the liberal arts and humanities fields. Liberal arts is a broad term used to describe a range of subjects including the humanities, formal sciences such as mathematics and statistics, natural sciences such as biology and astronomy, and social science such as geography, economics, history, and others. The humanities specifically focuses on subjects related to languages, art, philosophy, religion, music, theater, literature, and ethics.

Believe it or not, there are thousands of other types of citation styles. While this citation style is most often used for the liberal arts and humanities fields, many other subjects, professors, and schools prefer citations and papers to be styled in MLA format.

Why do we use this style?

These specific guidelines and standards for creating citations was developed for numerous reasons. When scholars and researchers in the literature, language, and numerous other fields all cite their sources in the same manner, it makes it easier for readers to look at a citation and recognize and understand the different components of a source. From looking at a citation, we can see who the author is, the title of the source, when it was published, and other identifiable pieces of information.

Imagine how difficult it would be to understand the various components of a source if we didn’t all follow the same guidelines! Not only would it make it difficult to understand the source that was used, but it would also make it difficult for readers to locate it themselves. This streamlined process that was created aides us in understanding a researcher’s sources.

How is the new version different than previous versions?

This citation style has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. Currently in its 8th edition, the 8th version is a citation style that is much different than the previous formatting style.

In the 7th version, which is the format, or structure, that was previously used, researchers and scholars found it grueling to put their citations together. Why? Each source used a different citation structure. Researchers and scholars were required to look up the citation format that matched the type of source they used. So, if a person used a book, a website, a journal article, a newspaper article, and an e-book, all in one research project, they were required to look up how to cite each one of those sources because each was structured differently.

Now, with the new version of MLA formatting, which is version 8, all source types use the same citation structure. The Modern Language Association enacted this new format due to the many new and innovative ways of obtaining information. We are no longer receiving information through traditional means, such as books, websites, and articles. We can now obtain information through apps, advertisements, Tweets, other social media posts, and many other creative ways. To make the process of creating citations easier for researchers and scholars, the Modern Language Association decided to have one MLA citing format, which works for all source types.

Other changes were made as well. This includes:

  • removing http:// and https:// from URLs.
  • not including the city where a source was published or the name of the publisher from some source types (such as newspapers).
  • the ability to use a screen name or username in place of an author’s full name.
  • using the abbreviations vol. and no., for volume and number, when including information from a periodical.

A Deeper Look at Citations

What do they look like?

There are two types of citations. There are regular or complete citations, which are found at the end of research projects. These citations are usually listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last names and include all of the information necessary for readers to be able to locate the source themselves.

Regular citations are generally placed in this MLA citation format:

Last name of the author, First name of the author. “Source’s Title.” Container’s Title, roles and names of any other individuals who helped contribute to the source, the version of the source, any numbers associated with the source, the name of the publisher, the date the source was published, the location where individuals can find the source themselves (usually a URL or page range).

There are times when additional information is added into the regular citation.

Not sure how to transfer the information from your source into your citation? Confused about the term, “containers?” See below for information and complete explanations of each component of the citation.

The other type of citation, called an “in text citation,” is included in the main part, or body, of a project when a researcher uses a quote or paraphrases information from another source. See the next section to find out how to create in text citations.

What are in text and parenthetical citations?

As stated above, in text citations, also called parenthetical citations, are included in the main part of a project when using a quote or paraphrasing a piece of information from another source. We include these types of citations in the body of a project for readers to quickly gain an idea as to where we found the information.

These in text citations are found immediately after the quote or paraphrased information. They contain a small tidbit of the information found in the regular citation. The regular, or complete, citation is located at the end of a project.

Here’s what a typical in text or parenthetical citation looks like:

Throughout the novel, the mother uses a vast amount of Chinese wisdom to explain the world and people’s temperaments. She states, “each person is made of five elements….Too much fire and you have a bad temper...too little wood and you bent too quickly...too much water and you flowed in too many directions” (Tan 31).

This specific in text citation, (Tan 31), is included so that the reader sees that we are quoting something from page 31 in Tan’s book. The complete, regular citation isn’t included in the main part of the project because it would be too distracting for the reader. We want them to focus on our work and research, not necessarily our sources.

If the reader would like to see the source’s full information, and possibly locate the source themselves, they can refer to the last part of the project to find the regular citation.

The regular citation, at the end of the project looks like this:

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. Penguin, 1989, p. 31.

If your direct quote or paraphrase comes from a source that does not have page numbers, it is acceptable to place a paragraph number (use the abbreviation par. or pars.), sections (sec. or secs.), or chapters (ch. or chs.). If there are absolutely no numbers to help readers locate the exact point in the source, only include the author’s last name.

More About Quotations and How to Cite a Quote:

  • Use quotes from outside sources to help illustrate and expand on your own points, but the majority of your paper should be your own writing and ideas.
  • Include the quote exactly as you found it. It is okay to pull and use only certain words or phrases from the quote, but keep the words (spelling and capitalization) and punctuation the same.
  • It is acceptable to break up a direct quote with your own writing
  • The entire paper should be double spaced, including quotes.

Example: Dorothy stated, “Toto,” then looked up and took in her surroundings, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore“ (Wizard of Oz).

  • If the quote is longer than four lines, it is necessary to make a block quote. Block quotes show the reader that they are about to read a lengthy amount of text from another source.
    • Start the quote on the next line, half an inch in from the left margin
    • Do not use any indents at the beginning of the block quote
    • Only use quotation marks if there are quotation marks present in the source
    • If there is more than one paragraph in the block quote, start the next paragraph with the same half inch indent
    • Add your in-text citation at the end of the block quote

Example:

While his parents sat there in surprise, Colton went onto say

“Cause I could see you,” Colon said matter-of-factly. “I went up and out of my body and I was looking down and I could see the doctor working on my body. And I saw you and Mommy. You were in a little room by yourself, praying; and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone” (Burpo xxi).

Confused about whether footnotes and endnotes should be used?

Footnotes and endnotes are not used in this style. Use in-text, or parenthetical citations, in the body of your work. In addition, create full, or regular citations, and place them at the end of your project on the Works Cited list.

If you need help with in text and parenthetical citations, Citation Machine can help. Citation Machine’s MLA citation generator is simple and easy to use!

Specific Components of a Citation

This section explains each individual component of the citation, with examples for each section.

Name of the Author

The author’s name is usually the first item listed in the citation. Author names start with the last name, then a comma is added, and then the author’s first name (and middle name if applicable) is at the end. A period closes this information.

Here are two examples of how an author’s name can be listed in a citation:

Twain, Mark.
Poe, Edgar Allan.

Wondering how to format the author’s name when there are two authors working jointly on a source? When there are two authors that work together on a source, the author names are placed in the order in which they appear on the source. Place their names in this format:

First listed author’s Last Name, First name, and Second author’s First Name Last Name.

Here are two examples of how to cite two authors:

Clifton, Mark, and Frank Riley.
Paxton, Roberta J., and Michael Jacob Fox.

There are many times when three or more authors work together on a source. This happens often with journal articles, edited books, and textbooks.

To cite a source with three or more authors, place the information in this format:

First listed author’s Last name, First name, et al.

As you can see, only include the first author’s name. The other authors are accounted for by using et al. In Latin, et al. is translated to “and others.” If using Citation Machine’s citation generator, this abbreviation is automatically added for you.

Here’s an example of a citation for three or more authors:

Warner, Ralph, et al. How to Buy a House in California. Edited by Alayna Schroeder, 12th ed., Nolo, 2009.

Is there no author listed on your source? If so, in MLA formatting, exclude the author’s information from the citation and begin the citation with the title of the source.

Was the source found on social media, such as a tweet, Reddit, or Instagram post? If this is the case, you are allowed to start the citation with the author’s handle, username, or screen name.

Here is an example of how to cite a tweet:

@CarlaHayden. “I’m so honored to talk about digital access at @UMBCHumanities. We want to share the @libraryofcongress collection.” Twitter, 13 Apr. 2017, 6:04 p.m., twitter.com/LibnOfCongress/status/852643691802091521.

While most citations begin with the name of the author, they do not necessarily have to. Quite often, sources are compiled by editors. Or, your source may be done by a performer or composer. If your project focuses on someone other than the author, it is acceptable to place that person’s name first in the citation. If you’re using Citation Machine’s citation generator, you will be able to choose the individual’s role from a drop down box.

For example, let’s say that in your research project, you focus on Leonardo DiCaprio’s performances as an actor. You’re quoting a line from the movie, Titanic, in your project, and you’re creating a complete citation for it in the Works Cited list.

It is acceptable to show the reader that you’re focusing on Leonardo DiCaprio’s work by citing it like this in the MLA Works Cited list:

DiCaprio, Leonardo, performer. Titanic. Directed by James Cameron. Paramount, 1997.

Notice that when citing an individual other than the author, place the individual’s role after their name. In this case, Leonardo DiCaprio is the performer.

This is often done with edited books, too. Place the editor’s name first (in reverse order), add a comma, and then add the word editor.

If you’re still confused about how to place the authors together in a citation, Citation Machine can help! Our website is easy to use and will create your citations in just a few clicks!

Titles and Containers

The titles are written as they are found on the source, and in title form, meaning the important words start with a capital.

Here’s an example of a title written properly:

Practical Digital Libraries: Books, Bytes, and Bucks.

Wondering whether to place your title in italics or quotation marks? It depends on whether the source sits by itself or not. If the source stands alone, meaning that it is an independent source, place the title in italics. If the title is part of a larger whole, place the title of the source in quotation marks and the source it sits in, in italics.

When citing full books, movies, websites, or albums in their entirety, these titles are written in italics.

However, when citing part of a source, such as an article on a website, a chapter in a book, a song on an album, or an article in a scholarly journal, the part is written with quotation marks and then the titles of the sources that they are found in are written in italics.

Here are some examples to help you understand how to format titles and their containers.

To cite Pink Floyd’s entire album, The Wall, cite it as this:

Pink Floyd. The Wall. Columbia, 1979.

To cite one of the songs on Pink Floyd’s album, cite it as this:

Pink Floyd. “Another Brick in the Wall (Part I).” The Wall, Columbia, 1979, track 3.

To cite a fairy tale book in its entirety, cite it as this:

Colfer, Chris. The Land of Stories. Little Brown, 2016.

To cite a specific story, or chapter, in the book, it would be cited as this:

Colfer, Chris. “Little Red Riding Hood.” The Land of Stories, Little Brown, 2016, pp. 58-65.

More About Containers:

From the section above, you can see that titles can stand alone or they can sit in a container. Many times, sources can sit in more than one container. Wondering how? When citing an article in a scholarly journal, the first container is the journal. The second container? It’s the database that the scholarly journal is found in. It is important to account for all containers, so that readers are able to locate the exact source themselves.

When citing a television episode, the first container is the name of the show and the second container is the name of the service that it could be streaming on, such as Netflix.

If your source sits in more than one container, the information about the second container is found at the end of the citation.

Use the following format to cite your source with multiple containers:

Last name of the author, First name of the author. “Source’s Title.” Container’s Title, roles and names of any other individuals who helped contribute to the source, the version of the source, any numbers associated with the source, the name of the publisher, the date the source was published, the location where individuals can find the source themselves (usually a URL or page range). Title of Second Container, roles and names of any other contributors, the version of the second container, any numbers associated with the second container, the name of the second container’s publisher, the date the second container was published, location.

If the source has more than two containers, add on another full other section at the end for each container.

Not all of the fields in the citation format above need to be included in your citation. In fact, many of these fields will most likely be omitted from your citations. Only include the elements that will help your readers locate the source themselves.

Here is an example of a citation for a scholarly journal article found on a database. This source has two containers, the journal itself is one container, and the site it sits on is the other.

Zanetti, Francois. “Curing with Machine: Medical Electricity in Eighteenth-Century Paris.” Technology and Culture, vol. 54, no. 3, July 2013, pp. 503-530. Project Muse, muse.jhu.edu/article/520280.

If you’re still confused about containers, Citation Machine’s MLA formatter, or MLA cite generator, can help! MLA citing is easier when using Citation Machine’s website.

Other contributors

Many sources have people, besides the author, who contribute to the source. If your research project focuses on an additional individual besides the author, or you feel as though including other contributors will help the reader locate the source themselves, include their names in the citation.

To include another individual in the citation, after the title, place the role of the individual, the word by, and then their name in standard order.

If the name of the contributor comes after a period, capitalize the first letter in the role of the individual. If it comes after a comma, the first letter in the role of the individual is lowercased.

Here’s an example of a citation for a children’s book with the name of the illustrator included.

Rubin, Adam. Dragons Love Tacos. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, Penguin, 2012.

The names of editors, directors, performers, translators, illustrators, and narrators can often be found in this part of the citation.

Versions

If the source that you’re citing states that it is a specific version or edition, this information is placed in the “versions” section of the citation.

When including a numbered edition, do not type out the number, use the numeral. Also, abbreviate the word edition to ed.

Here is an example of a citation with a specific edition:

Koger, Gregory. “Filibustering and Parties in the Modern State.” Congress Reconsidered, edited by Lawrence C. Dodd and Bruce I. Oppenheimer, 10th ed., CQ Press, 2013, pp. 221-236. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=b7gkLlSEeqwC&lpg=PP1&dq=10th%20edition&pg=PR6#v=onepage&q=10th%20edition&f=false.

Numbers

Many sources have numbers associated with them. If you see a number, different than the date, page numbers, or editions, include this information in the “numbers” section of the citation. This includes volume and/or issue numbers (use the abbreviations vol. and no.), episode numbers, track numbers, or any other numbers that will help readers identify the specific source that you used. Do not include ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers) in the citation.

Publishers

In MLA format citing, it is important to include the name of the publisher (the organization that created or published the source), so that readers can locate the exact source themselves.

Include publishers for all sources except for periodicals. Also, for websites, exclude this information when the name of the publisher matches the name of the website. Furthermore, the name of the publisher is often excluded from the citation for second containers, since the publisher of the second container is not necessarily responsible for the creation or production of the source’s content.

Publication dates

Publication dates are extremely important to include in citations. They allow the reader to understand when sources were published. They are also used when readers are attempting to locate the source themselves.

Dates can be written in one of two ways. Researchers can write dates as:

Day Mo. Year
OR
Mo. Day, Year

Whichever format you decide to use, use the same format for all of your citations. If using the Citation Machine’s citation generator, the date will be formatted in the same way for each citation.

While it isn’t necessary to include the full date for all source citations, use the amount of information that makes the most sense to help your readers understand and locate the source themselves.

Wondering what to do when your source has more than one date? Use the date that is most applicable to your research.

Location

The location generally refers to the place where the readers can find the source. This includes page ranges, URLs, DOI numbers, track numbers, disc numbers, or even cities and towns.

When MLA citing websites, make sure to remove the beginning of the URL (http:// or https://) as it is not necessary to include this information.

For page numbers, when citing a source that sits on only one page, use p. Example: p. 6.
When citing a source that has a page range, use pp. and then add the page numbers. Example: pp. 24-38.

Since the location is the final piece of the citation, place a period at the end.

Looking for an online tool to do the work for you? Citation Machine can help! Our site is simple (and fun!) to use.

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Common Citation Examples:

ALL sources use this format:

Last name of the author, First name of the author. “Source’s Title.” Container’s Title, roles and names of any other individuals who helped contribute to the source, the version of the source, any numbers associated with the source, the name of the publisher, the date the source was published, the location where individuals can find the source themselves (usually a URL or page range). *Title of Second Container, roles and names of any other contributors, the version of the second container, any numbers associated with the second container, the name of the second container’s publisher, the date the second container was published, location.

*If the source does not have a second container, omit this last part of the citation.

Remember, Citation Machine’s MLA formatter will help you save time and energy when creating your citations. Check out our MLA Citation Machine page to learn more.

Books:

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. Scholastic, 2008.

Chapter in an Edited Book:

Khan, Maryam. “Co-branding in the Restaurant Industry.” Managing Tourism and Hospitality Services: Theory and International Application. Edited by B. Prideaux et al., CABI, 2005, pp. 73-82.

Print Scholarly Journal Articles:

Zak, Elizabeth. “Do You Believe in Magic? Exploring the Conceptualization of Augmented Reality and its Implications for the User in the Field of Library and Information Science.” Information Technology & Libraries, vol. 33, no. 3, 2014, pp. 23-50.

Online Scholarly Journal Articles:

Kuzuhara, Kenji, et al. “Injuries in Japanese Mini-Basketball Players During Practices and Games.” Journal of Athletic Training, vol. 51. no. 2, Dec. 2016, p. 1022. Gale Health Reference Center Academic, i.ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=HRCA&sw=w&u=nypl&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA484460772&it=r&asid=91b1a34dda62a32f4cd82c768e8a6a97.

How to Cite a Website:

When citing a website, individuals are often actually citing a specific page on a website. They’re not actually citing the entire website.

Here is the most common way to cite a page on a website:

  • Start the citation with the name of the author who wrote the information on the page. If there isn’t an author listed, do not include this information in the citation. Start the citation with the title.
  • The title of the individual page is placed in quotation marks, followed by a period.
  • Next, place the name of the website in italics, followed by a comma.
  • If the name of the publisher matches the name of the author or the name of the title, do not include the publisher’s information in the citation.
  • The date the page or website was published comes next.
  • End the citation with the URL. When including the URL, remove http:// and https:// from the URL. Since most websites begin with this prefix, it is not necessary to include it in the citation.

Last name, First name of author. “Title of Web Page.” Title of Website, Publisher, Date published, URL.

Rothfeld, Lindsay. “Smarter Education: The Rise of Big Data in the Classroom.” Mashable, 3 Sept. 2014, mashable.com/2014/09/03/education-data-video/#hViqdPbFbgqH.

(When citing websites, remember to remove http:// and https:// from the URL.)

Print Newspaper Articles:

Bloomgarden-Smoke, Kara. “Medium Cool.” New York Observer, 2 Mar. 2015, pp. 14-17.

Online Newspaper Articles:

Skiba, Katherine. “Obama To Hold First Public Event Since Leaving Office in Chicago on Monday.” Los Angeles Times, 24 Apr. 2017, www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-obama-speech-20170424-story.html.

Television Shows:

“Three Turkeys.” Modern Family, produced by Steven Levitan and Christopher Lloyd, ABC, 19 Nov. 2014.

Movies:

Home Alone. Performance by Macaulay Culkin, directed by Chris Columbus, 20th Century Fox, 1990.

YouTube Videos:

DJ Mag. “Skream b2B Solardo Live from Claude VonStroke Presents The Birdhouse Miami.” YouTube, 29 Mar. 2017, youtu.be/4Q448x-LHGg.

Tweets:

Gates, Melinda. “Today, Bill and I were deeply humbled to accept France’s Legion of Honour award on behalf of all our foundation’s partners and grantees.” Twitter, 21 Apr. 2017, 2:36 p.m., twitter.com/melindagates/status/855535625713459200.

How to Cite an Image:

There are a variety of ways to cite an image. This section will show how to cite a digital image found on a website and an image in print

How to cite a digital image:

Use this structure to cite a digital image:

Last name, First name of the creator (if available). “Title or Description of the Image*. Title of the Website, Publisher**, Date published, URL.

*if the digital image does not have an official title, create a brief description. Do not place the description in quotation marks or italics. In addition, only capitalize the first letter in the description and any proper nouns.
**If the name of the publisher is the same as the author or the same name as the website, do not include the publisher in the citation.

Example:

“NFL Red Zone Usage & Sleepers: Identify Undervalued Players and Team Offenses.” RotoBaller, www.rotoballer.com/nfl-fantasy-football-cheat-sheet-draft-kit?src=bar.

Wondering how to cite an image found through a search engine, such as Google? Head to the site where the image “lives,” by clicking on the link that leads you to the website. Cite the image using the information from the original site.

How to cite an image in print:

Last name, First name of the creator (if available). "Title" or Description of the Image*. Title of the Container, such as a the Book Title, Magazine Title, etc., Publisher**, Date published, page or page range.

*if the digital image does not have an official title, create a brief description. Do not place the description in quotation marks or italics. In addition, only capitalize the first letter in the description and any proper nouns.

**If the name of the publisher is the same as the author or the same name as the website, do not include the publisher in the citation.

Example:

Photograph of Kate Middleton. Metro New York, 19 July 2017, p.17.

How to Cite a Magazine in Print:

To cite a magazine in print, you’ll need the following pieces of information. They can be found on the cover of the magazine and on the article itself:

  • The name of the magazine
  • The date the magazine was published
  • The title of the magazine article
  • The name of the author of the article
  • The page or page range the article is found on.

On the cover of most magazines, you can find the title of the magazine as well as the date the magazine was published. On the article itself, you can find the name of the article’s author(s), the title of the article, and the page or page range that the article is found on.

If the article appears on nonconsecutive pages, include the page number for the first page the article is found on, and then add a plus sign after it. Example: 61+

Place the information in this format:

Last name, First name of the Article’s Author. “Title of the Article.” Title of the Magazine, Date published, page range.

Example for the print magazine article above:

Gopnik, Adam. “A New Man: Ernest Hemingway, Revised and Revisited.” The New Yorker, 3 July 2017, pp. 61-66.

How to Cite an Essay

An essay is an analytic writing piece that is generally short in length (compared to books and journal articles) and focuses on a specific topic or subject. Citing an essay is similar to citing a chapter in a book or a story in an anthology. Include the name of the individual author or the group of authors, the title of the essay (placed in quotation marks), the title of the book, collection, or site the essay is found on (in italics), the name of the editor (if there is one), the volume and issue number (if they are available), the publication date, and the location. The location can be either a page range or a URL.

Here is an MLA formatting example of how to cite an essay:

Hasen, Richard L. “Race or Party? How Courts Should Think About Republican Efforts to Make it Harder to Vote in North Carolina and Elsewhere.” Harvard Law Review Forum, vol. 125, no. 58, 7 Jan. 2014, harvardlawreview.org/2014/01/race-or-party-how-courts-should-think-about-republican-efforts-to-make-it-harder-to-vote-in-north-carolina-and-elsewhere/.

Click here for additional information on essays

How to Cite an Interview:

To cite interviews:

  • Place the name of the person being interviewed at the beginning of the citation, in the author’s position
  • The title or description of the interview comes next. If there isn’t a formal title, only use the word Interview as the title and do not place it in quotation marks or italics.
  • If found online or in a book, include the title of the website or book after the title.
  • After the title, it is acceptable to include the name of the interviewer. Include this information especially if it will help readers locate the interview themselves or if it’s relevant to the research paper.
  • Include the publisher if it is a published interview and if it differs from any other information already found in the citation.
  • Include the date that the interview was either published or the date that the interview occurred.
  • If found online, include the URL. Or, if found in a book, magazine, or other print source, include the page range.

Here are two examples:

Gutman, Dan. “Interview with Children’s Author Dan Gutman.” The Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2011, www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/08/AR2011030805468.html.

Lin, Brenda. Interview. By Michele Kirschenbaum. 17 July 2017.

How to Cite a PDF:

Check to see if the the PDF is written by an individual, set of authors, or an organization or company. If it is not written by an individual or a set of authors, use the name of the organization or company responsible for creating the PDF in place of the author’s name. Continue with the title of the PDF, version (if there are different versions available), the publisher (only include if the name of the publisher is different than the name of the author or the title), the publication date, and the location (usually a URL if found online).

Notice that in the example below, the name of the publisher (The American Podiatric Medical Association) is omitted since the name of the publisher is the same name as the author.

MLA format example:

American Podiatric Medical Association. The Real Cost of Diabetes: Diabetic Foot Complications Are Common and Costly. apma.files.cms-plus.com/ProductPDFs/APMA_TodaysPodiatrist_Infographic_8.5x11.pdf.

Click here for more on PDFs

How to Cite a Textbook in Print:

To cite a full textbook in print, you’ll need to find the following pieces of information:

  • The name of the author(s) or editor(s)
  • The title of the textbook, including any subtitles
  • The version of the textbook (such as a numbered edition or revised edition)
  • The name of the publisher
  • The year the textbook was published

Place the pieces of information in this format:

Last name, First name of the author or Last name, First name, editor. Title of the Textbook. Version, Publisher, Year published.

If the textbook was compiled by an editor, use this format at the beginning of the citation:

Last name, First name, editor.

Examples of how to cite a textbook in print:

Lilly, Leonard S. Braunwald’s Heart Disease: Review and Assessment. 9th ed., Elsevier Saunders, 2012.

Cherny, Nathan, et al., editors. Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine. 5th ed., Oxford UP, 2015.

How to Cite a Chapter from a Textbook in Print:

To cite an individual chapter, you’ll need to find the following pieces of information:

  • The name of the author(s) of the individual chapter or section
  • The title of the individual chapter or section
  • The title of the textbook
  • The name of the editors of the textbook
  • The version of the textbook (such as a numbered edition or a revised edition)
  • The name of the publisher
  • The year the textbook was published

Place the pieces of information in this format:

Last name, First name of the chapter author. “Title of the chapter or section.” Title of the Textbook, edited by First name Last name of editor, version, Publisher, Year published, page or page range.

Example of how to cite a chapter from a textbook in print:

Riley, Simon C., and Michael J. Murphy. “Student Choice in the Undergraduate Curriculum: Student-Selected Components.” Oxford Textbook of Medical Education, edited by Kieran Walsh, Oxford UP, pp. 50-63.

How to Cite a Survey

Surveys can be found online or in print. Find the format below that matches the type of survey you’re attempting to cite.

To cite a survey found on a website, follow this structure:

Last name, First name of survey’s creator(s) OR organization responsible for its creation. “Title of the Survey.” Title of the Website, Publisher (if different than the author or website title), Publication date, URL.

Example:

International Food Information Council Foundation. “Food Decision 2016: Food & Health Survey.” Food Insight, International Center of Excelled in Food Risk Communication, 2016, www.foodinsight.org/sites/default/files/2016-Food-and-Health-Survey-Report_%20FINAL_0.pdf.

To cite a survey found in print, follow this structure:

Last name, First name of survey’s creator(s) OR organization responsible for its creation. “Title of Survey.” Title of Publication, Publisher (if different than the author or website title), Publication date, page or page range that survey is found on.

Don’t see your source type on this guide? Citation Machine’s citation generator can create your citations for you! Our website will help you develop your works cited page and in text and parenthetical citations in just a few clicks.

Looking for APA? Check out Citation Machine’s guide on APA format.

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How to Format and Write a Paper

When it comes to formatting your paper or essay for academic purposes, there are specific guidelines to follow. The section that follows will answer the following questions: How to format an MLA paper, How to create papers, and How to write in MLA format. If you’re trying to learn how to format your essay, this section will help you too.

  • Use paper that is 8½-by-11 inch in size. This is the standard size for copier and printer paper
  • Use high quality paper
  • Your research paper or essay should have a one-inch margin on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of the paper
  • While most word processors automatically format your paper to have one-inch margins, you can check or modify the margins of your paper by going to the “Page setup” section of your word processor. Click here for more on margins.

Which font is acceptable to use?

  • Use an easily readable font, specifically one that allows readers to see the difference between regular and italicized letters.
  • Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica are recommended options
  • Use 12 point size font

Should I double space the paper, including citations?

  • Double space the entire paper
  • There should be a double space between each piece of information in the heading
  • Place a double space between the heading and the title
  • Place a double space between the title and the beginning of the essay
  • The Works Cited page should be double spaced as well. All citations are double spaced

Justification & Punctuation

  • Text should be left-justified, meaning that the text is aligned, or lies flush, against the left margin
  • New paragraphs should be indented half an inch from the left margin
    • Indents signal to the reader that a new concept or idea is about to begin
    • Use the “tab” button on your keyboard to create an indent
  • Add one space after all punctuation marks

Heading & Title

  • Include a proper heading and title
    • The heading should include the following, on separate lines, starting one inch from the top and left margins:
      • Your full name
      • Your teacher or professor’s name
      • The course number
      • Date
        • Dates in the heading and the body of your essay should be consistent. Use the same format, either Day Month Year or Month Day, Year throughout the entire paper
        • Examples: 27 July 2017 or July 27, 2017
    • The title should be underneath the heading, centered in the middle of the page, without bold, underlined, italicized, or all capital letters.

Page numbers

  • Number all pages, including the Works Cited page
    • Place page numbers in the top right corner, half an inch from the top margin and one inch from the right margin.
    • Include your last name to the left of the page number
      Example: Jacobson 4

Works Cited

  • The Works Cited list should be at the end of the paper, on its own page.
    • If a citation flows onto the second line, indent it in half an inch from the left margin (called a hanging indent).
    • For more information on the Works Cited list, refer to “How to Make a Works Cited Page,” which is found below.

How to Create a Title Page:

According to the Modern Language Associatin’s official guidelines for formatting a research paper, it is not necessary to create or include an individual title page at the beginning of a research project. Instead, follow the directions above, under “Heading & Title,” to create a proper heading. This heading is featured at the top of the first page of the research paper or research assignment.

If your instructor or professor does in fact require or ask for a title page, follow the directions that you are given. They should provide you with the information needed to create a separate, individual title page. If they do not provide you with instructions, and you are left to create it at your own discretion, use the header information above to help you develop your research paper title page. You may want to include other information, such as the name of your school or university.

How to Make a Works Cited Page:

The MLA Works Cited page is generally found at the end of a research paper or project. It contains a list of all of the citations of sources used for the research project. Follow these directions to format the Works Cited list to match the Modern Language Association’s guidelines.

  • The Works Cited list has its own page, at the end of a research project
  • Include the same running head as the rest of the project (Your last name and then the page number). The Works Cited List has the final page number for the project.
  • Name the page “Works Cited,” unless your list only includes one citation. In that case, title it as “Work Cited.”
  • The title of the page (either Works Cited or Work Cited) is placed one inch from the top of the page, centered in the middle of the document.
  • Double space the entire document, even between the title of the page and the first citation.
  • Citations are listed in alphabetical order by the first word in the citation (usually the last name of the author or the first word in the title if the citation does not include the author’s name. Ignore A, An, and The if the title begins with these words.)
  • All citations begin flush against the left margin. If the citation is long in length, and rolls onto a second or third line, the lines below the first line are indented half an inch from the left margin. This is called a “hanging indent.” The purpose of a hanging indent is to make the citations easier to read.

Wai-Chung, Ho. “Political Influences on Curriculum Content and Musical Meaning: Hong Kong Secondary Music Education, 1949-1997.” Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, vol. 22, no. 1, 1 Oct. 2000, pp. 5-25. Periodicals Index Online, search-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/pio/docview/1297849364/citation/6B70D633F50C4EA0PQ/78?accountid=35635.

  • Works Cited pages can be longer than one page. Use as many pages as necessary.