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Citation and Style Guides: MLA

A quick guide to common citation styles.

Style Guide

For many of your style and citation questions, it's best to go straight to the source! Find a copy of the MLA style manual at the Help Desk or in the stacks.

In-Text Citations

Parenthetical citations typically go at the end of a sentence that quote, paraphrases, or refers to a source. Closing punctuation for that sentence goes after the citation.

Each item cited in your text should have a corresponding item in your bibliography.

Standard citation
List the author's last name followed by a page number: (Barron 194).

Author has more than one work in your bibliography?
Add a short title to your citation: (Barron, "Redefining" 194).

Source has no author?
Use a short form of the title: (Reading at Risk 3)

Source has no page numbers?
Exclude page numbers or use a marker that is prominent in the text (like paragraph numbers, section numbers, time stamps, chapter numbers, line numbers, etc): (Chan, par. 41), (sec. 3), "Hush" 00:03:16-17), (ch. 17), ("Ode" 1-3), etc.

Citing more than one source in a single sentence?
Separate the citations with a semicolon: (Baron 194; Jacobs 55).

Already mentioned the author's name in the sentence?
Omit the author's name from the citation: (194).

Citing the Bible?
Use the title, followed by abbreviated book name, followed by chapter and verse separated by a period: (Bible, Ezek. 1.5-10).

Citing Shakespeare?
Use the play's abbreviated title followed by act, scene, and line numbers separated by periods: (Mac. 1.5.17).

Attribution

Most of this guide was taken from Carleton College's GouldGuide on MLA Citation.  (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Basic Citation Patterns in MLA

Format your paper so that each item in your bibliography begins with a hanging indent, and do not put extra spaces between entries in your bibliography.

Each bibliographic entry in MLA style is designed on the same principles, with very little variation from publication type to publication type.

Each cited work has common elements listed in the following order with the punctuation listed on this chart. Works may be published as single units, but many are held in "Containers" (like an essay or poem in a book, or an episode of a TV show, or an article in a newspaper). If information about an element isn't available, skip the element and move to the next.

image of citation elements

Here are some useful examples:

Using the Basic Elements

Authors are understood very broadly. If you are concentrating on the work of a particular actor in a movie, that actor is the Author, and you add a descriptive label like so: Pitt, Brad, performer. If you have 3 or more authors, list the first author followed by "et al."

Titles of sources are italicized if the source is a complete thing unto itself (a book, play, or movie). Titles are enclosed in quotation marks if the source is part of a larger published thing (a poem in a collection, an episode of a TV show, an article in a journal). For this reason, the title of a container is nearly always italicized. If there is no title, add a brief description of the work but do not use italics or quotation marks.

Other Contributors can be noted if they are important to your work. Precede each name or group of names with a description such as "adapted by" or "edited by." If the person's role must be in noun form, do so followed by a comma as in "general editor, Edwin H. Cady." If the contributor was important to the source but not the container, put this contributor information between the Title of the Source and the Title of the Container.

Versions are occasionally important, such as "8th ed" for this version of the MLA Handbook.

Numbers refer to volume and issue numbers on books and periodicals. Use "vol." and "no." for "volume" and "number."

Publisher refers to the organization that made the source/container available to the public. Place of publication is no longer listed as of the 8th edition, except in special circumstances (see page 51). Multiple publishers which are equally responsible are all listed, separated by a forward slash. "University Press" is abbreviated to "UP." Publishers are not listed for the following types of sources:

  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • Works published by their authors or editors
  • Web sites that have titles essentially the same as their publishers' names
  • Web sites not involved in producing the works it makes available (such as a service like WordPress.com, or an archive like JSTOR). If the contents of the site are organized into a unified whole (as with YouTube or JSTOR), the site is listed earlier as a Container title.

Publication Dates are listed in the format "28 Dec. 2014, 10:34 AM." In general, use as much of the date as you can find. For example, for journals listing a month or season and year of an issue's publication, list both the month or season and the year (this is a change from the 7th edition).

Locations may be page numbers (now listed with p. for single pages, pp. for page ranges), or DOIs, or URLs (though leave off the http:// part of the URL). When using URLs, look for "permalinks" or "stable URLs," especially in library databases. Often the URL in the browser will not work after you close your browser or for people other than yourself, but these stable URLs will work for other people. When given the choice between a DOI and a URL, choose the DOI (which will start with "doi:" and continue on like a URL). Locations are flexible and may refer to things like disc numbers in DVD sets, identifying numbers on manuscript collections, or (if you experience something in the real world like an art installation) a city name.

There are also optional elements and additional clarifications for special cases

These are listed in the book, pages 50-128. Of special note are the times when listing a place of publication might be useful (page 51), and citing portions of Shakespeare, the Bible, or other classic works of literature (pages 118-124).

Examples of Common Publication Types

Your bibliography should be alphabetized by author last name. For works that do not have an author, alphabetize by item title (omitting articles like "a" or "the"). Your bibliography should also be formatted using hanging indents.

Book or Report

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

Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich. The Crown of Columbus. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.

Fagih, Ahmed Ibrahim al-. The Singing of the Stars. Translated by Leila El Khalidi and Christopher Tingley. Short Arabic Plays: An Anthology, edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Interlink Books, 2003, pp. 140-57.

Johnson, Roberta. Gender and Nation in the Spanish Modernist Novel. Vanderbilt UP, 2003.

Chapter in a Book

Copeland, Edward. “Money.” The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen, Edited by Copeland and Juliet McMaster, Cambridge UP, 1997, pp. 131-48.

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Masque of the Red Death." The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James A. Harrison, vol. 4, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1902, pp. 250-58. HathiTrust Digital Library, babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.3192407957368;view=1up;seq=266.

Journal Article

Piper, Andrew. “Rethinking the Print Object: Goethe and the Book of Everything.” PMLA, vol. 121, no. 1, Jan. 2006, pp. 124-38. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25486292.

Newspaper Articles

Dwyer, Jim. “Yeats Meets the Digital Age, Full of Passionate Intensity.” New York Times, early ed., Arts and Leisure sec., 20 July 2008, pp. 1+.

Book Reviews

Mackin, Joseph. Review of The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, by Alan Jacomb. New York Journal of Books, 2 June 2011, 222. nyjournalofbooks.com/book-review/pleasures-reading-age-distraction.

Magazine Articles

Weintraub, Arlene, and Laura Cohen. “A Thousand-Year Plan for Nuclear Waste.” Business Week, 6 May 2002, pp. 94-96.

Web Page

“Maplewood, New Jersey.” Google Maps, www.google.com/maps/place/Maplewood,+NJ.

Quade, Alex. “Elite Team Rescues Troops behind Enemy Lines.” CNN.com, 19 Mar. 2007, www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/03/15/search.rescue/index.html?iref=newssearch.

Films
Note that in this example, the optional original date of publication is included, as well as several people in the Other Contributors category. If you were studying a particular person associated with the work, that person could be listed in the Author position, like so:

"Capra, Frank, director." It’s a Wonderful Life. 1946. Directed by Frank Capra, Performance by James Stewart et al., Republic, 2001.

Television Episodes
Whether you decide to put the episode director into the author position or not depends on the show and your use of the show in your writing. If the show features episodes with distinct story lines or dramatic styles, the director for each episode may take on authorial importance, otherwise the creator or director of the series as a whole may be placed in the author position. If no one takes authorial importance for your work, place the title of the episode in the first position.

Bernstein, Adam director. "Hazard Pay." Breaking Bad, season 5, episode 3, High Bridge Productions et al., 29 Jul 2012.

"Hush." Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Geller, season 4, episode 10, Mutant Enemy, 1999.

Interview or Audio Commentary on a DVD
Note that in the first example the title is in quotation marks because that is the name the author gave it. In the second and third examples the interview had no given title, so we present a brief description without quotation marks instead.

Blanchett, Cate. "In Character with: Cate Blanchett." Notes on a Scandal, Directed by Richard Eyre, Fox Searchlight, 2006.

Olivier, Laurence. Interview by Kenneth Tynan. Richard III, Directed by Laurence Olivier, 2004, The Criterion Collection, www.criterion.com/films/366-richard-iii.

Verbinski, Gore and Johnny Depp. Audio Commentary. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2004.

Live Performances

Aristophanes. Directed by Barbara Karger and Michael Preston, 20 April 2006, Goodwin Theater, Austin Arts Center, Hartford.

Image or Artwork
If you view it first hand, the Location is the physical location of the work. If you view a reproduction, follow the standard rules for Containers. If your image has no title, give a brief description of the item in the title location. Do not include quotation marks or italicize this description.

DaVinci, Leonardo. Mona Lisa. 1503?, Louvre Museum, Paris.

DaVinci, Leonado. Mona Lisa. 1503?, Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mona_Lisa,_by_Leonardo_da_Vinci,_from_C2RMF_retouched.jpg. Image of cat. 2016, img1.wsimg.com/fos/sales/cwh/8/images/cats-with-hats-shop-06.jpg. Work in a series

Clowes, Daniel. David Boring. Eightball, no. 19, Fantagraphics, 1998.