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MLA 8th Edition Style Guide - Citation Basics

General Citation Guidelines

  • Document all sources used to write your research paper. Documentation is essential to demonstrate to your reader the quality of your research, to allow the reader to access the original source, and to avoid plagiarism by giving proper credit for the words, works, and ideas of others.
  • For each source used in your project, include a detailed entry in a list of works cited on a new page at the end of the paper and a brief in-text citation which signals to the reader that the information provided is from a source other than yourself.
  • Citations should follow the rules outlined in the MLA Handbook (examples following).
  • Citations may not be necessary for information and ideas which are common knowledge or widely known by the average reader. If you are unsure whether information or ideas are common knowledge, consult with your instructor prior to finalizing your paper.

Works Cited List

For every source that you use in your project, you must include a full citation in a list of works cited. Here are instructions for compiling your works cited list and for structuring each citation. Click the tabs at the top to see examples of citations for different types of sources.

  • The list of works cited should be located at the end of your paper.
  • The list should begin on a new page with the title, Works Cited, centered at the top of the page.
  • The works should be arranged in alphabetical order based on the first part of the citation (usually the author’s last name).
  • The list should be double-spaced.
  • For citations longer than one line, the second and all subsequent lines should have a hanging indent of one inch from the margin.

Core Elements

Core Elements Table

The following are the core elements of any entry in the works cited list. Note: Your source may not have all of these elements. Examine each source carefully to determine which elements to include. Ask a librarian for help if you are unsure.

  Element Punctuation Following Description
1 Author. Period

The author refers to the person, persons or entity responsible for the work. This may include any of the following: authors, editors, translators, directors, producers, performers, screenwriters, pseudonyms, or corporate authors.  For roles other than an author, the person’s role should be listed following their name. Here are general examples for listing authors and other responsible persons.

  • Single author: Last name, First name. (e.g. Louv, Richard.)
  • Two authors: Last name, First name, and First name Last name. (e.g. Chapman, Gary, and Ross Campbell.)
  • Three or more authors: Last name, First name, et al. (e.g. Cunningham, Scott, et al.)

Editor: Haerens, Margaret, editor

2 Title of source. Period

The title and subtitle of the work are listed next. If the source is part of a larger work (e.g. an article in a periodical or a webpage on a website), then the title is placed in quotation marks. If the source is self-contained (e.g. an entire book or a full website), then the title is italicized. Capitalize the first word in the title, the last word in the title and all other words except the following parts of speech: articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions. Here are examples of the formatting of a title:

  • Part of a larger work: “Anecdotes from the Life of Pushkin.”
  • Self-contained work: Outsmarting Cats: How to Persuade the Felines in Your Life to Do What You Want.
3 Title of container, Comma

The container is listed when the source is part of a larger whole (e.g. an essay in a book, an episode in a TV series, an article in a newspaper, etc.). The title of the container is italicized and followed by a comma. An easy rule to keep in mind is that you will have a container in your citation only if the previous title is in quotation marks. Here is an example of the formatting for a container:

  • Container: Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine,

At times the container of a source may be located in a second container (e.g. a journal stored in a database or a book of short stories found on Google Books). In such cases, provide the relevant information from elements 3-9, then provide the second container with any relevant elements 3-9. Here is an example with the containers highlighted:

  • Two Containers: Poggi, Christine. “Picasso’s First Constructed Sculpture: A Tale of Two Guitars.” Art Bulletin, vol. 94, no. 2, 1 Jun. 2012, pp.274-298. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23268315. Accessed 23 Sept. 2016.
4 Other contributors, Comma

Credit other contributors in a source if they are important to the identification of the source. Begin with a description of their role followed by their name. Common descriptions include: adapted by, directed by, edited by, illustrated by, introduction by, narrated by, performance by, or translated by (MLA Handbook 37). Here are a few examples of other contributors:

  • Translated by Edith Grossman,
  • Introduction by Harold Bloom,
  • Directed by Spike Lee,
5 Version, Comma

If the source has been released in more than one form, include a description of the version. For a book this may be the edition. For media this may be a description such as abridged, unabridged, director’s cut, etc. Below are examples of versions:

  • Edition: 5th ed.,
  • Edition: Expanded ed.,
  • Version: English Standard Version,
  • Media: unabridged version,
  • Media: director’s cut,
6 Number, Comma

If the source is part of a numbered set, include the corresponding number in the citation. Depending on the type of source this may be the volume number, issue number, season and/or episode number. Below are examples of how the number may be cited.

  • Item from a multivolume set: vol. 2,
  • Journal issue: vol. 23, no. 4,
  • TV series: season 5, episode 10,
7 Publisher, Comma

The publisher is the organization primarily responsible for producing the source. If multiple publishers or distributors are stated, use the organization that had the main responsibility for the work. If more than one organization was equally responsible, list each of their names separated by a forward slash (/). Do not list a publisher for the following: a periodical, a self-published work, a website whose title is the same as the name of its publisher, or a website not involved in the creation of the content (MLA Handbook 40-42). Examples:

  • Oxford UP
  • Penguin Press
  • Universal/Forty Acres and Mule Filmworks
8 Publication date, Comma or period (depending on whether it is the last element of the citation)

List the date that the source was published. Write the date as you find it in the source (e.g. year of publication only or day, month, year). If a source has more than one date, cite the date that is most meaningful to the version you are using (MLA Handbook 42). Here are examples of how to format the publication date:

  • Year only: 2012
  • Month and year: Jan. 2016
  • Full date: 26 Jan. 2012
9 Location. Period

Include a location at the end of the citation to help the reader access the specific material cited. In a print source, you may include a page number (preceded by p.) or page range (preceded by pp.). For an online work, you may include the URL (but exclude the https://). For a journal article you may include a digital object identifier (DOI) if one is available. (Note: A DOI is an identifier assigned to online publications such as journal articles. The DOI may be listed on the bottom of the article or on the database or website where the article was found.)

 

Core Elements in Basic Format:

Author. “Title of Source.” Title of Container, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, location.

Optional Elements

There are several optional elements, which may be included in a works cited entry at the writer’s discretion. Optional elements may include:

  • date of access (often important for web-based sources that could change over time)
  • date of original publication
  • city of publication
  • other facts about the source.

Some elements are added at the end of the entry while others are placed in the middle of the entry. Consult the MLA Handbook pp. 50-53 for detailed instructions.

Note: In this guide we have included one of the optional elements, date of access, for all web-based sources.