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MLA citation style


This guide provides a basic introduction to the MLA citation style. It is based on the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers published by the Modern Language Association in 2009. This is a new edition of the book, and there are several significant changes to MLA style.

The MLA Handbook is generally used for academic writing in the humanities. The handbook itself covers many aspects of research writing including selecting a topic, evaluating sources, taking notes, plagiarism, the mechanics of writing, the format of the research paper as well as the way to cite sources.

This guide provides basic explanations and examples for the most common types of citations used by students. For additional information and examples, refer to the MLA Handbook.

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Updates from the new edition

  • MLA no longer requires underlining. Titles, such as book and periodical titles, are now italicized rather than underlined.
  • URLs are no longer required in citations. Due to the changeable nature of the URLs, MLA recommends that writers only include a web address if the audience is unlikely to find the source otherwise.
  • Abbreviations: Many sources do not have a date, publisher or pagination. MLA advises, where applicable, to write n. pag. for those sources without page numbers, n.d. for no date, and N.p. if name of the publisher is omitted.
  • All entries in a reference list, whether they are print or electronic, must now include the medium in which they have been published (Print, Web, DVD, Television, etc.).
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Parenthetical references

Parenthetical documentation allows you to acknowledge a source within your text by providing a reference to exactly where in that source you found the information. The reader can then follow up on the complete reference listed on the Works Cited page at the end of your paper.

  • In most cases, providing the author's last name and a page number are sufficient:

    In response to rapid metropolitan expansion, urban renewal projects sought "an order in which more significant kinds of conflict, more complex and intellectually stimulating kinds of disharmony, may take place" (Mumford 485).
  • If there are two or three authors, include the last name of each:

    (Winks and Kaiser 176)
    (Choko, Bourassa, and Baril 258-263)
  • If there are more than three authors, include the last name of the first author followed by "et al." without any intervening punctuation:

    (Baldwin et al. 306)
  • If the author is mentioned in the text, only the page reference needs to be inserted:

    According to Postman, broadcast news influences the decision-making process (51-63).
  • If there is no author, as is the case with some web pages, include either the whole title of the work in the text or use a shortened form of the title in parentheses, using the first words of the title. Italicize the titles of books and place the titles of articles in quotation marks:

    Voice of the Shuttle has many electronic sources.
  • If there are no page numbers in your source, as is the case with some web pages, you can indicate the section or paragraph number in your parenthetical reference. If there are no such reference marks, do not include them in your reference. Do not count unnumbered paragraphs:

    Winston argues that "Rourke has lowered his defenses" (par. 29).
  • When citing a quotation which is cited in another source, indicate the source you actually consulted in your parenthetical reference and in your works cited. Use the abbreviation qtd. in to indicate that the information has been quoted in another source:

    Landow admitted that there was "work to be done" (qtd. in Rogers 333).

Further examples and explanations are available in Chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook.

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Works cited - General guidelines

The alphabetical list of works cited that appears at the end of your paper contains more information about all of the sources you've cited allowing readers to refer to them, as needed. The main characteristics are:

  • The list of Works Cited must be on a new page at the end of your text
  • Entries are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name or by the title if there is no author
  • Titles are italicized (not underlined) and all important words should be capitalized
  • Entries are double-spaced (for the purposes of this page, single-spacing is used)
  • Each entry must include the publication medium. Examples include: Print, Web, DVD, and Television.
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Works cited - Book with 1 author

Mumford, Lewis. The Culture of Cities. New York: Harcourt, 1938. Print.

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Works cited - Book with 2 or 3 authors

Francis, R. Douglas, Richard Jones, and Donald B. Smith. Destinies: Canadian History since Confederation. Toronto: Harcourt, 2000. Print.

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Works cited - Book with 4 or more authors

Baldwin, Richard et al. Economic Geography and Public Policy. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2003. Print.

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Works cited - Two or more books by the same author

Replace the author's name by three hyphens and arrange alphabetically by the book's title:

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Print.

---. The Disappearance of Childhood. New York: Vintage, 1994. Print.

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Works cited - Anthology or compilation

Abate, Corinne S., ed. Privacy, Domesticity, and Women in Early Modern England. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2003. Print.

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Works cited - Work in an anthology or an essay in a book

Naremore, James. "Hitchcock at the Margins of Noir." Alfred Hitchcock: Centenary Essays. Ed. Richard Allen and S. Ishii-Gonzalès. London: BFI, 1999. 263-77. Print.

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Works cited - Book by a corporate author

Associations, corporations, agencies and organizations are considered authors when there is no single author.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Action against Climate Change: The Kyoto Protocol and Beyond. Paris: OECD, 1999. Print.

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Works cited - Article in a reference book or an entry in an encyclopedia

If the article/entry is signed, include the author's name; if unsigned, begin with the title of the entry

Guignon, Charles B. "Existentialism." Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Ed. Edward Craig. 10 vols. London: Routledge, 1998. Print.

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Works cited - Article reprinted in a reference book online

Carlson, Eric W. “The Range of Symbolism in Poetry.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 48.3 (1949): 442-52. Rpt. in Poetry Criticism. Ed. Jane Kelly Kosek and Christine Slovey. Vol. 13. Detroit: Gale, 1995. 83-84. Literature Criticism Online. Web. 18 Oct. 2009.

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Works cited - A translation

Kafka, Franz. Metamorphosis. Trans. and Ed. Stanley Corngold. New York: Bantam, 1972. Print.

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Works cited - A government publication

Canada. Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Freedom from Fear: Canada's Foreign Policy for Human Security. Ottawa: DFAIT, 2002. Print.

United Nations. Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division. Charting the Progress of Populations. New York: UN, 2000. Print.

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Works cited - Book in a series

Bloom, Harold, ed. André Malraux. New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Print. Modern Critical Views.

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Works cited - Article in a journal

Article retrieved in print/paper format:

Ferrer, Ada. "Cuba 1898: Rethinking Race, Nation, and Empire." Radical History Review 73 (1999): 22-49. Print.

Man, Glenn K. S. "The Third Man: Pulp Fiction and Art Film." Literature Film Quarterly 21.3 (1993): 171-178. Print.

Article retrieved on the Web:

Sehmby, Dalbir S. "Wrestling and Popular Culture." CCLWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 4.1 (2002): n. pag. Web. 29 Mar. 2009.

Article retrieved in a library database:

Provide the same information as you would for a printed journal article and add the name of the database in italics, and indicate the publication medium as Web and the date of access.

NOTE - If there are no page numbers, or if the page numbers for each article in a journal appear in a new sequence for each item rather than continuously across the entire issue, write n. pag.

Brennan, Katherine Stern. "Culture in the Cities: Provincial Academies during the Early Years of Louis XIV's Reign." Canadian Journal of History 38.1 (2003): 19-42. CBCA Complete. Web. 29 Mar. 2004.

Dussault, Marc and Bruce G. Barnett. "Peer-assisted Leadership: Reducing Educational Managers' Professional Isolation." Journal of Educational Administration 34.3 (1996): 5-14. ABI/INFORM Global. Web. 29 Mar. 2004.

Heming, Li, Paul Waley, and Phil Rees. "Reservoir Resettlement in China: Past Experience and the Three Gorges Dam." The Geographical Journal 167.3 (2001): 195-212. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Mar. 2004.

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Works cited - Article in a newspaper or magazine

Semenak, Susan. "Feeling Right at Home: Government Residence Eschews Traditional Rules." Montreal Gazette 28 Dec. 1995, Final Ed.: A4. Print.

Driedger, Sharon Doyle. "After Divorce." Maclean's 20 Apr. 1998: 38-43. Print.

For newspaper and magazine articles retrieved online, please see examples for journal articles retrieved from a library database.

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Works cited - An entire Web site

Linder, Douglas O. Famous Trials. Univ. of Missouri Kansas-City Law School, 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2009.

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Works cited - A page on a Web site

An entry for a nonperiodical item found on the Web contains the following:

Last name, First name. "Document title if available." Title of the overall Web site. Version or edition if available. Publisher or N.p. to designate no publisher, publication date or n.d. to mean no date. Web. Date of access.

If you cannot find some of this information, include only what is available.

"Joyce Wieland." Celebrating Women's Achievements: Women Artists in Canada. National Library of Canada, 2000. Web. 29 Mar. 2004.

Cassidy, Penny. "You Can't Read That." NBC New York. NBC Universal, 18 Apr. 2009. Web. 29 Apr. 2009.

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Works cited - A review

Kirn, Walter. "The Wages of Righteousness." Rev. of Cloudsplitter, by Russell Banks. New York Times Book Review 22 Feb. 1998: 9. Print.

Kauffmann, Stanley. "A New Spielberg." Rev of Schindler's List, dir. Steven Spielberg. New Republic 13 Dec. 1993: 30. Print.

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Works cited - Television or radio program

"Scandal of the Century." Narr. Linden MacIntyre. The Fifth Estate. CBC Television. 23 Jan. 2002. Television.

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Works cited - Sound recording

Ellington, Duke. "Black and Tan Fantasy." Music is My Mistress. Musicmasters, 1989. CD.

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Works cited - Film, videorecording or DVD

The Shining. Dir. Stanley Kubrick. Perf. Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall. Warner Bros., 1980. Videocassette.

Macbeth. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. Jon Finch, Francesca Annis, and Nicholas Selby. 1971. Columbia, 2002. DVD.

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Works cited - Musical composition, published score

Beethoven, Ludwig van. Symphony no. 4 in B-flat major, op. 60. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2001. Print.

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Works cited - Work of art, photographed, in a book

Cassatt, Mary. Mother and Child. 1890. Wichita Art Museum, Wichita. American Painting: 1560-1913. By John Pearce. New York: McGraw, 1964. Slide 22.

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page last updated on: Friday 6 November 2015
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