MLA citation style
This guide provides a basic introduction to the MLA citation style. It is based on the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook published by the Modern Language Association in 2016. 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 evaluating sources, the mechanics of writing, the format of the research paper, plagiarism, 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.
Updates from the new edition
- Abbreviations: in previous editions, certain abbreviations could be used (e.g. “ed.” for “editor”, “trans.” for “translated by”). Based on the new edition, these words should be spelled out fully (see Works cited - a translation). Note: it is still recommended that you abbreviate months with four or more letters (e.g. “September” is written as “Sept.”).
- Multiple authors: previously, if a work had one, two, or three authors, all the names would be listed. Now, each author is listed only if a work has one or two authors (see In-text citations - Multiple authors or no authors for examples)
- In works cited entries, the city of publication and medium of publication (e.g. Print, Web) are no longer required.
- In works cited entries, the volume and issue number of journal articles used to be represented as follows: vol#(issue#) [e.g. 3(2)]. However, now they are represented as vol. #, no. # (e.g. vol. 3, no. 2).
- For sources you find online, include a URL or doi. If possible, use a permanent link or a doi. Do not use URL shorteners (e.g. bit.ly, goo.gl) as these are unstable and your reader may not be able to access these sites in the future.
In-text citations - General guidelines
With in-text citations, you acknowledge a source by providing a brief reference to exactly where in the source you found the information. The reader can then use the complete reference listed in the Works Cited page at the end of your paper to verify what you have written. Further examples and explanations are available in the MLA Handbook.
- In most cases, providing the author's last name and a page number is sufficient. Example:
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 you mention the author’s name in your text, only the page reference needs to be inserted in parentheses. Example:
According to Postman, broadcast news influences the decision-making process (51-63).
In-text citations - Multiple authors or no author
- If there are two authors, include the last name of each. Example:
(Winks and Kaiser 176)
- If there are three or more authors, include the last name of the first author followed by "et al." without any intervening punctuation. Example:
(Baldwin et al. 306)
- 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 or entire web sites and place the titles of articles or individual web pages in quotation marks.
- Example of entire web site:
Voice of the Shuttle has many electronic sources.
- Example of individual web page:
Gophers can have many detrimental effects on lawns, including building underground tunnels, eating plants, and disturbing root systems (“Gophers”).
- If your source has no page numbers, but has labelled section or paragraph numbers, you can indicate these numbers in your parenthetical reference. If there are no such reference marks, do not create or include them in your reference.
- Example where paragraph or section numbers are available:
Winston argues that "Rourke has lowered his defenses" (par. 29).
- Example where no paragraph or section numbers are available:
The Lincoln administration was against secession, as it would “create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer United States into several small, squabbling countries” (McPherson).
In-text citations - Audiovisual resources
Audiovisual recordings such as videos and songs do not have page numbers to be included in in-text citations. For such time-based media, you should include the time or range of times for any segment you are quoting or discussing.
Near the beginning of the film, a woman tells Johnnie that Lina is “a very carefully brought-up young lady” (Suspicion 4:50).
In-text citations - Indirect quotations
- 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).
In-text citations - Long quotations
If you are quoting text that is longer than four typed lines in your paper, block indent the passage half an inch (1.27 cm) from the left margin. Do not surround the quotation with quotation marks. The parenthetical reference follows the final punctuation.
Anderson argues that all nations can be measured:
The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them, encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings, has finite, if elastic, boundaries, beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind. The most messianic nationalists do not dream of a day when all the members of the human race will join their nation in the way that it was possible, in certain epochs, for, say, Christians to dream of a wholly Christian planet. (7)
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 of books are italicized and titles of articles are placed in quotation marks. All important words should be capitalized
- Entries are double-spaced (for the purposes of this page, single-spacing is used)
- For online sources, date of access is an optional element. However, it can be helpful to include this information, especially if the source you are using does not have a date of publication
Works cited - Two or more works by the same creator
Begin by arranging the creator’s works in alphabetical order. Create a full entry for the first work in the list (following the instructions below). For the other work(s), replace the creator’s name by three hyphens and arrange alphabetically by the work’s title.
Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. Viking, 1985.
---. The Disappearance of Childhood. Vintage, 1994.
Works cited - Book with 1 author
Last Name, First Name. Title. Publisher, Year of Publication.
Mumford, Lewis. The Culture of Cities. Harcourt, 1938.
Works cited - Book with 2 authors
First Author’s Last Name, First Author’s First Name, and Second Author’s First and Last Names. Title. Publisher, Year of Publication.
Ormerod, Neil, and Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer. Foundational Theology. Fortress Press, 2015.
Works cited - Book with 3 or more authors
First Author’s Last Name, First Author’s First Name, et al. Title. Publisher, Year of Publication.
Note: these rules regarding the listing of authors also apply to other kinds of sources (e.g. journal articles).
Francis, R. Douglas, et al. Destinies: Canadian History since Confederation. Harcourt, 2000.
Works cited - Anthology or compilation
Include the word “editor” after the editor’s name.
Abate, Corinne S., editor. Privacy, Domesticity, and Women in Early Modern England. Ashgate, 2003.
Works cited - Work in an anthology or an essay in a book
Last Name, First Name. “Work Title.” Book Title, edited by Editor Name, Publisher, Year, pp. <page range>.
Naremore, James. "Hitchcock at the Margins of Noir." Alfred Hitchcock: Centenary Essays, edited by Richard Allen and S. Ishii-Gonzalès, BFI, 1999, pp. 263-77.
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. OECD, 1999.
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.
Example of a signed article:
Guignon, Charles B. "Existentialism." Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward Craig. Routledge, 1998.
Example of an unsigned article:
“Niagara Falls.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 2016.
Works cited - A translation
The translator’s name follows the title of the work.
Murakami, Haruki. 1Q84. Translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.
Works cited - Book in a series
Optionally, you may include the series title at the end of the citation, followed by the number in the series if applicable.
Bloom, Harold, editor. André Malraux. Chelsea House, 1988. Modern Critical Views.
Works cited - Article in a journal
Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Title of Journal, vol. #, no. #, Month/Season Year, pp. <page range>.
Ferrer, Ada. "Cuba 1898: Rethinking Race, Nation, and Empire." Radical History Review, vol. 73, Winter 1999, pp. 22-49.
NOTE – If an article is not printed on consecutive pages, record the first page number followed by a plus sign. If there are no page numbers, leave the field blank.
Example of article with non-consecutive page numbers:
Mack, Candice. “From the President.” Young Adult Library Services, vol. 14, no. 2, Winter 2016, pp. 3+.
Example of article with no page numbers:
Sehmby, Dalbir S. "Wrestling and Popular Culture." CCLWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 4, no. 1, March 2002.
Article retrieved from 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 include the URL or doi to the article.
Wolfensberger, Donald R. “Happy Together?” The Wilson Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 1, Winter 2009, pp. 63-66. JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/40262243.
Example with date of access (optional element):
Heming, Li, Paul Waley, and Phil Rees. "Reservoir Resettlement in China: Past Experience and the Three Gorges Dam." The Geographical Journal, vol. 167, no. 3, Sept. 2001, pp. 195-212. Wiley-Blackwell Journals, DOI: 10.1111/1475-4959.00018. Accessed 29 Mar. 2014.
Works cited - Article in a newspaper or magazine
Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Title of Newspaper or Magazine, Date, <page range>.
Semenak, Susan. "Feeling Right at Home: Government Residence Eschews Traditional Rules." Montreal Gazette, 28 Dec. 1995, A4.
Driedger, Sharon Doyle. "After Divorce." Maclean's, 20 Apr. 1998, pp. 38-43.
For newspaper and magazine articles retrieved online, please see examples for journal articles retrieved from a library database.
Works cited - An entire website
Last Name, First Name. Title of Website. Date, URL.
Linder, Douglas O. Famous Trials. 2009, law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/ftrials.htm.
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, Date, URL.
If you cannot find some of this information, include only what is available. Example (including optional date of access):
"Paul Graham." Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule, 2009, paulgraham.com/makersschedule.html. Accessed 3 Dec. 2020.
Works cited - Social media posts
If the author’s name begins with “@”, disregard it when alphabetizing your Works Cited list. Instead, begin with the character immediately following it.
Author. “Full text of post.” Name of Social Media Website, Date, Time, URL.
@jk_rowling. “God, I hate this stuff. I’ve winged it my whole life. I’ve messed up regularly. There are no rules. Do your thing.” Twitter, 12 June 2016, 10:03 a.m., twitter.com/jk_rowling/status/742039536688107520.
Works cited - Emails
Author of email. “Subject.” Received by Recipient Name, Date.
Bélanger, Suzanne. “Travaux de Construction.” Received by Ravi Vishnaj, 9 Feb. 2016.
Works cited - Sound recording
Last Name, First Name. “Title of Track.” Album Title, Record Label, Year.
Ellington, Duke. "Black and Tan Fantasy." Music is My Mistress, Musicmasters, 1989.
If the recording was obtained online, include a link to the website. Example:
Jonas, Nick, and Tove Lo. “Close.” Last Year Was Complicated, Island and Safehouse, 2016. listen.tidal.com/track/61554644.
Works cited - YouTube video
“Title of Video.” Video Hosting Service, uploaded by Uploader name, date of upload, URL.
“Ken Burns & Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in Conversation with Michel Martin.” YouTube, uploaded by BAMorg, 18 Mar. 2016, youtube.com/watch?v=42OlCnuXN0A.
Works cited - Film, videorecording or DVD
The format of your citations depends on the focus of your work. If you want to emphasize the role of a particular contributor (such as a director, performer, or writer), list the person’s name first, followed by their role, then the title of the film. Otherwise, you can start with the title of the film.
Example where the film title is listed first:
The Shining. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, performances by Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, Warner Bros., 1980.
Example where a contributor is listed first:
Nair, Mira, director. Monsoon Wedding. Performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Lillete Dubey, Mirabai Films, 2001.
Works cited - Television or radio program
As with films, videorecordings and DVDs, elements can be ordered in different ways depending on what you want to emphasize. Here is how citations are structured if no particular contributor is being emphasized:
“Episode Title.” Program Title, created by Creator Name, performance[s] by Performer Name[s], season #, episode #, Network, Date.
“Blax, Snake, Home.” Happy Endings, created by David Caspe, performance by Elisha Cuthbert, season 2, episode 1, ABC, 28 Sept. 2011.
Example of program obtained from a website (including optional date of access):
“Arianna Huffington.” The Daily Show, created by Lizz Winstead and Madeleine Smithberg, performance by Trevor Noah, season 21, episode 111, Comedy Central, 19 May 2016. ctv.ca/TheDailyShow/video.aspx?vid=870157. Accessed 12 June 2016.
Works cited - Untitled sources
This format could apply for items such as artifacts or works of art.
Creator. Description. Year/Range of Years, Museum, Place.
Savage & Lyman Co. Brooch and earrings. About 1845, McCord Museum, Montreal.