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The Complete Guide to MLA Format & Citations

What You’ll Find on This Guide:

This page provides an in-depth overview of MLA format citing. 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 with the help of MLA format. 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 MLA format 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 MLA format 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 an MLA bibliography. All sources that were used to develop your research project are found on the MLA 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 MLA Helps You Become a Responsible Researcher

What is MLA Format?

The Modern Language Association, or MLA, 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. MLA is also responsible for creating standards and guidelines on how to properly cite sources to prevent plagiarism.

Why do we use MLA Style?

MLA created specific guidelines and standards for creating citations 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 MLA created aides us in understanding a researcher’s sources.

How has MLA Style evolved?

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

In MLA 7, which is the MLA format citation, or structure, that was previously used, researchers and scholars found it grueling to put their citations together. Why? Each source used a different MLA citation structure. Researchers and scholars were required to look up the MLA 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 MLA 8, all source types use the same MLA 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.

MLA Style Citations

What do they look like?

In MLA format, there are two types of citations. The main type of MLA citations, which do not necessarily have a name, but we will refer to them as regular or complete citations, 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 section of the regular MLA formatting 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 you need help with in text and parenthetical citations, Citation Machine’s MLA formatter 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 regular MLA citations, 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 an MLA 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 MLA citing 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 Fox, Jacob Michael.

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

In MLA citing, to cite a source with three or more authors, place the information in this MLA citing 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 MLA cite generator, this abbreviation is automatically added for you.

Here’s an example of an MLA formatting 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 MLA citation with the author’s handle, username, or screen name.

Here is an MLA format 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, MLA citations do not necessarily have to. Quite often, sources are compiled by editors. Or, your source may be done by a performer or composer. In MLA citing, 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 the Citation Machine MLA 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 MLA 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’s MLA formatter can help! Our MLA citation generator 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 standard 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. In MLA format, 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 in MLA citing.

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 in MLA formatting. 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 MLA citation 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.

In MLA citing, 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. In MLA format, only include the elements that will help your readers locate the source themselves.

Here is an MLA formatting 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 MLA citation generator.

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

In MLA citations, 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 MLA 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 an MLA 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.

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 MLA 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 MLA cite generator, which is an MLA citation website, 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? In an MLA citation, use the date that is most applicable to your research.

Location

In MLA citing, 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 MLA formatter to do the work for you? The Citation Machine MLA formatter can help! Our MLA citation generator is simple (and fun!) to use.

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Common Citation Examples:

ALL sources use this MLA citing 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 about our MLA cite generator.

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.

Websites:

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 MLA 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.

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

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