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The complete guide to mla & citations, what you’ll find in this guide.
This page provides an in-depth overview of MLA format. 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 the Citation Machine’s guide on APA format . We also have resources for Chicago citation style as well.
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. 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! Reusing a project or paper from another class or time and saying that it’s new is plagiarism. One way to prevent plagiarism is to add citations in your project where appropriate.
What is a Citation?
A citation shows the reader of your project where you found your information. Citations are included in the body of a project when you add a quote to your project. Citations are also included in the body when you’re paraphrasing another individual’s information. These citations in the body of a research paper are called in-text citations. They are found directly next to the information that was borrowed and are very brief to avoid causing distraction while reading a project. These brief citations include the last name of the author and a page number. Scroll down for an in-depth explanation and examples of MLA in-text citations.
In-text citations provide us with a brief idea as to where you found your information, though they usually don't include the title and other components. Look on the last page of a research project to find complete citations.
Complete citations are found on what MLA calls a works-cited list, which is sometimes called an MLA bibliography. All sources that were used to develop a research project are found on the works-cited list. Complete citations are also created for any quotes or paraphrased information used in the text. Complete citations include 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? Need an MLA format website or book citation? Visit Citation Machine.net! Our 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 styles .
Why Does it Matter?
Citing your sources is an extremely important component of your research project. It shows that you’re a responsible researcher and that you located appropriate and reputable sources that support 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 the Modern Language Association Helps You Become a Responsible Researcher
What is mla format.
The Modern Language Association 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. They are not connected with this guide, but the information here reflects the association’s rules for formatting papers and citations.
What are citations?
The Modern Language Association is responsible for creating standards and guidelines on how to properly cite sources to prevent plagiarism. Their style is most often used when writing papers and citing sources in the liberal arts and humanities fields. “Liberal arts” is a broad term used to describe a range of subjects including the humanities, formal sciences such as mathematics and statistics, natural sciences such as biology and astronomy, and social sciences such as geography, economics, history, and others. The humanities focuses specifically on subjects related to languages, art, philosophy, religion, music, theater, literature, and ethics.
Believe it or not, there are thousands of other types of citation styles. While this citation style is most often used for the liberal arts and humanities fields, many other subjects, professors, and schools prefer citations and papers to be styled in MLA format.
What’s the difference between a bibliography and a works-cited list?
Great question. The two terms cause a lot of confusion and are consistently misused not only by students but educators as well! Let’s start with what the two words mean.
A bibliography displays the sources the writer used to gain background knowledge on the topic and also research it in-depth. Before starting a research project, you might read up on the topic in websites, books, and other sources. You might even dive a bit deeper to find more information elsewhere. All of these sources you used to help you learn about the topic would go in an MLA format bibliography. You might even include other sources that relate to the topic.
A works-cited list displays all of the sources that were mentioned in the writing of the actual paper or project. If a quote was taken from a source and placed into a research paper, then the full citation goes on the works-cited list.
Both the works-cited list and bibliography go at the end of a paper. Most teachers do not expect students to hand in both a bibliography AND a works-cited list. Teachers generally expect to see a works-cited list, but sometimes erroneously call it a bibliography. If you’re not sure what your teacher expects, a page in MLA bibliography format, a works-cited list, or both, ask for guidance.
Why do we use this MLA style?
These specific guidelines and standards for creating citations were developed for numerous reasons. When scholars and researchers in 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 understand the different components of a source. By looking at an MLA 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 aides us in understanding a researcher’s sources.
How is the new version different than previous versions?
This citation style has changed dramatically over the past couple of years. The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition.
The new version expands upon standards previously set in the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, including the core elements. The structure of citations remains the same, but some formatting guidance and terminology have changed.
- DOI numbers are now formatted as https://doi.org/xx.xxxx/xxx.xxxx.xxxx
- Seasons in publishing daters are lowercased: spring 2020
- The term “optional elements” is now “supplemental elements”
- “Narrative in-text citations” are called “citations in prose”
In addition, new information was added on the following:
- Hundreds of works-cited-list entries
- MLA formatting for papers
- Punctuation, spelling, and other mechanics of prose
- Chapter on inclusive language
- Notes (bibliographic and content)
For more information on MLA 9, click here .
A Deeper Look at Citations
What do they look like.
There are two types of citations. The first is a full, or complete, citation. These 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.
Full 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 DOI, URL, or page range).
There are times when additional information is added into the full 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 citation component.
The second 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 citations?
As stated above, in-text 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 directly next to the quote or paraphrased information. They contain a small tidbit of the information found in the regular MLA citation. The regular, or complete, citation is located at the end of a project, on the works-cited list.
Here’s what a typical in-text citation looks like:
In the book The Joy Luck Club, 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 called an MLA parenthetical citation because the author’s name is in parentheses. It’s included so 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 the reader to focus on our work and research, not get caught up on our sources.
Here’s another way to cite in the text:
In Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club, 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" (31).
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.
Notice that the first word in the full citation (Tan) matches the “Tan” used in the body of the project. It’s important to have the first word of the full citation match the term used in the text. Why? It allows readers to easily find the full citation on the works-cited list.
If your direct quote or paraphrase comes from a source that does not have page numbers, it is acceptable to place a line number (use line or lines), paragraph number (use the abbreviation par. or pars.), sections (sec. or secs.), or chapters (ch. or chs.). Only use these other terms if they are actually labeled on the source. If it specifically says on the source, “Section 1,” for example, then it is acceptable to use “sec. 1” in the in-text citation.
If there are no numbers to help readers locate the exact point in the source, only include the author’s last name.
To determine how to create in-text citations for more than one author, no authors, or corporate authors, refer to the “Authors” section below.
More about quotations and how to cite a quote:
- Use quotes from outside sources to help illustrate and expand on your own points. The majority of your paper should be your own writing and ideas.
- Include the quote exactly as you found it. It is okay to use only certain words or phrases from the quote, but keep the words (spelling and capitalization) and punctuation the same.
- It is acceptable to break up a direct quote with your own writing.
Example from a movie:
Dorothy stated, "Toto," then looked up and took in her surroundings, "I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore" ( Wizard of Oz ).
- The entire paper should be double-spaced, including quotes.
- If the quote is longer than four lines, it is necessary to make a block quote. Block quotes show the reader that they are about to read a lengthy amount of text from another source.
- Start the quote on the next line, half an inch from the left margin.
- Do not use any indents at the beginning of the block quote.
- Only use quotation marks if there are quotation marks present in the source.
- If there is more than one paragraph in the block quote, indent the beginning of the paragraphs after the first one an additional half an inch from the left margin.
- Add your in-text citation after the final period of the block quote. Do not add an additional period after the parenthetical citation.
While his parents sat there in surprise, Colton went onto say:
“Cause I could see you,” Colon said matter-of-factly. “I went up and out of my body and I was looking down and I could see the doctor working on my body. And I saw you and Mommy. You were in a little room by yourself, praying; and Mommy was in a different room, and she was praying and talking on the phone.” (Burpo xxi)
How to create a paraphrase:
As stated above, the majority of your paper should be your own writing and ideas. It’s acceptable to include quotes, but they shouldn’t crowd your paper. If you’re finding that you’re using too many quotes in your paper, consider adding paraphrases. When you reiterate a piece of information from an outside source in your own words, you create a paraphrase.
Here’s an example:
Readers discover in the very first sentence of Peter Pan that he doesn’t grow up (Barrie 1).
What paraphrases are:
- Recycled information in the paper writer’s own words and writing style.
- They’re still references! Include an in-text citation next to the paraphrased information.
What paraphrases are not:
- A copy and pasted sentence with a few words substituted for synonyms.
Confused about whether footnotes and endnotes should be used?
Footnotes and endnotes are completely acceptable to use in this style. Use a footnote or endnote if:
- Adding additional information will help the reader understand the content. This is called a content note .
- You need to cite numerous sources in one small section of your writing. Instead of clogging up a small paragraph with in-text citations (which could cause confusion for the reader), include a footnote or endnote. This is called a bibliographic note .
Keep in mind that whether you choose to include in-text citations or footnotes/endnotes, you need to also include a full reference on the MLA format works-cited list.
Content note example:
Even Maurice Sendak’s work (the mastermind behind Where the Wild Things Are and numerous other popular children’s picture books) can be found on the banned books list. It seems as though nobody is granted immunity. 1
- In the Night Kitchen ’s main character is nude on numerous pages. Problematic for most is not the nudity of the behind, but the frontal nudity.
%%Sendak, Maurice. In The Night Kitchen. Harper Collins, 1996.
Bibliographic note example:
Dahl had a difficult childhood. Both his father and sister passed away when he was a toddler. He was then sent away by his mother to boarding school (de Castella). 1
- Numerous books, such as Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG, all feature characters with absent or difficult parents.
MLA Works Cited:
Include 4 full citations for: de Castella’s article, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and The BFG .
Don’t forget to create full, or regular citations, and place them at the end of your project.
If you need help with in-text and parenthetical citations, CitationMachine.net can help. Our MLA citation generator is simple and easy to use!
Common Knowledge: What Is It and How Will It Affect My Writing?
Footnotes, endnotes, references, proper structuring. We know it’s a lot. Thankfully, you don’t have to include a reference for EVERY piece of information you add to your paper. You can forget about including a reference when you share a piece of common knowledge.
Common knowledge is information that most people know. For example, these are a few facts that are considered common knowledge:
- The Statue of Liberty is located in New York City
- Tokyo is the capital of Japan
- Romeo and Juliet is a play written by William Shakespeare
- English is the language most people speak in England
- An elephant is an animal
We could go on and on. When you include common knowledge in your paper, omit a reference. One less thing to worry about, right?
Before you start adding tons of common knowledge occurrences to your paper to ease the burden of creating references, we need to stop you right there. Remember, the goal of a research paper is to develop new information or knowledge. You’re expected to seek out information from outside sources and analyze and distribute the information from those sources to form new ideas. Using only common knowledge facts in your writing involves absolutely zero research. It’s okay to include some common knowledge facts here and there, but do not make it the core of your paper.
If you’re unsure if the fact you’re including is common knowledge or not, it doesn’t hurt to include a reference. There is no such thing as being overly responsible when it comes to writing and citing.
Wikipedia - Yay or Nay?
If you’re wondering whether it’s okay to use Wikipedia in your project, the answer is, it depends.
If Wikipedia is your go-to source for quick information on a topic, you’re not alone. Chances are, it’s one of the first websites to appear on your results page. It’s used by tons of people, it’s easily accessible, and it contains millions of concise articles. So, you’re probably wondering, “What’s the problem?”
The issue with Wikipedia is that it’s a user-generated site, meaning information is constantly added and modified by registered users. Who these users are and their expertise is somewhat of a mystery. The truth is anyone can register on the site and make changes to articles.
Knowing this makes some cringe, especially educators and librarians, since the validity of the information is questionable. However, some people argue that because Wikipedia is a user-generated site, the community of registered users serve as “watchdogs,” ensuring that information is valid. In addition, references are included at the bottom of each article and serve as proof of credibility. Furthermore, Wikipedia lets readers know when there’s a problem with an article. Warnings such as “this article needs clarification,” or “this article needs references to prove its validity” are shared with the reader, thus promoting transparency.
If you choose to reference a Wikipedia article in your research project, and your teacher or professor says it’s okay, then you must reference it in your project. You would treat it just as you would with any other web source.
However, you may want to instead consider locating the original source of the information. This should be fairly easy to do thanks to the references at the bottom of each article.
Specific Components of a Citation
This section explains each individual component of the citation, with examples for each section for full citations and in-text citations.
Name of the author
The author’s name is usually the first item listed in the MLA 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 a full citation:
Poe, Edgar Allan.
(Author’s Last name page number) or Author’s Last name... (page).
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 format:
Author 1’s Last Name, First name, and Author 2’s First Name Last Name.
Here are two examples of how to cite two authors:
Clifton, Mark, and Frank Riley.
Paxton, Roberta J., and Michael Jacob Fox.
(Author 1’s Last name and Author 2’s Last name page number) or Author 1’s Last name and Author 2’s Last name... (page).
There are many times when three or more authors work together on a source. This often happens with journal articles, edited books, and textbooks.
To cite a source with three or more authors, place the information in this format:
Author 1’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 the Citation Machine citation generator, this abbreviation is automatically added for you.
Here’s an example of a 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.
(Author 1’s Last name et al. page number)
Is there no author listed on your source? If so, exclude the author’s information from the citation and begin the citation with the title of the source.
For in-text: Use the title of the source in parentheses. Place the title in italics if the source stands alone. Books and films stand alone. If it’s part of a larger whole, such as a chapter in an edited book or an article on a website, place the title in quotation marks without italics.
( Back to the Future )
(“Citing And Writing”)
Other in-text structures:
Authors with the same last name in your paper? MLA essay format requires the use of first initials in-text in this scenario.
Ex: (J. Silver 45)
Are you citing more than one source by the same author? For example, two books by Ernest Hemingway? Include the title in-text.
Example: (Hemingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls 12).
Are you citing a film or song? Include a timestamp in the format of hours:minutes:seconds. ( Back to the Future 00:23:86)
Was the source found on social media, such as a tweet, Reddit, or Instagram post? If this is the case, in an MLA format paper, you are allowed to start the citation with the author’s handle, username, or screen name.
Here is an 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, they do not necessarily have to. Quite often, sources are compiled by editors. Or, your source may be done by a performer or composer. 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 MLA works cited generator at Citation Machine.net, you can 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 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, the tools at CitationMachine.net can help! Our website 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 title form, meaning the important words start with a capital.
Here’s an example of a properly written title:
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. 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 is from 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.
To cite Pink Floyd’s entire album, The Wall , cite it as:
%%Pink Floyd. The Wall. Columbia, 1979.
To cite one of the songs on Pink Floyd’s album in MLA formatting, cite it as:
%%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:
%%Colfer, Chris. The Land of Stories. Little Brown, 2016.
To cite a specific story or chapter in the book, cite it as:
%%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. 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 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 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.
If the source has more than two containers, add on another full 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. Only include the elements that will help your readers locate the source themselves.
Here is an example of a citation for a scholarly journal article found in 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, the Citation Machine MLA cite generator can help! MLA citing is easier when using the tools at CitationMachine.net.
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 citation, after the title, place the role of the individual, the word “by,” and then their name in standard order.
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 citation.
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 a 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.
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. For MLA citing, 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. Do not include ISBN (International Standard Book Numbers) in the citation.
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 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 are extremely important to include in 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 MLA in one of two ways. Researchers can write dates as:
Day Mo. Year
Mo. Day, Year
Whichever format you decide to use, use the same format for all of your citations. If using the Citation Machine citation generator, 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? Use the date that is most applicable to your research.
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.
You can usually leave out http:// or https:// from URLs unless you want to hyperlink them. For DOIs, use http:// or https:// before the DOI: https://doi.org/xx.xxxx/xxx.xxxx.xxxx .
For page numbers, when citing a source found 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. When it comes to URLs, many students wonder if the links in citations should be live or not. If the paper is being shared electronically with a teacher and other readers, it may be helpful to include live links. If you’re not sure whether to include live links or not, ask your teacher or professor for guidance.
Looking for an online tool to do the work for you? Citation Machine citing tools could help! Our site is simple (and fun!) to use.
Need some more help? There is further good information here .
Common Citation Examples
ALL sources use this 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, the Citation Machine MLA formatter can help you save time and energy when creating your citations. Check out our MLA Citation Machine pages to learn more.
- Journal Articles
How to Format a Paper
When it comes to formatting your paper or essay for academic purposes, there are specific MLA paper format guidelines to follow.
- Use paper that is 8½-by-11 inch in size. This is the standard size for copier and printer paper.
- Use high quality paper.
- Your research paper or essay should have a one-inch margin on the top, bottom, left, and right sides of the paper.
- While most word processors automatically format your paper to have one-inch margins, you can check or modify the margins of your paper by going to the “Page setup” section of your word processor.
Which font is acceptable to use?
- Use an easily readable font, specifically one that allows readers to see the difference between regular and italicized letters.
- Times New Roman, Arial, and Helvetica are recommended options.
- Use 12-point size font.
Should I double-space the paper, including citations?
- Double-space the entire paper.
- There should be a double space between each piece of information in the heading.
- Place a double space between the heading and the title.
- Place a double space between the title and the beginning of the essay.
- The works-cited list should be double-spaced as well. All citations are double-spaced.
Justification & Punctuation
- Text should be left-justified, meaning that the text is aligned, or flush, against the left margin.
- Indents signal to the reader that a new concept or idea is about to begin.
- Use the “tab” button on your keyboard to create an indent.
- Add one space after all punctuation marks.
Heading & Title
- Include a proper heading and title
- The heading should include the following, on separate lines, starting one inch from the top and left margins:
- Your full name
- Your teacher or professor’s name
- The course number
- Dates in the heading and the body of your essay should be consistent. Use the same format, either Day Month Year or Month Day, Year throughout the entire paper
- Examples: 27 July 2017 or July 27, 2017
- The title should be underneath the heading, centered in the middle of the page, without bold, underlined, italicized, or all capital letters.
- Number all pages, including the very first page and the works-cited list.
- Place page numbers in the top right corner, half an inch from the top margin and one inch from the right margin.
- Include your last name to the left of the page number. Example: Jacobson 4
Here’s an example to provide you with a visual:
If you need help with sentence structure or grammar, check out our paper checker. The paper checker will help to check every noun , verb , and adjective . If there are words that are misspelled or out of place, the paper checker will suggest edits and provide recommendations.
- If a citation flows onto the second line, indent it in half an inch from the left margin (called a “hanging indent”).
- For more information on the works-cited list, refer to “How to Make a Works Cited Page,” which is found below.
How to Create a Title Page
According to the Modern Language Association’s official guidelines for formatting a research paper, it is unnecessary to create or include an individual title page, or MLA cover page, at the beginning of a research project. Instead, follow the directions above, under “Heading & Title,” to create a proper heading. This heading is featured at the top of the first page of the research paper or research assignment.
If your instructor or professor does in fact require or ask for an MLA title page, follow the directions that you are given. They should provide you with the information needed to create a separate, individual title page. If they do not provide you with instructions, and you are left to create it at your own discretion, use the header information above to help you develop your research paper title page. You may want to include other information, such as the name of your school or university.
How to Make a Works Cited Page
The MLA Works Cited page is generally found at the end of a research paper or project. It contains a list of all the citations of sources used for the research project. Follow these directions to format the works-cited list to match the Modern Language Association’s guidelines.
- The “Works Cited” page has its own page at the end of a research project.
- Include the same running head as the rest of the project (Your last name and then the page number). The “Works Cited” page has the final page number for the project.
- Name the page “Works Cited,” unless your list only includes one citation. In that case, title it in MLA “Work Cited.”
- The title of the page (either “Works Cited” or “Work Cited”) is placed one inch from the top of the page, centered in the middle of the document.
- Double space the entire document, even between the title of the page and the first citation.
- Citations are listed in alphabetical order by the first word in the citation (usually the last name of the author or the first word in the title if the citation does not include the author’s name. Ignore “A,” “An,” and “The” if the title begins with these words.)
- If there are multiple citations by the same author, place them in chronological order by the date published.
- Also, instead of writing the author’s name twice in both citations, use three hyphens.
%%Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Random House, 2009.
%%---. Gather Together in My Name. Random House, 1974.
- All citations begin flush against the left margin. If the citation is long and rolls onto a second or third line, indent the lines below the first line half an inch from the left margin. This is called a “hanging indent.” The purpose of a hanging indent is to make the citations easier to read. If you’re using our MLA citation machine, we’ll format each of your references with a hanging indent for you.
%%Wai-Chung, Ho. “Political Influences on Curriculum Content and Musical Meaning: Hong Kong Secondary Music Education, 1949-1997.” Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, vol. 22, no. 1, 1 Oct. 2000, pp. 5-25. Periodicals Index Online, search-proquest-com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/pio/docview/1297849364/citation/6B70D633F50C4EA0PQ/78?accountid=35635.
- MLA “Works Cited” pages can be longer than one page. Use as many pages as necessary. If you have only one source to cite, do not place the one citation below the text of your paper. In MLA, a “Work Cited” page is still created for that individual citation.
Here’s a sample paper to give you an idea of what an MLA paper could look like. Included at the end is an MLA “Works Cited” page example.
Looking to add a relevant image, figure, table, or musical score to your paper? Here’s the easy way to do it, while following guidelines set forth by the Modern Language Association:
- Place the image, figure, table, or music close to where it’s mentioned in the text.
- Provide source information and any additional notes directly below the image, figure, table, or music.
- Label the table as “Table” followed by an arabic numeral such as “1.” Table 1 is the table closest to the beginning of the paper. The next table mentioned in the text would be Table 2, and so on.
- Create a title for the table and place it below the label. Capitalize all important words.
- The label (Table 1) and the title should be flush against the left margin.
- Double-space everything.
- A figure can be a map, photograph, painting, pie chart, or any other type of image.
- Create a label and place it below the figure. The figure first mentioned in the text of the project is either “Figure 1” or “Fig 1.” Though figures are usually abbreviated to “Fig.” Choose one style and use it consistently. The next mentioned figure is “Figure 2” or “Fig. 2.”, and so on.
- Place a caption next to the label. If all of the source information is included in the caption, there isn’t a need to replicate that information in the works-cited list.
MLA Final Checklist
Think you’re through? We know this guide covered a LOT of information, so before you hand in that assignment, here’s a checklist to help you determine if you have everything you need:
_ Are both in-text and full citations included in the project? Remember, for every piece of outside information included in the text, there should be a corresponding in-text citation next to it. Include the full citation at the end, on the “Works Cited” page.
_ Are all citations, both in-text and full, properly formatted in MLA style? If you’re unsure, try out our citation generator!
_ Is your paper double-spaced in its entirety with one inch margins?
_ Do you have a running header on each page? (Your last name followed by the page number)
_ Did you use a font that is easy to read?
_ Are all citations on the MLA format works-cited list in alphabetical order?
Our plagiarism checker scans for any accidental instances of plagiarism. It scans for grammar and spelling errors, too. If you have an adverb , preposition , or conjunction that needs a slight adjustment, we may be able to suggest an edit.
Common Ways Students Accidentally Plagiarize
We spoke a bit about plagiarism at the beginning of this guide. Since you’re a responsible researcher, we’re sure you didn’t purposely plagiarize any portions of your paper. Did you know students and scholars sometimes accidentally plagiarize? Unfortunately, it happens more often than you probably realize. Luckily, there are ways to prevent accidental plagiarism and even some online tools to help!
Here are some common ways students accidentally plagiarize in their research papers and assignments:
1. Poor Paraphrasing
In the “How to create a paraphrase” section towards the top of this page, we share that paraphrases are “recycled information, in the paper writer’s own words and writing style.” If you attempt to paraphrase a few lines of text and it ends up looking and sounding too close to the original author’s words, it’s a poor paraphrase and considered plagiarism.
2. Incorrect Citations
If you cite something incorrectly, even if it’s done accidentally, it’s plagiarism. Any incorrect information in a reference, such as the wrong author name or the incorrect title, results in plagiarism.
3. Forgetting to include quotation marks
When you include a quote in your paper, you must place quotation marks around it. Failing to do so results in plagiarism.
If you’re worried about accidental plagiarism, try our Citation Machine Plus essay tool. It scans for grammar, but it also checks for any instances of accidental plagiarism. It’s simple and user-friendly, making it a great choice for stress-free paper editing and publishing.
Updated June 15, 2021
Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Wendy Ikemoto. Michele Kirschenbaum has been an awesome school librarian since 2006 and is an expert in citing sources. Wendy Ikemoto has a master’s degree in library and information science and has been working for Citation Machine since 2012.
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / MLA Format / MLA Works Cited Page
MLA Works Cited Page
What is a works cited page.
The works cited page is a list of all the sources cited within the body and notes of your paper. A works cited page should begin on its own page after the end of the paper content and should list all the entries in alphabetical order by the first item in each entry (usually the author’s name). It should be included in order to give full credit to the sources used and avoid plagiarism, as well as to allow the reader to easily locate each source if needed. Papers in MLA format should always have a works cited page.
It is not necessary to include sources that you consulted but did not directly reference in the works cited list – it should only include the sources you directly quoted or paraphrased. Each in-text citation should therefore have a corresponding entry in the works cited list.
Creating an MLA Works Cited Page:
Citing sources in mla.
- Bibliography vs. Works Cited — What’s the Difference?
- Formatting the Works Cited Page
- Heading & Title Format
- Organizing the References in the List
- Formatting Author Names
- Formatting Author Names in Other Languages
- Title Rules: Capitalization, Italics, and Quotation Marks
Let’s get started with an explanation of what exactly a works cited page is and why creating one is necessary!
Note: This guide is not affiliated with the Modern Language Association. It was developed by EasyBib.com’s in-house librarians to serve as a quick guide and snapshot of some of the guidelines found in the MLA Handbook, 9th ed.
When students and scholars create a research paper, they seek out information in books, websites, journal articles, and many other types of sources. The information from these sources, combined with the scholar’s own thinking and knowledge, aid in the formation of a final project.
However, simply placing information from books, websites, journal articles, newspaper articles, and other source types into a project without a reference is not acceptable. Without a reference or citation, it’ll look like the paper’s author came up with everything themselves!
That means it’s necessary to call out when information is included from outside sources and originated elsewhere.
An MLA works cited page shows all the sources that were consulted and included in a project. Each source has a corresponding in-text citation within the paper.
In-text & parenthetical citations
In the body of a research project, add a short reference next to a quote or paraphrased information that came from a source. This is called a citation in prose or a parenthetical citation.
In-text Citation Example:
Langdon’s expertise is revealed in Chapter 1, when he is introduced to a group of university students. “Our guest tonight needs no introduction. He is the author of numerous books: The Symbology of Secret Sects , The Art of the Illuminati , The Lost Language of Ideograms , and when I say he wrote the book on Religious Iconology, I mean that quite literally. Many of you use his textbooks in class” (Brown 8).
In the example above, the writer displays that the quote was taken from Brown’s book, on page 8.
Even though this information is helpful, the brief reference to Brown and page 8 isn’t enough information to truly understand the origin of the quote. Other relevant information, such as the full name of the author, the title of the book, the publisher, and the year the book was published is missing.
Where can the reader find that information? In the MLA works cited list!
Full references in the works cited list
The MLA works cited list is the final page of a research project. Here, the reader can take the time to truly understand the sources included in the body of the project. The reader can turn to the MLA works cited list, look for “Brown” and see the full reference, which looks like this:
Brown, Dan. The DaVinci Code . Knopf Doubleday, 2003.
Included in the above reference is the full name of the author (Dan Brown), the title of the source ( The DaVinci Code ), the publisher of the book (Knopf Doubleday), and the year the book was published (2003).
The information provided in the reference supplies the reader with enough information to seek out the original source themselves, if he or she would like.
Works Cited Example:
Bibliography vs. Works cited – What’s the difference?
Quite often, the two terms are used interchangeably. While similar, they have some unique differences.
The remainder of this guide focuses on the placement, organization, and styling guidelines for the MLA works cited list.
Another commonly used reference style is APA. If your teacher or professor requests your references be made in APA citation style, check out this page on APA format .
Here’s more information on how to develop an MLA in-text citation and APA in-text citation .
Formatting the MLA works cited page
The reference page is the final page of a research paper and starts on its very own page.
If your project isn’t an actual research paper, but a slideshow, video, or another type of project, follow the same guidelines as above. Place the works cited list on the final slide, page, or screen of the project.
Here are the recommended guidelines for margins, spacing, and page numbers taken from the MLA Style Center’s web page “Formatting a Research Paper.”
Margins in MLA:
- Place one inch margins around the entire document.
- The only exception is the “running head.” See the “Running Head” section below to learn more about the margins of this component.
- Most word processing programs automatically default to one inch margins. In the page setup settings, you can view and modify the size of the margins.
Spacing in MLA:
- Double space the entire page. The title, references, and other components should all have double spaces.
It is not necessary to create double spaces manually by pressing the “enter” or “return” key in between each and every line. Your word processing program can automatically adjust the line spacing for you. Look for a section in the settings area called “Line spacing” or “Paragraph spacing.” You should be able to click or check off “double spacing.”
Page numbers in MLA:
- The reference list is the final page(s) of a research paper.
- If the conclusion of a research project is on page 7, page 8 would be the first page of the reference list. If the list runs onto the next page after that, it would be page 9.
For more information regarding how to display the page numbers, see the section below titled, “Running Head.”
While an APA reference page is very different from a Modern Language Association style works cited, note that APA bibliography pages also use double spacing throughout and 1 inch margins.
Heading & title format in MLA
This next section focuses on how to properly label and format the page numbers and title.
The running head is found at the top of every page of the research project. It’s also included on the reference list.
The running head displays the name of the writer or author of the research project + page number .
There is one space between the author’s name and the page number. Here is an MLA works cited page example of a running head:
The above is an example of a running head that would be seen on page 8 of a research project. The writer’s last name is Kleinman.
General running head guidelines:
- It is placed in the top right corner of every page.
- It sits half of an inch from the top of the page and along the right side’s one inch margin.
Reminder : If the concluding sentence of the research project is on page 10, the reference list starts on page 11. Even though the reference page starts on its own page, the numbering throughout the entire project includes the reference page.
Title of the page
Below the running head is the title of the page, which should either be “Work Cited” or “Works Cited.”
- Only 1 reference = “Work Cited”
- Multiple references =”Works Cited”
Whether you’re making an MLA work cited page or an MLA works cited page, here are some general rules to follow:
- Align the title to the center of the document
- Add a one-inch margin below the top edge of the paper
- Do not bold, italicize, or underline the title
- The title should be the same size and style as the rest of the document (12-point font)
- Place a double space between the title and the first citation on the page
Here’s a sample MLA works cited running head and title:
If you’re reading through this page, but have yet to determine your research paper topic, look no further! We have thorough guides on historical individuals to rev up your brainstorming engine! Check out our guides on Abraham Lincoln , Muhammad Ali , and Marilyn Monroe .
Organizing the references in the MLA works cited list
Hanging indent formatting.
- The full citation entries run along the left side of the paper, along the one inch margin.
- Double space each line.
- Each MLA work cited entry has a hanging indent, meaning the first line of the full reference starts along the one inch margin and any additional lines after the first are indented in one and a half inches from the left margin.
Hanging indent example:
Organizing the Works Cited Entries
There are two options: alphabetical order and non alphabetical order.
The majority of references are organized in alphabetical order by the first item in the reference, which is usually an author’s last name. When a source doesn’t have an author, the title is placed first in the reference. Many films and movies, for instance, begin with the title, since no author is present.
Either way, whether the reference starts with the last name of the author, or a title, the entries are placed in alphabetical order.
Works cited MLA example, organized in alphabetical order.
Benjamin, Chloe. The Immortalists . Penguin, 2018.
Black Panther. Directed by Ryan Coogler, performance by Chadwick Boseman, Marvel Studios, 2018.
Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach . Scribner, 2017.
The majority of reference lists are organized in alphabetical order. However, it is acceptable to only organize “annotated bibliographies” in alphabetical order, chronological order, or subject order.
Here’s more information about the organization and creation of an MLA annotated bibliography .
Formatting Author Names in MLA
If you need help structuring or formatting the author’s name (or multiple authors’ names) in your references, this section will help.
Let’s start with the proper structure for one author’s name (taken from Section 5.6 of the official Handbook ). If the source you’re attempting to cite was created by one individual author, structure the name as follows:
Last name, First name.
The last name of the author is placed at the start of the reference, followed by a comma, and the first name of the author. Conclude this information with a period.
One author with a middle name or middle initial
Work Cited Examples:
- Burroughs, William S.
- Yeats, W. B.
- Alcott, Louisa May.
Wondering how to organize two or more works by Louisa May Alcott in your paper? It may be tricky to determine how to alphabetically arrange the references, since each MLA work cited entry begins with Louisa May Alcott.
Citing multiple sources with the same author To create a proper MLA works cited list when there are multiple sources by the same author, place the references in alphabetical order by the title. Only include the author’s name in the first reference. In place of the author’s name in subsequent entries, place three dashes, followed by a period. (Follows rules from Section 5.126 of the Handbook .)
Below is a visual representation of a properly organized and structured MLA style works cited list. All three sources in this MLA works cited page example are by the author, Louisa May Alcott.
Alcott, Louisa May. “Eight Cousins.” Project Gutenberg , 2018, www.gutenberg.org/files/2726/2726-h/2726-h.htm.
– – -. Little Women. Bantam Classics, 1983.
– – -. Rose in Bloom . CreateSpace, 2018.
Citing a Source with Two Authors in MLA
According to section 5.7 of the official Handbook , the first listed author’s name on the source is the first author seen in the reference. The second listed author’s name on the source is the second author placed in the reference.
The first author’s name is placed in reverse order, followed by a comma and the word “and.” The second author’s name is listed in standard order, followed by a period.
Last name, First name of Author 1, and First name Last name of Author 2.
Work Cited Examples
Brust, Steven, and Emma Bull.
Jory, John, and Mac Barnett.
Citing multiple sources with the same co-authors When there are multiple sources on a reference list by the same co-authors, organize those specific references alphabetically by the titles. Only include the names of the coauthors in the first entry.
Jory, John, and Mac Barnett. The Terrible Two. Amulet, 2017.
– – -. The Terrible Two Get Worse. Amulet, 2017.
Here’s a complex scenario…
There may be times when you’re attempting to add additional sources by one of the co-authors, or the lead co-author along with a different individual.
Here is an example of how a works cited page in MLA would be organized. Included is a source solely written by one of the coauthors (John Jory) and a source by John Jory with a different coauthor, Avery Monsen.
Works Cited Example
Jory, John. The Bad Seed. HarperCollins, 2017.
– – -. Giraffe Problems. Random House, 2018.
Monsen, Avery, and Jory John. All My Friends Are Dead , Chronicle, 2010.
Summary of the above examples:
- Jory John’s work, The Bad Seed , is listed first in the reference list since the single author’s name is organized first in alphabetical order.
- The second entry includes the three hyphens and a period in place of John Jory’s name since it is redundant to write out and display the author’s name again in the list.
- Entries three and four are by the coauthors Jory John and Mac Barnett. The hyphens in the fourth source replace the authors’ names in the third for the same reason as above: it’s unnecessary to write out both co-authors’ names twice. The Terrible Two book is placed before The Terrible Two Get Worse as the titles are placed in alphabetical order.
- The fifth entry is by John Jory and Avery Monsen. Monsen’s name is displayed first on the source, which is why her name is listed first in the entry. Remember: authors are placed in the order they appear on the source.
Citing a Source with Three or More Authors in MLA
When there are three or more authors listed on a source, it is unnecessary to include all individuals’ names in the reference list.
Only include the first listed author’s last name, followed by a comma and their first name, followed by another comma and the abbreviation “et al.”
Work Cited Example
Robertson, Judy, et al.
Et al. is an abbreviation used in academic works. It translates to “and others” in Latin. Replace the second, third, and any additional authors’ names with “et al.” on your work cited page in MLA.
The above example represents a journal article written by Judy Robertson, Beth Cross, Hamish Mcleod, and Peter Wiemer-Hastings. Instead of including all four authors’ names in the entry, only the first listed author’s name is included.
Robertson, Judy, et al. “Children’s Interactions with Animated Agents in an Intelligent Tutoring System.” International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education , vol. 14, no. 3-4, 2004, pp. 335-357. IOS Press , content.iospress.com/articles/international-journal-of-artificial-intelligence-in-education/jai14-3-4-05.
If including an additional reference by Judy Robertson, but with different co-authors, include her name again in the reference list.
For example, take a look at this journal article by Judy Robertson, Judith Good, and Helen Pain. The MLA work cited entry would begin with Judy Robertson, et al. and not three hyphens since there are different co-authors than the first.
Robertson, Judy, et al. “BetterBlether: The Design and Evaluation of a Discussion Tool for Education.” International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education , 1998, pp. 9, 219-236, ijaied.org/pub/1026/file/1026_paper.pdf.
The entries are listed in alphabetical order by the title of the source since the first positions are the same.
Citing Authors with proper titles in MLA
There are times when an author is graced with a prestigious title such as a Duke, Sir, Saint, and others (see Section 2.83 of the Handbook for more examples).
When an author has a specific title, it should be omitted from the body of a project and also omitted from the reference list.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle should be in the project as Arthur Conan Doyle.
On a work cited page in MLA, it would be displayed as:
Doyle, Arthur Conan.
Citing Authors with Suffixes in MLA
If an author has a suffix in his or her name, such as Junior (Jr.) or a roman numeral such as II, III, IV, or V, this information is included in the reference list.
The individual’s name is placed in reverse order, with the last name displayed in the first position. Immediately following the last name is a comma, followed by the first name and middle name. After the first and middle names, a comma is placed, and the suffix of the individual is placed at the end with a period. You should not include the comma preceding the suffix, however, if it is a numeral.
For example, Cal Ripken, Jr. would be structured as
- Ripken, Cal, Jr.
Frederick William III would be structured as:
William, Frederick III.
Citing Pen Names in MLA
If the author’s pen name is one that is well known, it is acceptable to use the pen name in place of the author’s real first and last name.
For example, Mark Twain , Dr. Seuss , George Orwell, and O. Henry are all acceptable to use in a works cited MLA section, as their pen names are well known.
If the author’s pen name is less familiar, you can include the author’s real name in brackets in the reference.
Coffey, Brian [Dean Koontz]. Blood Risk. Bobbs-Merrill, 1973.
Van Dyne, Edith [L. Frank Baum]. Aunt Jane’s Nieces At Work. 1st World Library, 2006.
Formatting Author’s Names in Other Languages
Many names in languages other than English include conventions and features that are different from names in English. This next section provides information to help you properly structure and organize the names of authors in other languages. It follows rules from section 2.73 in the official Handbook .
Citing French Names in MLA
French names often include the particles de, d’, or du. Some examples include Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Bertrand du Guesclin, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord.
When “de” is used in an individual’s name, it is separated from the last name. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord would be structured in a work cited MLA list as:
Talleyrand-Perigord, Charles Maurice de.
If, however, the last name is only one syllable, “de” is considered part of the last name. The reference entry would begin with de and then the last name of the individual, followed by a comma and the first name. In this instance, “de” remains lowercased.
When “du” or “des” is used in an individual’s name, it is included as part of the last name. Capitalize the “d” in “du.” Bertrand du Guesclin would be structured in a work cited MLA list as:
Du Guesclin, Bertrand.
When d’ is placed before a last name, d’ is included as part of the last name, but only when the last name begins with a vowel. Valery Giscard d’Estaing would be structured as:
d’Estaing, Valery Giscard.
Citing Asian Names in MLA
Prior to determining how to structure an Asian author’s name, consider the source. Many Asian publishers display the author’s last name first on sources. If the source was published in Asia, do not reverse the author’s name in the reference list. Write it in the order shown on the source, without any commas. End the author’s name with a period.
If the source was published in English, it is quite possible that the author’s last name is displayed first as well. This is when the researcher must do a bit of detective work to determine the author’s first name and last name. Run the name through a search engine and identify the author’s first name and last name. If the last name is placed first on the source, keep it as is in the reference entry. Do not reverse the names and write it in standard form.
If, on the source, the author’s name is placed in standard order (first name followed by last name) reverse it in the reference list. Begin the reference with the last name of the individual, add a comma, and add the first name of the author. End the field with a period.
Citing Latin Names in MLA
Famous historical figures in Roman history have names that are widely known. Some examples include Julius Caesar, Augustus, Claudius, Constantine, and others. While these individuals are known by their Roman names, their full names are in Latin.
Begin the reference entry with the Roman name. Immediately following the Roman name, add the individual’s full name in brackets. End the information with a period.
Augustus [Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus]. “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus.” The Internet Classics Archive , translated by Thomas Bushnell, 1998, classics.mit.edu/Augustus/deeds.html.
APA citation website references look much different! Make sure you check out our handy guides on EasyBib.com!
Citing German Names in MLA
Two commonly used particles in German names are “von” and “zu.” Examples include Alexander von Humboldt, Ferdinand von Zeppelin, Prince Chlodwig zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, and Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied.
When a German individual’s name includes the particles “von” or “zu,” the particles are not included as part of the person’s last name. Ferdinand von Zeppelin would be organized in the work cited MLA list as:
Zeppelin, Ferdinand von.
If, on the source, von is displayed as a last name, it is acceptable to include it at the beginning of the individual’s last name. Examples include books by Dita Von Teese and Diane Von Furstenberg.
Von Furstenberg, Diane. Diane: A Signature Life . Simon & Schuster, 2009.
Citing Italian Names in MLA
If the particles d’, del, de, della, di, da, are used in an individual’s last name, and the individual is relatively current and from modern times, the particles are included as part of the last name and the reference entry begins with the capitalized particle.
Di Lampedusa, Giuseppe Tomasi.
When the individual’s name begins with one of the same particles above, but he or she is from historical or ancient times, the particle is not included as part of the individual’s last name.
Citing Spanish Names in MLA
There are two commonly used particles in Spanish names: “de” and “del.” If an individual’s name includes the particle, “de,” do not include it as part of his or her last name. When “del” is visible in an individual’s last name, the “d” in “del” is capitalized and placed at the beginning of the citation.
- Del Toro, Benicio.
- Leon, Juan Ponce de.
- Soto, Hernando de.
- Del Rio, Andres Manuel.
Capitalization rules in mla.
According to section 2.90 of the Handbook , titles should be written in title case format. This means that the first letter in the first word, the first letter in the last word, and the first letters of all other important words are capitalized. Any coordinating conjunctions (and, for, but, or, so, nor, and yet), articles (a, an, the), and prepositions in the title are not capitalized.
Here are a few MLA works cited examples of how titles should appear in references:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
- The Wizard of Oz
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
If the source you’re attempting to cite is in a language other than English, it is recommended to use “sentence case” form. Sentence case only has the first letter in the first word capitalized and the first letter in any proper nouns capitalized. All other words are written in lowercase letters.
Don’t forget to use EasyBib.com’s MLA work cited generator to develop your works cited page in MLA.
Italics vs. Quotation marks in MLA
Whether the source is placed in italics or quotation marks depends on where the source was found. If the title stands alone (like a book or movie), place the title in italics. If the title was found in a container, such as a website, anthology, edited book, or another type of container, place the source in quotation marks and the container in italics.
Mather, Victor. “Japan Advances in World Cup 2018 Despite Losing to Poland.” New York Times , 28 June 2018, nyti.ms/2IzyUdm.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye . Little Brown, 1991.
Formatting titles beginning with numbers in MLA
Titles beginning with numbers are placed in the reference list in alphabetical order, as if the title was written out alphabetically.
Here’s an MLA works cited example: The movie 2 Fast 2 Furious , would be organized in alphabetical order as if it said “ Too Fast Too Furious .” The citation would still be begin with the number even though it is organized alphabetically.
Don’t forget to try EasyBib.com’s MLA works cited generator to help you develop your references and your MLA works cited page. Our MLA works cited generator is free and simple to use!
Developing MLA references on EasyBib.com
EasyBib.com has an MLA works cited generator, which helps you produce references . This means you don’t have to spend time determining how to structure and organize the components of a citation.
To create your complete page of works cited in MLA with our tools, head to the EasyBib homepage.
Did your teacher or professor request that your references be made in MLA format? Luckily for you, MLA is the default format on EasyBib.com. If you’re not sure which style to use, ask your teacher.
- Select your source. Examples: book, website, video, etc. There are several types to choose from!
- Input information. Sources like websites, books, etc., will let you do an automatic search for citation information on your source. Input details like your source’s title, author, ISBN, DOI, or keywords.
- Select your source. Look through the results list and choose the one that matches your source.
- Review details. See what was found during the search.
- Review and edit the citation form. Feel free to add any missing details, or update any fields.
- Complete citation. Congratulations on your new citation! Copy and paste it into your document, or keep adding citations to your list.
All references are automatically organized in proper order and can be exported to Microsoft Word Documents, Google Docs, Dropbox, or One Drive. There’s even an option to email the reference!
Even better? EasyBib Plus gives you access to tools that do more than simply creating full references. References in the text are created for you, too! Whether it’s a Modern Language Association reference, or an APA parenthetical citation , APA book citation , or APA journal reference, we’ll create both types for you.
Need a bit more help? Our plagiarism checker is a one-stop shop to help you with your writing, grammar, and reference needs. Copy and paste your paper into our proofreader and receive comprehensive feedback! Stress less and submit your paper with confidence!
Follow our EasyBib Twitter feed to discover more citing tips, fun grammar facts, and the latest product updates.
MLA Works Cited
“Formatting a Research Paper.” MLA Style Center , Modern Language Association of America, style.mla.org/formatting-papers/.
MLA Handbook . 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021
Published October 16, 2013. Updated June 20, 2021.
Written and edited by Michele Kirschenbaum and Elise Barbeau. Michele Kirschenbaum is a school library media specialist and the in-house librarian at EasyBib.com. Elise Barbeau is the Citation Specialist at Chegg. She has worked in digital marketing, libraries, and publishing.
MLA Formatting Guide
- Annotated Bibliography
- Block Quotes
- et al Usage
- In-text Citations
- Page Numbers
- Sample Paper
- Works Cited
- MLA 8 Updates
- MLA 9 Updates
- View MLA Guide
- Book Chapter
- Journal Article
- Magazine Article
- Newspaper Article
- Website (no author)
- View all MLA Examples
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- The title should be the same size and style as the rest of the document (12-point font)/li>
If the title stands alone, place the title in italics. If the title was found in a container, such as a website, anthology, edited book, or another type of container, place the source in quotation marks and the container in italics.
According to Section 1.2 of the Handbook, titles should be written in title case format. Any coordinating conjunctions (and, for, but, or, so, nor, and yet), articles (a, an, the), and prepositions in the title are not capitalized.
If an author has a suffix in his or her name, the last name is displayed in the first position followed by a comma, the first name, and the middle name. After the first and middle names, a comma is placed, and the suffix of the individual is placed at the end.
Cal Ripken Jr. would be structured as
Author with roman numeral suffix would be structured as
- William, Frederick, III.
An MLA works cited list contains complete details of all the sources that are cited in the text. It helps the reader locate the source in case they want to read it for further understanding. It is included at the end of the paper after the main text. Each entry provides all of the information about each source so that it can be easily located. For example, the works cited list entry for a journal article would include the following elements:
Title of the article
With the help of the mentioned elements, a reader can locate the source for future reference. In addition, the works cited list arranges entries in alphabetical order according to the surname of the first author or title (if there is no author) to help the reader locate the entry in the list quickly. A few works cited list entries are listed below as examples:
Brenner, Barbara. “Pink Ribbons and Lou Gehrig: Time to Bury Useless Symbols.” So Much to be Done: The Writings of Breast cancer Activist Barbara Brenner , edited by Barbara Sjoholm, UP of Minnesota, 2016, pp. 199–202.
Feldman, Alice E. “Dances with Diversity: American Indian Self‐Presentation Within the Re‐presentative Contexts of a Non‐Indian Museum.” Text and Performance Quarterly , vol. 14, no. 3, 1994, pp. 210–21.
Hymes, Dell H. Discovering Oral Performance and Measured Verse in American Indian Narrative . Johns Hopkins UP, 1977.
The main purpose of the works cited list is to provide the readers with the complete details of the sources cited in the text. It helps the reader locate the source in case they want to do further research or verify information. It also helps to ensure that full credit is given to the sources utilized in the paper. The works cited list is placed at the end of the paper after the main text. For example, the works cited list entry for a journal article would include the author’s name, the title of the article, the journal title, the volume and issue number of the journal, the date the article was published, the page numbers of the article, and the URL if the article was found online. With the help of the mentioned elements, a reader can locate the source for future reference.
The works cited list arranges entries in alphabetical order according to the surname of the first author or title (if there is no author) to help the reader locate the entry in the list quickly.
MLA Citation Examples
Other Citation Styles
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- Knowledge Base
- MLA format for academic papers and essays
MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template
Published on December 11, 2019 by Raimo Streefkerk . Revised on June 16, 2022 by Jack Caulfield.
The MLA Handbook provides guidelines for creating MLA citations and formatting academic papers. This quick guide will help you set up your MLA format paper in no time.
Start by applying these MLA format guidelines to your document:
- Times New Roman 12
- 1″ page margins
- Double line spacing
- ½” indent for new paragraphs
- Title case capitalization for headings
Download Word template Open Google Docs template
(To use the Google Docs template, copy the file to your Drive by clicking on ‘file’ > ‘Make a copy’)
Table of contents
How to set up mla format in google docs, header and title, running head, works cited page, creating mla style citations, headings and subheadings, tables and figures, frequently asked questions about mla format.
The header in MLA format is left-aligned on the first page of your paper. It includes
- Your full name
- Your instructor’s or supervisor’s name
- The course name or number
- The due date of the assignment
After the MLA header, press ENTER once and type your paper title. Center the title and don’t forget to apply title-case capitalization. Read our article on writing strong titles that are informative, striking and appropriate.
For a paper with multiple authors, it’s better to use a separate title page instead.
At the top of every page, including the first page, you need to include your last name and the page number. This is called the “running head.” Follow these steps to set up the MLA running head in your Word or Google Docs document:
- Double-click at the top of a page
- Type your last name
- Insert automatic page numbering
- Align the content to the right
The running head should look like this:
The Works Cited list is included on a separate page at the end of your paper. You list all the sources you referenced in your paper in alphabetical order. Don’t include sources that weren’t cited in the paper, except potentially in an MLA annotated bibliography assignment.
Place the title “Works Cited” in the center at the top of the page. After the title, press ENTER once and insert your MLA references.
If a reference entry is longer than one line, each line after the first should be indented ½ inch (called a hanging indent ). All entries are double spaced, just like the rest of the text.
Generate accurate MLA citations with Scribbr
Prefer to cite your sources manually? Use the interactive example below to see what the Works Cited entry and MLA in-text citation look like for different source types.
Headings and subheadings are not mandatory, but they can help you organize and structure your paper, especially in longer assignments.
MLA has only a few formatting requirements for headings. They should
- Be written in title case
- Be left-aligned
- Not end in a period
We recommend keeping the font and size the same as the body text and applying title case capitalization. In general, boldface indicates greater prominence, while italics are appropriate for subordinate headings.
Tip: Both Google Docs and Microsoft Word allow you to create heading levels that help you to keep your headings consistent.
Tables and other illustrations (referred to as “figures”) should be placed as close to the relevant part of text as possible. MLA also provides guidelines for presenting them.
MLA format for tables
Tables are labeled and numbered, along with a descriptive title. The label and title are placed above the table on separate lines; the label and number appear in bold.
A caption providing information about the source appears below the table; you don’t need one if the table is your own work.
Below this, any explanatory notes appear, marked on the relevant part of the table with a superscript letter. The first line of each note is indented; your word processor should apply this formatting automatically.
Just like in the rest of the paper, the text is double spaced and you should use title case capitalization for the title (but not for the caption or notes).
MLA format for figures
Figures (any image included in your paper that isn’t a table) are also labeled and numbered, but here, this is integrated into the caption below the image. The caption in this case is also centered.
The label “Figure” is abbreviated to “Fig.” and followed by the figure number and a period. The rest of the caption gives either full source information, or (as in the example here) just basic descriptive information about the image (author, title, publication year).
Source information in table and figure captions
If the caption of your table or figure includes full source information and that source is not otherwise cited in the text, you don’t need to include it in your Works Cited list.
Give full source information in a caption in the same format as you would in the Works Cited list, but without inverting the author name (i.e. John Smith, not Smith, John).
MLA recommends using 12-point Times New Roman , since it’s easy to read and installed on every computer. Other standard fonts such as Arial or Georgia are also acceptable. If in doubt, check with your supervisor which font you should be using.
The main guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA style are as follows:
- Use an easily readable font like 12 pt Times New Roman
- Set 1 inch page margins
- Apply double line spacing
- Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
- Center the paper’s title
- Indent every new paragraph ½ inch
- Use title case capitalization for headings
- Cite your sources with MLA in-text citations
- List all sources cited on a Works Cited page at the end
The fastest and most accurate way to create MLA citations is by using Scribbr’s MLA Citation Generator .
Search by book title, page URL, or journal DOI to automatically generate flawless citations, or cite manually using the simple citation forms.
The MLA Handbook is currently in its 9th edition , published in 2021.
This quick guide to MLA style explains the latest guidelines for citing sources and formatting papers according to MLA.
Usually, no title page is needed in an MLA paper . A header is generally included at the top of the first page instead. The exceptions are when:
- Your instructor requires one, or
- Your paper is a group project
In those cases, you should use a title page instead of a header, listing the same information but on a separate page.
Cite this Scribbr article
If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the “Cite this Scribbr article” button to automatically add the citation to our free Citation Generator.
Streefkerk, R. (2022, June 16). MLA Format | Complete Guidelines & Free Template. Scribbr. Retrieved November 11, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/mla/formatting/
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MLA General Format
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MLA Style specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing research in writing. MLA Style also provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through parenthetical citation in their essays and Works Cited pages.
Writers who properly use MLA also build their credibility by demonstrating accountability to their source material. Most importantly, the use of MLA style can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the purposeful or accidental uncredited use of source material produced by other writers.
If you are asked to use MLA format, be sure to consult the MLA Handbook (9th edition). Publishing scholars and graduate students should also consult the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition). The MLA Handbook is available in most writing centers and reference libraries. It is also widely available in bookstores, libraries, and at the MLA web site. See the Additional Resources section of this page for a list of helpful books and sites about using MLA Style.
The preparation of papers and manuscripts in MLA Style is covered in part four of the MLA Style Manual . Below are some basic guidelines for formatting a paper in MLA Style :
- Type your paper on a computer and print it out on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper.
- Double-space the text of your paper and use a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, MLA recommends that the regular and italics type styles contrast enough that they are each distinct from one another. The font size should be 12 pt.
- Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise prompted by your instructor).
- Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides.
- Indent the first line of each paragraph one half-inch from the left margin. MLA recommends that you use the “Tab” key as opposed to pushing the space bar five times.
- Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.)
- Use italics throughout your essay to indicate the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, provide emphasis.
- If you have any endnotes, include them on a separate page before your Works Cited page. Entitle the section Notes (centered, unformatted).
Formatting the First Page of Your Paper
- Do not make a title page for your paper unless specifically requested or the paper is assigned as a group project. In the case of a group project, list all names of the contributors, giving each name its own line in the header, followed by the remaining MLA header requirements as described below. Format the remainder of the page as requested by the instructor.
- In the upper left-hand corner of the first page, list your name, your instructor's name, the course, and the date. Again, be sure to use double-spaced text.
- Double space again and center the title. Do not underline, italicize, or place your title in quotation marks. Write the title in Title Case (standard capitalization), not in all capital letters.
- Use quotation marks and/or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text. For example: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play; Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking"
- Double space between the title and the first line of the text.
- Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes your last name, followed by a space with a page number. Number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit the last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow instructor guidelines.)
Here is a sample of the first page of a paper in MLA style:
The First Page of an MLA Paper
Writers sometimes use section headings to improve a document’s readability. These sections may include individual chapters or other named parts of a book or essay.
MLA recommends that when dividing an essay into sections you number those sections with an Arabic number and a period followed by a space and the section name.
MLA does not have a prescribed system of headings for books (for more information on headings, please see page 146 in the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing , 3rd edition). If you are only using one level of headings, meaning that all of the sections are distinct and parallel and have no additional sections that fit within them, MLA recommends that these sections resemble one another grammatically. For instance, if your headings are typically short phrases, make all of the headings short phrases (and not, for example, full sentences). Otherwise, the formatting is up to you. It should, however, be consistent throughout the document.
If you employ multiple levels of headings (some of your sections have sections within sections), you may want to provide a key of your chosen level headings and their formatting to your instructor or editor.
Sample Section Headings
The following sample headings are meant to be used only as a reference. You may employ whatever system of formatting that works best for you so long as it remains consistent throughout the document.
Level 1 Heading: bold, flush left
Level 2 Heading: italics, flush left
Level 3 Heading: centered, bold
Level 4 Heading: centered, italics
Level 5 Heading: underlined, flush left