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Citing Sources: MLA

Featuring the most frequently used citation styles...


The MLA Handbook is published by the Modern Language Association, the authority on MLA documentation style. Widely adopted in high schools, colleges, and publishing houses, the MLA Handbook treats every aspect of research writing, from selecting a topic to submitting the completed paper. The seventh edition is a comprehensive, up-to-date guide to research and writing in the online environment. It provides an authoritative account of MLA documentation style for use in student writing, including simplified guidelines for citing works published on the Web and new recommendations for citing several kinds of works, such as digital files and graphic narratives.


*In the Library

The guidelines and examples in this table are based on the MLA Handbook, 9th edition (the most recent edition).

Font: There is no preferred font, but it must be legible and you should be able to clearly distinguish regular and italic styles. The example mentioned in the manual is Times New Roman 11-13 point. 

Margins: Margins should be 1 inch on all sides.

Spacing: The entire document should be double-spaced.

Page Numbers: Page numbers should be placed in the document header, flush right. Your page numbers should be preceded by your surname, with one single space between the two items. For example, if my last name was Doe, the page number on my fifth page would be displayed as: Doe 5. Note: your instructor may ask you to omit the number on the first page; ask your instructor if you aren't sure what is required of you.

First Page: In the upper left hand corner of the first page, include your name, instructor's name, class, and date. The title of your paper should be centered beneath that, with no special formatting. The text of your paper should go directly beneath the title in a new row - indent the first line as you would do with any new paragraph. 

In-text citations should include whatever comes first in its full entry in the works-cited list. Typically, that would be either the author's name or the title. When quoting or paraphrasing from another work, the page or line number must be included in your in-text citation. 

There are three ways to cite in-text: quoting, summarizing, and/or paraphrasing.

Consider the following example passage and consult with the table below:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.

from pages 46-47 of:

Lester, James. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed., Scott Foresman, 1976.

  What? Why? How? Example:
Paraphrase Restating, in your own words, the author’s words or ideas

-To simplify or clarify the original text

-To demonstrate comprehension of original source

-Reflect on what the author has written, then rewrite it using your own words and sentence structure

-Be sure to accurately represent the author

In research papers students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester 46-47).

Quote Using the author’s exact words

-To support or add credibility to your arguments.

-When the original is difficult to rephrase

-When the author's original wording is succinct and needs no improvement.

-Use “quotation marks” to mark someone else’s words

-Ensure the quote is identical to the original

-In his book, Writing Research Papers, James Lester asserts that "students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes" which leads them to then use too many quotations in their papers (46-47).

-Students tend to use too many quotations in their research papers because they "frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes" (Lester 46-47).

Summarize Condensed/distilled version of the author’s words or ideas

-To include only main points of the original text

-To give a broad overview of the source material

-A summary is shorter than a paraphrase and covers main points only.

-Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester).

-To minimize the amount of quoted material in research papers, James Lester suggests that students avoid utilizing direct quotations when taking notes.

Each of your in-text citations should then point to the item's full citation in your Reference list or Bibliography. Review the guidelines for the citation style you're required to use. More information about the various citation styles can be found in the box below.

Multiple Authors

Below are some basic rules:

  • 1 or 2 authors: always include both the names
    • Examples:
      • "The network form is on the rise in a big way, and because of this, societies are entering a new epoch" (Arquilla and Ronfelt 43).
      • Arquilla and Ronfelt report that “the network form is on the rise in a big way, and because of this, societies are entering a new epoch” (43).
  • 3+ authors: list the first author followed by et al. 
    • Examples:
      • ...students citing sources (Perry et al. 36).
      • When citing sources, Perry et al. ...suggesting they weren't grasping the concept (36).
No Known Author
  • When citing an item without an author, use a shortened version of the title - in quotation marks if it's an article or italicized if it's a book. Include a page number if it is available.
    • Example:
      • ...indicating that we see so many global warming hotspots in North America because the region has the most advanced technology and programs ("Impact of Global Warming" 8).
Entity as Author
  • Utilize the name of the entity, using abbreviations when appropriate (e.g. IRS, ACLU); it's preferred, though, to utilize the full version and to include it in the sentence. 
Authors - Same Last Name
  • If more than one author has the same last name, provide all authors' first initials when citing in-text.
Multiple Works by the Same Author
  • Include a short version of the title in italics if it's a book or quotations if it's an article:
    • Try to use the author's name in the text, so that the rest of the citation looks like ("Short title" page#)
    • If the author's name isn't mentioned in the text, it should look like (Last name, "Short title" page#)

Your works cited list should go at the end of your paper and should start on its own page with the title "Works Cited" centered at the top of the page. There should be no special formatting or quotations. Remember that all of the items in your works cited list should be cited in-text at some point.

Indents: Indent after the first line of each entry.

Order: Alphabetize by the authors' last names.


  • For titles of books and articles: capitalize the first word in the title (and subtitle) and all the words EXCEPT for prepositions (of, onto, into, between, as, to, against), articles (a, an, the), and coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but, for, or, no, so, yet).

Specifying locations for online works: It's important to include a link to online works. In order of preference, MLA considers the DOI, permalink, or URL of the online resource to be an acceptable way to share the item location.

Multiple Authors
  • List the first author with the last name first, followed by their first name, and middle initial (if indicated).
    • Example: Smith, James D.
      but if the author used initials in the original publication, follow their lead
    • Example: Smith, J. D.
  • Two authors - only the first author's name is inverted; it is separated from the second author's name with a comma and the word "and"
    • Example: Smith, James D., and Rebecca L. Jones
  • Three+ authors
    • Example: Smith, James D., et al.
Same Author - Different Works
  • If you're using multiple works by the same author, order the entries alphabetically by their title (not including any articles). After the first entry, use three hyphens in place of the author's name for every additional entry.
    • Example:
      • First Entry
        Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives......
      • Second Entry
        ---. A Rhetoric of Motives.....
  • If that author is also the first author of an item written by a group (multiple authors), the rule above does not apply. In this instance, the author's solo entry or entries should be first, followed by the author's group work. Order alphabetically by the title (not including articles).
    • Example:
      • First Entry
        Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives......
      • Second Entry
        ---. A Rhetoric of Motives.....
      • Third Entry
        Burke, Kenneth, and Sylvia Rolleg. Motives: Understanding Drive.....
Entity as Author
  • Authors that are organizations, corporations, government entities, etc.
    -Do not invert or use abbreviations.
    -Omit any article (a, an, the)
Editor(s) if using the entire book, not a chapter within a book
  • One editor
    • Example: Smith, James D., editor.
  • Two authors
    • Example: Smith, James D. and Rebecca L. Jones, editors.

Print Books:

Author(s). Title of book. Edition, Publisher, Year of Publication.

Shotton, Margaret. Computer Addiction? A Study of Computer Dependency. Taylor & Francis, 1989.

Sternberg, Elaine. Just Business: Business Ethics in Action. 2nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2000.


Author(s). "Title of book." Edition, Publisher, Year of Publication. Name of website, URL. 

King, Samuel P., and Randall W. Roth. Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement & Political Manipulation at America’s Largest Charitable Trust. University of Hawai’i Press, 2016. ScholarSpace, 

Book Chapter:

Author(s). "Title of Chapter." Title of Book, edited by Editor(s), Edition, Publisher, Year of Publication, pp. page numbers

Haybron, Daniel M. "Philosophy and the Science of Subjective Well-Being." The Science of Subjective Well-Being, edited by Michael Eid and Randy J. Larsen, Guilford Press, 2008, pp. 17-43.

Electronic Journal Article from a Database

*try to utilize the DOI if it is available. 

Author(s). "Title of article." Name of Journal, vol. volume, no. issue, year, pp: pages. Name of Database, doi: DOI number.

Gaudio, Jennifer L., and Charles T. Snowdon. "Spatial Cues More Salient Than Color Cues in Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus Oedipus) Reversal Learning." Journal of Comparative Psychology, vol. 122, no. 4, 2008, pp. 441-444. PsycARTICLES, doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.122.4.441

Herbst-Damm, Kathryn L., and James A. Kulik. "Volunteer Support, Marital Status, and the Survival Times of Terminally Ill Patients. Health Psychology, vol. 24, no. 2, 2005, pp. 225-229. SocINDEX, doi:10.1037/0278-6133.24.2.225

Print Journal Article

Author(s). "Title of article." Name of Journal, vol. volume, no. issue, year, pp: pages.

Agodini, Roberto, and Barbara Harris. "An Experimental Evaluation of Four Elementary School Math Curricula." Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, vol. 3, no. 3, 2010, 199-253.

Bolick, Cheryl M., et al. "The Marginalization of Elementary Social Studies in Teacher Education." Social Studies Research and Practice, vol. 5, no. 2, 2010, 1-22.

Search for what you need in any of the "resources" located to the left. The official manual guide is always your best bet.