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mla style

The Modern Language Association’s MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed., 2009) specifies guidelines for formatting manuscripts and citing sources. It is used mainly in the humanities fields.


In MLA style, referring to the works of others in your text is done in two ways. When you make reference to someone else's idea, either through paraphrasing or quoting them directly, you:

  1. Provide the author's name (or the title of the work) and the page (or paragraph) number of the work in a parenthetical citation
  2. Provide full citation information for the work in your Works Cited list

1. Parenthetical Citations

MLA format follows the author-page method of citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear in your works cited list (see Your Works Cited Page, below). The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence.

Examples in which the author’s name is known

  • Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).
  • Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).
  • Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

If the work you are making reference to has no author, use an abbreviated version of the work's title. For non-print sources, such as films, TV series, pictures, or other media, or electronic sources, include the name that begins the entry in the Works Cited page.

Example with no author

An anonymous Wordsworth critic once argued that his poems were too emotional ("Wordsworth Is A Loser" 100).

Example of indirect quotation

Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as "social service centers, and they don't do that well" ( Weisman 259).

Example of two authors with the same last name

Although some medical ethicists claim that cloning will lead to designer children (R. Miller 12), others note that the advantages for medical research outweigh this consideration (A. Miller 46).

Example of two works by the same author

Lightenor has argued that computers are not useful tools for small children ("Too Soon" 38), though he has acknowledged that early exposure to computer games does lead to better small motor skill development in a child's second and third year ("Hand-Eye Development" 17).

2. Works Cited List

Each source you cite in the essay must appear in your works-cited list; likewise, each entry in the works-cited list must be cited in your text. Here are some guidelines for preparing your works cited list.

List Format

  • Begin your works cited list on a separate page from the text of the essay under the label Works Cited (with no quotation marks, underlining, etc.), which should be centered at the top of the page.
  • Make the first line of each entry in your list flush left with the margin. Subsequent lines in each entry should be indented one-half inch. This is known as a hanging indent.
  • Double space all entries, with no skipped spaces between entries.
  • Keep in mind that underlining and italics are equivalent; you should select one or the other to use throughout your essay.
  • Alphabetize the list of works cited by the first word in each entry (usually the author's last name),

Basic Rules for Citations

  • Authors' names are inverted (last name first); if a work has more than one author, invert only the first author's name, follow it with a comma, then continue listing the rest of the authors.
  • If you have cited more than one work by a particular author, order them alphabetically by title, and use three hyphens in place of the author's name for every entry after the first.
  • When an author appears both as the sole author of a text and as the first author of a group, list solo-author entries first.
  • If no author is given for a particular work, alphabetize by the title of the piece and use a shortened version of the title for parenthetical citations.
  • Capitalize each word in the titles of articles, books, etc. This rule does not apply to articles, short prepositions, or conjunctions unless one is the first word of the title or subtitle.
  • Underline or italicize titles of books, journals, magazines, newspapers, and films.
  • Use quotation marks around the titles of articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers. Also use quotation marks for the titles of short stories, book chapters, poems, and songs.
  • List page numbers efficiently, when needed. If you refer to a journal article that appeared on pages 225 through 250, list the page numbers on your Works Cited page as 225-50.
  • If you're citing an article or a publication that was originally issued in print form but that you retrieved from an online database, you should provide enough information so that the reader can locate the article either in its original print form or retrieve it from the online database (if they have access).

Different Forms of Citations


Form of Citation

Author(s). Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.


  • Book with one Author
    Henley, Patricia.  The Hummingbird House. Denver: MacMurray, 1999. Print.
  • Two books by the same Author (After the first listing of the author's name, use three hyphens and a period for the author's name. List books alphabetically.)
    Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism. New York: St. Martin's, 1997. Print.
    ---. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 1993. Print.
  • Book with more than one Author (If there are more than three authors, you may list only the first author followed by the phrase et al., or you may list all the authors in the order in which their names appear on the title page.)
    Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Boston: Allyn, 2000. Print.
  • Book with a Corporate Author
    American Allergy Association. Allergies in Children. New York: Random, 1998. Print.
  • Book or Article with no Author Named
    Encyclopedia of Indiana. New York: Somerset, 1993. Print.
    "Cigarette Sales Fall 30% as California Tax Rises." New York Times 14 Sept. 1999: A17. Print.
  • Anthology or collection
    Peterson, Nancy J., ed. Toni Morrison: Critical and Theoretical Approaches. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1997. Print.

A Part of a Book (such as an essay in a collection)

Form of Citation

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Collection. Ed. Editor's Name(s). Place of Publication: Publisher, Year. Pages. Medium of Publication.


Harris, Muriel. "Talk to Me: Engaging Reluctant Writers." A Tutor's Guide: Helping Writers One to One. Ed. Ben Rafoth. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000. 24-34. Print.


An Article in a Periodical (Magazine or newspaper article)

Form of Citation

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Source. Date Month Year: pages. Medium of Publication.


Poniewozik, James. "TV Makes a Too-Close Call." Time 20 Nov. 2000: 70-71. Print.


An Article in a Scholarly Journal

Form of Citation

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of Publication.


Allen, Emily. "Staging Identity: Frances Burney's Allegory of Genre." Eighteenth-Century Studies 31.4 (1998): 433-51. Print.


Electronic Sources (a web site)

Form of Citation: [note the use of angled brackets around the electronic address, listing of URL is optional]

Author(s). Name of Page. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site, Publishing date/date of last revision. Medium of Publication. Date of Access. <electronic address (optional)>.


Felluga, Dino. Introductory Guide to Literary Theory. Purdue U, 28 Nov. 2003. Web. 16 Sept. 2009


An article on a web site

Form of Citation

Author(s)."Article Title." Name of web site. Name of institution/organization affiliated with site, Date of posting/revision. Medium of Publication. Date of access.


Irvine, Dean. “The Changing Face of the Arctic.” Cable News Network, 11 Sept. 2009. Web. 16 Sept. 2009.

"How to Make Vegetarian Chili." eHow, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2009.


An Article in an Online Journal or Magazine

Form of Citation

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): Pages/Paragraphs. Medium of Publication. Date of Access.


Wheelis, Mark. "Investigating Disease Outbreaks Under a Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention." Emerging Infectious Diseases 6.6 (2000): 595-600. Web. 8 Feb. 2009

An Article or Publication (Magazine or Newspaper) Retrieved from an Electronic Database

Form of Citation

Author. "Title of Article." Publication Name Publication Date: page number-page number. Database Name. Publication Medium. Date of access.


Poniewozik, James. "TV Makes a Too-Close Call." Time 20 Nov. 2000: 70-71. ProQuest. Web. 12 Sept. 2012.


An Article in a Scholarly Journal retrieved from an Electronic Database

Form of Citation

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Database Name. Medium of Publication. Date of access.


Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century England.” Historical Journal 50.1 (2007): 173-96. ProQuest. Web. 27 May 2009.


E-mail (or other personal communications)

Form of Citation

Author. "Title of the message (if any)" E-mail to person's name. Date of the message. Publication Medium.


  • E-mail to you
    Kunka, Andrew. "Re: Modernist Literature." E-mail to the author. 15 Nov. 2000. Email.
  • Email communication between two parties, not including the author
    Neyhart, David. "Re: Online Tutoring." E-mail to Joe Barbato. 1 Dec. 2000. Email.


A Listserv Posting

Form of Citation

Editor, screen name, author, or compiler name (if available). “Posting Title.” Name of Site. Version number (if available). Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher). Medium of publication. Date of access.


Salmar1515 [Sal Hernandez]. “Re: Best Strategy: Fenced Pastures vs. Max Number of Rooms?” BoardGameGeek. BoardGameGeek, 29 Sept. 2008. Web. 5 Apr. 2009.




(Adapted from the Online Writing Lab at Purdue University )

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