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MLA Citation Style

This guide provides examples for the Modern Language Association (MLA) style guide rules on citations and bibliographies.

Citing in MLA

Who uses MLA? 

The MLA Handbook is the creation of the Modern Language Association (MLA), and is the standard style guide for languages and literatures. The current edition focuses on core elements commons to all types of materials, as follows:

  • Author
  • Title of Source (e.g. a book, article, chapter, song, or episode.)
  • Title of Container (e.g. a journal, book, album, TV show.)
  • Other contributors (e.g. editors, translator, series creator, producer.)
  • Version
  • Number (e.g. vol. and issue of a journal.)
  • Publisher
  • Publication date
  • Location (e.g. page numbers or timestamp)

All of these elements will go into creating a bibliographic entry for the Works Cited. Part of the information will appear as part of the in text (also called parenthetical) citations. 

Formatting In Text Citations 

All citations in MLA appear in text, as a parenthetical note after the sentence in which the material is cited. The works cited provides all the bibliographical information on the source, so the in text citation only requires Author Lastname and a Page Number. This is bracketed in parentheses and placed before the period at the end of the sentence. 

This is the sentence that I am citing (Smith 55). 

This is the sentence that I am citing (Smith and Jones 31). 

Smith wrote things that I'm talking about in this sentence (45). 

If the work does not have an author, or there are multiple works by the same author, a shortened portion of the title will also go in the citation. It should be italicized or in quotes, depending on the source type. 

This is another exciting sentence that I'm citing (Jones, The Great Work 178). 

Sometimes you just don't have an author to cite ("Another Work" 89).  

Determining what information from the original source to use in a citation or who to cite is a decision for the researcher, based on what information is being cited. This is especially true for non-print materials, such as a video, image, or website. As noted in the MLA Handbook, 8th ed., a citation for audio visual material is based on which part is being referenced.

This sentence cites song lyrics (Songwriter timestamp). 

This sentence cites a film (Director's name timestamp). 

Nota Bene: While older versions of MLA allowed footnotes as an option for citations, the current version of MLA only permits in text citations, not footnotes. The Chicago Manual of Style of the only guide that includes footnotes. Check with your professor or department if you have questions as to which method is best for your work.