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Cite Your Sources: MLA

What is MLA style?

  • Uses in-text parenthetical notation with author's last name and the page number for the reference. 
  • Used in arts and humanities research, including English literature, history, philosophy and languages.
  • This guide is based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 9th edition.

Updated MLA citation guide

To make citation practices more consistent across source types and formats, this guide reflects changes in the 9th Edition of the MLA Handbook.  As a result, there are some small but important changes to the punctuation and formatting of Works Cited entries. The in-text citation guidelines are relatively unchanged.  

For a summary of the changes, visit the MLA Website.  

How do I format my in-text citations?

  • Include the last name of the author(s) (or editor[s], translator[s], or compiler[s] if they are the primary person(s) identified on the title page) plus the page reference where the information appears. Do not include a comma between the author and page number.
    • In the days when doctors "stressed air as the communicator of disease" (Tuchman 102), they were unaware of other factors.
  • If there is no author, use the title of the work in place of the author. 
  • Parenthetical references should be placed where a pause in the sentence would naturally occur but as close as possible following the relevant idea or quotation. A good rule of thumb is to place in-text citations before a punctuation mark.
  • You do not need to repeat any elements that are already in your sentence.
    • In exposing the myth of freedom of the press, Rivers notes that "[p]residential control reached its zenith under Andrew Jackson" (7).

Integrating text & citations

The following examples show how to punctuate around quotations and citations. Note that if you provide the author's name in the sentence, you don't have to include it in the parentheses.

  • When using a direct quote within your sentence, use quotation marks around the words of the quotation, but place commas and periods after the citation — not within the quotation marks — regardless of whether there is a comma or period at the end of the original material:
    • In the days when doctors "stressed air as the communicator of disease" (Tuchman 102), they were unaware of other factors.
    • In exposing the myth of freedom of the press, Rivers notes that "[p]residential control reached its zenith under Andrew Jackson" (7).
    • Miranda justifies her actions as "fair play" (Shakespeare, The Tempest 5.1.175).
  • Question or exclamation marks that appear in the original source, however, stay within the quotation marks:
    • The more appropriate question is, "have we gone too far to reverse the environmental damage caused by reckless deforestation?" (Jones 187).
    • Lear protests, "O, reason not the need!" (2.4.258) when Regan insists on eliminating her father's advisors.
  • If the quotation is longer than four lines, start it on a new line, indent one inch from the left margin (but not from the right), don't use quotation marks, maintain the same spacing between lines as in your main text, and always put the final punctuation before the citation (this is called a block quotation):
    • It is important to keep in mind, however, that these two "arguments" . . . are really two faces of a single argument, an argument defining democracy, in part, as that form of government which recognizes the necessity of certain luxuries. (Bogel 172)
  • If a verse quotation is longer than 3 lines, follow the above instructions for formatting block quotations. 
  • Don't indent the first line of the quote any farther unless you are quoting two or more paragraphs and the first sentence quoted begins a paragraph in the source.
  • As in the example above, use ellipsis points to indicate that you've omitted original material from your quotation. An ellipsis within a sentence uses three periods, with a space before each and a space after the last.

How do I format my Works Cited list?

  • The "Works Cited" page comes at the end of your paper, after any endnotes, and provides the full bibliographic information for materials you have cited within your paper.
  • References should be listed in alphabetical order by author's last name.
  • The first line of an entry should be flush left and subsequent lines indented (called a hanging indent).
  • Entries should be double-spaced within and between entries. Do not place an extra space between entries.
  • If you want to include references for material you used but didn't cite, they would appear in a "Works Consulted" page.‚Äč

Formatting titles of articles & books

The current MLA Handbook uses

  • Italics for the title of a periodical, book, play, website, film, TV or radio program, CD, or dance performance. (Note: A periodical is a work that is published regularly, such as a newspaper, journal, or magazine). Earlier versions of MLA used underlining if italics were not available. This handout uses italics rather than underlining, but you should always respect your instructor's format preferences.
  • "Double quotation marks" for the title of an article, chapter, short poem, page in a website, TV or radio episode, or song.

The following list explains what to include in a parenthetical citation in various situations. These formats apply to both electronic and print sources.

Generative AI (e.g. ChatGPT)

Follow your professor's instructions when considering the use of generative AI tools (such as ChatGPT). If you have permission to use these programs, please cite the AI content (ideas and/or words) you incorporate into your text. Your professor might provide instructions for citing outputs from generative AI sources. If this is the case, please follow the instructions provided.

If you have been asked to use the MLA Style Guide for all citations, the Modern Language Association (MLA) has issued a thorough set of instructions on their website.

Resources to help with writing your essay

Use these resources to help you write your essay.

Guide: Write a University EssayGuide: Cite Your SourcesVideo: Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism: From Passage to Paraphrase

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