MLA Citation Guide

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MLA Style

Created by the Modern Language Association, MLA is a citation format used for research papers in many college classes, including English classes. Your instructor will tell you if MLA format is required.

What Are Citation Formats?

Citation formats are rules and guidelines that make writing styles uniform within a specific work or publication. They cover the following:

  • Layout of the paper (margins, spaces between lines, font size, etc.)
  • Source documentation (citations) at end of paper (Works Cited list in MLA)
  • In-Text documentation of sources (parenthetical citation)

There are many citation formats. Some of the more commonly used ones are MLA format, APA format and Chicago format.

Two Types of Citations Needed

With MLA format, each information source you use — such as a website you directly quote or an article idea you paraphrase (put into your own words) — must have the following:

1. a Works Cited citation


2. an In-Text citation.

1. Works Cited Citations

Works Cited citations provide details about sources used for your research project. Your Works Cited list goes at the end of your project or paper and includes information about each source that must be in a specific order. MLA calls this information Core Elements. Here is the list of Core Elements in order, including the punctuation that must be included after each element (MLA Handbook, 8th Edition, page 20):

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of the container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

Some sources don't require all of these elements. Click on the link below for more details.

2. In-Text Citations

In-Text citations (also called parenthetical documentation or citation) goes in your paper or project near the information you are using. In-text citations are required when you do the following:

  • Directly quote from a source by putting exact wording in quotation marks
  • Paraphrase from a source by putting ideas into your own words
  • Summarize  from a source

Your in-text citation consists of the first item (or Core Element) in your Works Cited citation and a page number, if the source you used has page numbers. Often the first element you use is the author of the source. Click on the link below for more details.

Why Cite Sources?

Reasons why you would want to cite your sources...

  • Lend authority and credibility to your work
  • Allow readers (including your instructor!) to cross‐referencesources easily
  • Provide consistent format
  • Acknowledge academic debts and avoid plagiarism

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