Guide to Grammar and Writing


IX. A Writer's Practical Guide to MLA Documentation



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IX. A Writer's Practical Guide to MLA Documentation


Documentation will take two forms in your final paper:

  • In the Works Cited section, where all the sources you've used should be listed alphabetically, and

  • Within the text of your paper, where parentheses should show your readers where you found each piece of information that you have used. These textual citations allow the reader to refer to your Works Cited page(s) for further information.

This guide contains many examples of the kinds of resources that you might use in a research paper. Items set apart in a blue box like this one

For the Works Cited Page


Cassatt, Mary. Sara Handing a Toy to the Baby. Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, CT.

show how the documentation for that particular kind of resource should look on the Works Cited page. Items set apart in a red box (with a dotted border) like this —


In-text Citation


The sculpture entitled Family, given to the college in 1991 and permanently exhibited in the college's Woodland Street lobby, was carved from an enormous cherry tree that grew in the sculptor's back yard (Rosen).

— show how this citation should appear in your text.


A Note on Footnotes and Endnotes


Footnotes (including citations at the bottom of each page) have not gone entirely the way of the dinosaurs. In fact it is ironic that footnotes were declared outmoded just before the era of the word-processors which make using footnotes so much easier. Still, because of its relative ease in both writing and reading, parenthetical documentation is greatly preferred by most instructors.

Endnotes (gathering citations and reference lists at the end of each chapter or at the end of the paper) have enjoyed a popularity among academic writers, primarily because they make the transition from a submitted manuscript to published resource so much easier. Even so, parenthetical documentation has supplanted both footnotes and endnotes in most academic disciplines.

For writers in some disciplines, however — most notably in some of the humanities disciplines such as music, art, religion, theology, and even (sometimes) history — footnotes are still widely in use. A wise student will check with his or her instructor to make sure that parenthetical documentation is an acceptable method of citing resources.

Using either footnotes or endnotes, writers refer their readers to citations and reference lists by means of a number at the end of a sentence, phrase or clause containing the language or idea requiring citation. The number appears as a superscript.15 No space appears between the period and the superscript number. There should be four spaces between the last line of text and the first footnote on each page. Footnotes should be first-line indented and single-spaced with a double-space between each footnote. If necessary, a footnote can be carried into a subsequent page. In that event, on the second page, create a solid line two spaces below the last line of text, include another double-space and then finish the footnote. Double-space before the next footnote.

Footnotes and endnotes appear with their corresponding superscript number and are written with the first line indented. The author's name will appear in normal order (not reversed), separated from the other information with a comma. Publication data (City: Press, year) appears in parentheses, and no period is used until the very end of the citation.

15Ronald E. Pepin, Literature of Satire in the Twelfth Century (Lewiston: Edwin


Mellen Press, 1988) 78.

16Christie, John S. "Fathers and Virgins: Garcia Marquez's Faulknerian Chronicle of a Death Foretold" Latin American Literary Review 13.3 (Fall 1993): 21-29.


X. Preparing a Works Cited Section


Once you have found the sources you intend to use, you will need to identify them for your reader. For each BOOK you use, write a separate listing (on an index card or in some handy format available in your laptop computer or your notebook — whatever is convenient and cannot be lost), giving:

  1. the name of the author or authors;

  2. title;

  3. editor, translator, compiler, if any;

  4. edition, if it is not the first (i.e., 2nd ed., rev. ed.);

  5. place and date of the book's publication; and

  6. the name of the book's publisher.

You might also note on this listing how this source was (or could be) particularly helpful in your research.

For example:
Mumford, Lewis. The Highway and the City. New York: Harcourt Brace and World, 1963.

Pikarsky, M. and Christensen, D. Urban Transportation Policy and Management. Boston: D.C. Heath, 1976.

Write a separate listing for each article from a magazine or journal. Include


  1. the name(s) of the author(s);

  2. the title of the article;

  3. the title of the periodical;

  4. the date of the issue in which the article appears;

  5. and the pages on which the article you are referring to appears.

For example:
Prin, Dinah. "Marriage in the '90s." New York 2 June 1990: 40-45.

You might also use reference books, newspapers, electronic resources, audio-visual materials, and other sources of information. In preparing listings for those sources, refer to The Writer’s Practical Guide to Documentation in this document to see the kinds of facts you should record for each.

XI. Alphabetical Order

When there is no author listed for a work, you still have to list that work alphabetically in your Works Cited page by using the first significant word of the title. Generally, that means ignoring a, an, and the. The Encyclopedia of Bioethics would thus be alphabetized by the word Encyclopedia.

Putting people's names in alphabetical order is done on a letter-by-letter basis. Omit titles (such as Lady, Sir, Sister), degrees (M.D., Ph.D.), etc., that precede or follow names. A suffix that is an essential part of the name — such as Jr., Sr., or a roman numeral — appears after the given name, preceded by a comma. (Ford, Henry J., III or Pepin, Theophilus, Jr.) The following names are in alphabetical order (based on the MLA Handbook):

Beethoven, Ludwig van (The van or von in Dutch or German names, if not capitalized by family usage, appears after the first name; if capitalized, it appears before the last name and determines the alphabetical order.)
D'Annunzio, Gabriele
Dante Alighieri (Some Italian names of the 15th century or before are alphabetized by first name)
D'Arcy, Pierre
de Gaulle, Charles (With French names, the de goes before the last name when the last name contains only one syllable. See de Maupassant, below.)
Descartes, René
Ford, Henry E., III
Garcia Lorca, Federico (Use full surnames for Spanish names.)
MacDonald, George
M'Carthy, Josephine
McCullers, Carson
Maupassant, Guy de
Morris, Robert
Morris, William
Morrison, Toni
Pepin, R. E.
Pepino, D.
Pepin, Theophilus, Jr.
Rueda, Lope de (For Spanish names, de comes after the first name)
Saint-Exupéry, Antoine de
St. Denis, Ruth
Von Braun, Werner (See Beethoven, above.)



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