Modern language association (mla) guide

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Kathryn Kelley, Austin High School

July 2016
The following resources explain creating Works Cited entries and parenthetical citations. Both are necessary for materials to be properly cited so that others can reference your same sources.
Section 1: Works Cited Entries
Basic entry including the core elements:
Author. Title of Source. Title of container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location.
Notes about the core elements:

  • Typically, the author is listed as Last Name, First Name.

  • If the author goes by a screen name or a pseudonym, the chosen name may be used.

  • If a source has more than three authors, list just the first author’s name and then “et al.”

Title of Source:

  • Longer titles—such as books, full length movies, TV series, and whole websites—are punctuated by italicizing or underlining the title.

  • Books or full length movies are punctuated by italicizing or underlining the title.

  • Shorter works—such as articles, short stories, poems, and songs—are punctuated by placing the title in quotation marks.

Title of container:

  • A “container” refers to the larger whole the work is a part of or the entity that “contains” the work.

  • Sometimes, a work has two containers. For example, an article in a database might have the name of the scholarly journal as its first container and the name of the database as its second, or an episode from a show on Netflix would have the show title as its first container and Netflix as its second.

  • The container title is italicized, which generally corresponds to the notes concerning longer “Source” titles above.

Other contributors:

  • Other contributors may include an editor, translator, director, etc.

  • If applicable, fully spell out the other contributor’s role as in, “edited by Alice Walker.”


  • Specifying a version or edition may be necessary if a book has multiple editions or if you are referencing a specific version of a song or movie, as in “director’s cut” or “unedited.”


  • The most common work requiring a number is a journal wherein you would want to specify the volume number (vol.) and issue number (no.).

  • This may also apply to specific episodes of a television show, online periodicals, or other sources.


  • Provide the publisher’s name in full.

  • Be sure to capitalize appropriately.

  • Sometimes, an organization is the author and publisher of a work. If this is the case, provide the name as the publisher and leave the author’s space blank.

Publication date:

  • Format the date the same way the source does.

  • If there are multiple publication dates, use the one most relevant to your research or the one that corresponds to the version you are using.


  • For print sources, this usually refers to page numbers, designated as p. # for a single page number or pp. #-# for a range of page numbers.

  • For online resources, a DOI is preferable, but a URL may also be used.

A few general notes:

  • Your Works Cited page is the last page of your paper and still includes your header with your last name and page number in the upper right hand corner.

  • The page is titled “Works Cited.” This title is in the same standard font as the rest of the paper, not underlined, bolded, bigger, etc.

  • The list of sources is alphabetized according to the first word of the entry.

  • The top line of each source is justified to the left, while each following line is indented 0.5”. This is called a hanging indent.

  • Be careful with your periods, commas, and capitalization. Each of these pieces plays a critical role in making your citation clear to your reader.

  • Each entry is single spaced with a line space between each entry.

  • If information necessary for your citation is not provided by your source, try your best to research and find the missing piece. If you find the missing piece of information in another reliable source, set it off with square brackets. If you try your best and cannot find it, simply omit the missing information.

  • Remember, that each of these pieces helps you become a more credible and respected author. Plus, if a reader is looking at your sources, that means she finds your information compelling enough to want to know more!

  • Please come see me if you have any questions. It’s my job to help support you in critical reading and credible, convincing writing.

Sample Works Cited Page (Entries used as reference material for this guide):

Smith 2

Works Cited
“MLA Format (8th ed.).” EasyBib Blog, Imagine Easy Solutions, 2016,
Russell, Tony et al. “MLA Eighth Edition: What’s New and Different.” MLA Formatting and Style Guide, Purdue Online Writing Lab, 2016-04-18 09:23:58,
“What’s New in the Eighth Edition.” MLA Style, Modern Language Association of America, 2016,

Section 2: Citing Sources within the Text
In-text citations, parenthetical citations in MLA, tell your reader where specific information in your paper originates. Even if you have a complete Works Cited page, your paper is plagiarized if you do not give your sources credit within the body of your work. You must cite words, information, and ideas appropriately.
Parenthetical citations consist of two parts:

  • The first word or two of your Works Cited entry, usually the author’s last name

  • A location, usually a page number

    • Sometimes, especially in electronic sources, there is no specified location

    • Note the lack of a comma between the first and second parts of the citation


  • Usually, your parenthetical citation is at the end of the sentence that includes quoted material.

  • Usually, the closing parenthesis is before the ending punctuation.

  • Depending on different circumstances including the instructor’s preference, the parenthetical citations may be placed immediately after the quotation or at a natural pause in the sentence.

  • Placement of parenthetical citations should remain consistent throughout the paper.

  • Placement for multiple sources quoted in the same sentence and block quotations is more complicated. Please see your instructor or Purdue’s OWL for further guidance in these areas.

Electronic source with no specified location:
Instead of having a huge variation of citation types used for different sources, the new MLA Style guide strives to have “one, universal format” to make writing and reading easier (“MLA Format”).
Traditional book source:
In The Things They Carried, the author discusses his revisions to an old story, vulnerably showing his readers how a great author heavily revises to create “a better story” even if the “old structure remains” (O’ Brien 154).
Author(s) mentioned within the body of the sentence:
Paul Chaat Smith and Robert Allen Warrior came together, bonded through “a profound dissatisfaction with the existing narratives” of Indian cultures and histories (VII).

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