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Waidner-Spahr Library

Citing Sources: MLA

MLA Citation Structure


Author: Individual responsible for the work.

Source: Title.

Containers: The concept of containers is crucial to MLA style. When the source being documented forms part of a larger whole, the larger whole can be thought of as a container that holds the source. For example, a short story may be contained in an anthology. The short story is the source, and the anthology is the container.

Other Contributors: Other people credited in the source (e.g. editor, adapted by, illustrator, introduced by, narrator, translator, general editor, etc.)

Version: indication of version if a work is released in more than one form (e.g. book edition, director's cut, etc.)

Number: When source is part of numbered sequence (e.g. multi volume book set, Journal volume and issue or number, season/ episode of TV series)

Publisher: The publisher produces or distributes the source to the public. If there is more than one publisher, and they are all are relevant to your research, list them in your citation, separated by a forward slash (/).

Publication Date: The same source may have been published on more than one date, such as an online version of an original source. When the source has more than one date, it is sufficient to use the date that is most relevant to your use of it. If you’re unsure about which date to use, go with the date of the source’s original publication.

Location: Where the work is located. This has many manifestations:

  • Print sources: Use page numbers (p. for single page, pp. for range)
  • Online sources: Use the URL (preferable stable or permanent URLS) or DOIs. When possible, use a DOI instead of a URL
  • DVD sources: Use disc number
  • Archive source may include a number or code to identify the object.
  • Live presentation/performance: Use venue and city. 

MLA Handbook Plus

MLA Handbook, Ninth Ed. book cover 

Sections of the MLA Handbook related to citing:

Citing in MLA Style

For the MLA citation model, the work’s publication format is not considered. Instead, the writer creates an entry by consulting the MLA’s list of core elements, common to most works, which are assembled in a specific order as shown in the Citation Structure box.  Using this model, the writer asks, “Who is the author? What is the title?” and so forth—regardless of the nature of the source.

Thus, a writer has the freedom to create references based on the expectations of the audience while considering what readers need to know if they want to find a source. MLA style principles are flexible guides, rather than rules. Part of your responsibility as a writer is to evaluate your readers and decide what your particular audience needs to know about your sources.

General Information

Keep the following in mind:

  • A book citation must always include author(s), title (and subtitle), city of publication, publisher, and date of publication. Other necessary elements, if applicable, include editor, translator, edition, revision, volume number, and source type.
  • An article citation must always include author, title (and subtitle) of article, title of journal/magazine, date of publication, volume/issue information, and page numbers.
  • The author always comes first with last name followed by first name, separated with a comma. Names of subsequent authors are written naturally. When a source has more than one author, the abbreviation “et al.” (“and others”) is used after the name of the first author.
  • Titles of articles and essays are always put in quotation marks.
  • Titles of books and journals are always italicized.
  • Second and subsequent lines are always indented.
  • For an article in an online journal or an article from a database, give page numbers if they are available; if they are not, use the abbreviation “n. pag." 

When writing a citation in the MLA style, pay particular attention to italics, punctuation, indentation, and capitalization. Quotations and borrowed phrases are indicated as such within the text, with the author's name and page number cited in parentheses. This variation is used instead of footnotes or endnotes.

See the drop-down menus under this tab for specific examples of citations in MLA.

Online Resources

Samples of papers written using the MLA style can be found at the following websites: