MLA Style Made Simple

Using MLA Style isn’t hard at all. Just follow the steps below, one at a time, for each of your research sources.

NOTE: These guidelines are based on 2009 (7th edition) MLA style and were last updated in November 2009.

1. What kind of source do you have?

The most common research sources are the following:
A book
A magazine article
A journal article
A newspaper article
A page from a website
A work from an anthology

If you aren’t sure what type your source is, or if it’s none of the above, ask your instructor or a librarian for help.

CAUTION: if you’re using an article from a database, the publication information may contain a tag that says “Journal.” This is just a standard label placed on ALL sources. It doesn’t indicate that this particular source is a journal. See MLA Style Helper: Magazine or Journal? for help.

2. Follow the appropriate pattern for the type of source you have.

A book.

• The author’s last name. Comma.

• The author’s first name. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Reverse only the first one. List others first name then last name. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three authors, list only the first one, then write et al.

• The book’s title (and subtitle if any) in italics. Capitalize all important words in the title (and subtitle if any). Please a colon between the title and subtitle if there is one. Period.

• The city where the book was published. Don’t include the state unless the city is somewhat obscure. Colon.

• The name of the publisher. Comma.

• The year of publication. Period.

• The medium of publication, in this case Print. Period.

Smith, Earl. MLA Style Documentation Isn’t Hard at All. New York: Random House, 2008. Print.

The in-text citation for a book contains the author’s last name and page number on which the information is found, with no comma between. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three, list only the first one and write et al. after it.

(Smith 28)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the page number in the parenthesis.

According to Smith, “Using MLA style is really quite easy” (28).

A magazine article.

• The author’s last name. Comma. (If the article lists no author, begin with the title in quotation marks then the rest of the reference as shown below.)

• The author’s first name. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Reverse only the first one. List others first name then last name. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three authors, list only the first one, then write et al.

• The title of the article in quotation marks. Capitalize every important word in the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Place a period inside the quotation marks.

• The name of the magazine in italics. Capitalize every important word. No punctuation.

• The date of publication. Write the day first, if any, then the month. Abbreviate the month (except for May, June, and July) and place a period after it. Then write the year. Colon.

• The page numbers on which the article appears. This will be found on the magazine pages or in the information you get from the database. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, include the name of the database in italics. Period.

• The medium of publication, either Print or, for database articles, Web. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, give the date of access, day first, then month, then year.

• End the entry with a period.

Jones, Brian. “How to Use MLA Style Citation Correctly: One Student’s Experience.” Student Success Magazine 12 Mar. 2008: 39-41. Print.

“Getting Help with MLA Style Citation.” Student Success Magazine 12 Mar. 2008: 41. Lexis Nexis. Web. 23 Nov. 2009.

The in-text citation for a magazine article contains the author’s last name and page number on which the information is found, with no comma between.

(Jones 40)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the page number in the parenthesis.

According to Jones, “Using MLA style is really no problem” (40).

If the article lists no author, use a shortened form of the title in quotation marks or use the full title in your sentence. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Place “and” before the final one. If there more than three, list only the first and write et al. after it.

“Using MLA style isn’t hard at all” (“Getting Help” 41).

The article “Getting Help with MLA Style Citations “ claims that “Using MLA isn’t hard at all” (41).

A journal article.

• The author’s last name. Comma.

• The author’s first name. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Reverse only the first one. List others first name then last name. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three authors, list only the first one, then write et al.

• The title of the article in quotation marks. Capitalize every important word of the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Place a period inside the quotation marks.

• The name of the journal in italics. Capitalize every important word. No punctuation.

• The volume number. This will be found on the journal pages or in the information you get from the database. Period.

• The issue number. Also found on the journal pages or in the information you get from the database.

• The year of publication in parenthesis. Colon.

• The page numbers on which the article appears. Found on the journal pages on in the information you get from the database. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, include the name of the database in italics. Period.

• The medium of publication, either Print or, for database articles, Web. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, give the date of access, day first, then month, then year.

• End the entry with a period.

Brown, John. “A Study of the Use of MLA Style by College Students.” Journal of the Citation Society 15.7 (2009): 20-28. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2009.

The in-text citation for a journal article contains the author’s last name and the page number on which the information is found, with no comma between. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three, list only the first one and write et al. after it.

(Brown 21)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the page number in the parenthesis.

According to Brown, “Many students actually enjoy using MLA style documentation” (21).

A newspaper article.

• The author’s last name. Comma. (If the article lists no author, begin with the title in quotation marks, then the rest of the reference as shown below.)

• The author’s first name. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Reverse only the first one. List others first name then last name. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three authors, list only the first one, then write et al.

• The title of the article in quotation marks. Capitalize every important word of the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle, if there is one. Place a period inside the quotation marks.

• The name of the newspaper in italics. Capitalize every important word. Comma.

• The date of publication: day first, then month, abbreviated (except for May, June, and July) then year. Colon.

• The page numbers on which the article appears. This will be found on the article pages or in the information you get from the database. If the article appears on non-consecutive pages, add a + to indicate this. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, give the name of the database in italics. Period.

• The medium of publication, either Print or, for database articles, Web. Period.

• If the article was accessed through a database, give the date of access: day first, then month, then year. End the entry with a period.

Miller, Thomas. “Why Students Love MLA Style Citation.” USA Today 2 Jan. 2009: A1+. Print.

“MLA Style Becoming More Popular.” New York Times 3 Jan. 2009: A1. Lexis Nexis. Web. 25 Nov. 2009.

The in-text citation for a newspaper article contains the author’s last name and page number on which the information is found, with no comma between.

(Miller A1)

You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence and place the page number in the parenthesis.

According to Miller, “It’s fun to cite sources in MLA style” (A1).

If the article lists no author, use the first word or two of the title in quotation marks or use the full title in your sentence. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three, list only the first one and write et al. after it.

Students have many reasons for loving MLA style citation (“MLA Style” A1).

The article “MLA Style Becoming More Popular “ claims that “this documentation style is sweeping the nation” (A1).

A page or document from a website.

• The author’s last name. Comma. (If the page lists no author, begin with the title, then the rest of the entry as shown below.)

• The author’s first name. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Reverse only the first one. List others first name then last name. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three authors, list only the first one, then write et al.

• The title of the article or page in quotation marks. Place a period inside the quotation marks.

• The name of the website in italics. Period.

• The organization or publisher affiliated with the site. Comma. The date of update, revision, or publication if available. If no date can be found, write n.d. (this stands for no date).

• The medium of publication, in this case Web. Period.

• The date you accessed the source, written day first, then month (abbreviate except for May, June, and July) then year. Period.

• Your instructor may ask you to include the URL in angle brackets after the date of access. See the second example below. Otherwise, the URL is not necessary.

• End the entry with a period.

“Why MLA Citation Is Important.” Universityofwriting.edu. University of Written Communication. n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2009.

“What Is MLA Style?” mla.org. Modern Language Association. 13 Jan. 2009. Web. 3 Dec. 2009. < http://www.mla.org/style >.

The in-text citation for a web page contains the author’s last name if there is one. You may also choose to include the author’s name in the sentence.

If the page lists no author, use the first word or two of the title in quotation marks or use the full title in your sentence. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three, list only the first one and write et al. after it. No page or paragraph numbers are required.

Citing sources in MLA is an important academic skill (“Why MLA”).

According to the Modern Language Association, “MLA style has been widely adopted by schools, academic departments, and instructors for over half a century.”

A work from an anthology.

• The author’s last name. Comma.

• The author’s first name. Period. Don’t include the person’s title or degree. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Reverse only the first one. List others first name then last name. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three authors, list only the first one, then write et al.

• The title of the selection in quotation marks. Capitalize all important words. Place a period inside the quotation marks.

• The anthology’s title (and subtitle if any) in italics. Capitalize all important words in the title (and subtitle if any). Place a colon between the title and subtitle if there is one. Period.

• Write the abbreviation Ed. then the name of the editor(s), first name then last. Period.

• The city where the anthology was published. Don’t include the state unless the city is somewhat obscure. Colon.

• The name of the publisher. Comma.

• The year of publication. Period.

• The page range on which the selection is found. Period.

• The medium of publication, in this case Print. Period.

Smith, Katherine. “How MLA Is Used.” Essays on Documentation. Ed. William Jones. New York: Random House, 2009. 4-8. Print.

The in-text citation for a work from an anthology contains the author’s last name and the page number on which the information is found, with no comma between. If there are multiple authors, list up to three. Place commas between them. Place “and” before the final one. If there are more than three, list only the first one and write et al. after it.

(Smith 7)

3. Arrange the entries correctly on the page.

Center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.

List the sources alphabetically by author or title, whichever the entry starts with.

Double space throughout the page (type on only every other line).

Indent the subsequent lines of each entry.

And that's it. You're done. Citing sources in MLA style really isn't so hard now, is it?

For more on how to use MLA style in your research papers, see What is MLA Style Documentation and How Does It Work?

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