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Citation Guide

This guide gives overviews and sample citations for MLA and APA citation styles.

MLA Style

About MLA Style

MLA Style is a set of guidelines created by the Modern Language Association for formatting academic manuscripts and citing work created by others. It is used most often to write papers within the humanities and liberal arts. The guidelines dictate how an MLA style paper should be formatted and show writers how to properly construct the two major components involved in citing your sources: the Works Cited list and in-text citations.

MLA Style was updated in 2016 with the publication of the MLA Handbook, 8th edition, (available at both MSJC Libraries) and with the creation of the online MLA Style Center. MLA 8th edition lays out a universal set of core elements that should be included in all citations, regardless of the format of each source. Writers who are accustomed to earlier editions of MLA are encouraged to review the 8th edition handbook or visit the MLA Style Center for further explanation of the changes.

Important Note: Citations created by online databases or citation generators may not be updated to reflect MLA 8th edition changes. Writers will need to check computer generated citations carefully and make necessary corrections.

Works Cited List

Your Works Cited list should begin on a separate page. Entries should appear in alphabetical order and be double-spaced with a hanging indent.

The Works Cited Quick Guide at the online MLA Style Center includes the core elements that should be included in each citation along with a practice template to guide you through building a complete citation.

In-Text Citation

In addition to the Works Cited page, sources are also cited parenthetically (like this) throughout the body of your paper. In-text citations briefly reference the sources you used at the point they appear in your paper and direct your readers to the full citation in your Works Cited list. A typical example of an in-text citation might include an author's last name and a page number, depending on the source you are citing.

Consult the MLA Handbook or visit Purdue University's Online Writing Lab for help with the basics of in-text citations.

General Formatting and Order of the Works Cited List (MLA 2.7)

  • Works Cited list begins on a separate page at the end of your research paper.
  • Center the title, Works Cited, at the top of the page.
  • Entries are arranged in alphabetical order.
  • Entries should be double-spaced between all text.
  • Each entry should be indented half an inch on the second and subsequent lines in what is called a hanging indent format. "When the creation of a hanging indent is difficult--in certain digital contexts, for instance--leaving an extra space between entries will serve the same purpose" (MLA 112).

Punctuation (MLA 2.6)

Review the MLA Handbook for specific punctuation details. Generally, punctuation in the Works Cited entries is limited to periods and commas:

  • Periods are used after the author, the title and at the end of the information for each container.
  • Commas appear within the author's name and between each element of each container.
  • Brackets and forward slashes appear under specific circumstances. See MLA 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 for details.

Capitalization (MLA 1.2.1)

Review the MLA Handbook for specific details on proper capitalization. Generally:

  • Capitalize the first word, last word, and all principle words of a title, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs.
  • Do not capitalize articles (a, an, the) unless they are the first word, and other insignificant words in the title.

Titles: Italics vs. Quotation Marks (MLA 25-26)

A title is italicized if the source stands alone, such as a book, journal, magazine or newspaper, database name, or website name.

  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • New England Journal of Medicine
  • Sports Illustrated
  • New York Times
  • Ebscohost Premier Collection of Databases
  • WebMD

Titles of sources that are contained within a larger whole are placed in "quotation marks". This includes individual essays, stories, plays and poems within a book ; articles within journals, magazines or newspapers ; specific articles, postings, or pages on a website ; individual songs on an album ; single episodes of a television series.

  • Epstein, David. "The Damage Done." Sports Illustrated, vol. 113, no.16, 1 Nov. 2010, pp. 42-47. (article within a magazine)
  • Despain, Bree. "Community in the Face of Tyranny." The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne

Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy, edited by Leah Wilson, BenBella Books, 2011, pp. 195-210. (essay within a book)

Online Sources: URLs and DOIs (MLA 2.5.2)

URLs (web addresses) are included at the end of MLA citations to show where online materials are located. These include web pages and websites and sources found in library databases. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs (digital object identifiers) since URLs can change. Follow the guidelines below when citing online sources.

Online database sources:

  • DOIs are preferred over URLs in citations. If a DOI is available, cite it instead of a URL. Place doi: in front of it. Example:

Rogers, Wendy, Catriona Mackenzie, and Susan Dodds. "Why Bioethics Needs a Concept of Vulnerability." International Journal of

Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, vol. 5, no. 2, 2012, pp. 11-38. JSTOR, doi:10.2979/intjfemappbio.5.2.11.

  • When no DOI is available, the URL should be used. Look for "stable" URLs (also known as as permalinks in some databases) and use those whenever possible. Example:

Rogers, Wendy, Catriona Mackenzie, and Susan Dodds. "Why Bioethics Needs a Concept of Vulnerability." International Journal of

Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, vol. 5, no. 2, 2012, pp. 11-38. JSTOR,

Web sources:

  • Copy and paste the complete URL from your web browser, but leave out http:// or https://


Formatting Your Paper

Formatting in MLA, 8th edition, has not changed from the 7th edition. In general, your research paper should include the following:

  • Typed manuscript on letter-sized (8.5x11in.) paper
  • Standard font size (e.g., 12 point) in an easily readable typeface (e.g., Times New Roman)
  • 1-inch margins on all sides of text (top, bottom, left, right)
  • Double-spacing of all text
  • A double-spaced Works Cited list beginning on a new page at the end of your manuscript
  • Page numbers should be placed in the upper right-hand header, preceded by your last name
  • No title page is needed - include information like your name, course number, professor, and date in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. (These should be on separate lines, double-spaced.)
  • Title should be centered directly above the text of your paper. (Do not italicize, underline, or place title in quotation marks).

See the section on Formatting a Research Paper at the online MLA Style Center for more information and details on correctly formatting your research paper.

Sample MLA Paper