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MLA Citation Guide

This guide provides information about in-text MLA citation, Works Cited page, and formatting a paper in MLA citation style.

MLA Citation Overview

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style is an editorial style, or rules that a publisher uses to ensure consistent presentation of written material. Citing your sources in MLA style gives credit to the works of others and helps your readers go back and find the information you present. 

  • Basic MLA components:  Author. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. 
  • MLA is typically used for literature, language studies, and humanities. 
  • The key attribute of MLA is that the author and title appear closer to the beginning of the citation, since cited works are often longer in length. The date of publication is less important since humanities research often takes a historical approach. 

Getting Started

  1. Keep track of publication information as you read.
  2. Determine specifically what type of sources you have. Online or print articles? From a library database? Books with one author or more, or none? etc.
  3. Look up the format for those types of sources in your manual or online guide or start with an auto-generated citation.
  4. Follow the citation format precisely, paying close attention to punctuation and italicization. 

Why Cite Sources?

In academic research, citing sources distinguishes between your original work and the ideas of others. It also makes you a more credible author by supporting your claims with valid evidence and well-researched information. Original ideas are considered intellectual property and require giving credit by law. 

Citation styles and writing conventions are standard methods for documenting your sources. Citations help you and your readers find the same information you are citing to refer back to the source of information.

Use standard citations when you refer to the work of others in the body of your paper with in-text citations when using direct quotes and paraphrasing information. Then, compile full citations for works consulted or referenced in a reference list at the end of your paper. 

Citations also help you avoid plagiarism, which is the misuse of words, media, and ideas that are not your own. Examples of plagiarism include: 

  • Outright copying or paraphrasing without attribution
  • Misquoting
  • Not documenting the source of webpages, images, interviews, etc