As you research and begin to write, record of all the information that you will need (bibliographic elements) to properly cite each source, including the title, author, publisher, and where and when it was published.
Each entry in your Works Cited usually contains the following information, in this order: author(s) or editor(s), title of work, publication data, date, and format. There are specific rules around the formatting of each part of the citation. The general format is given below; refer to the MLA Handbook for more information.
Author Surname, First Name.Title of the Work: Subtitle. Place of Publication: Publisher, date. Medium.
Cite your sources in parentheses within the text of your paper.
- If you use the author's name in the text, just give the page numbers in parentheses:
Smith (25-28) suggests that...
- If you don't use the author's name in the text, put it in the parentheses before the page numbers:
One study (Smith 25-28) suggests that...
- Titles of books, journals and government documents are italicized. Titles of book chapters, journal articles and dissertations and theses are put in "quotation marks".
All works referred to within your paper must also appear in the list of Works Cited at the end of your paper.
Double-space your entire paper, including the “Works Cited” list and any block quotes, and have one inch margins on all sides.
- You do not need a title page. Instead, begin the first page with your name, the instructor's name, the course number, and the date on separate lines and aligned with the left margin. Follow this with the title of your paper.
For more detailed formatting instructions, see chapter 4 of the MLA Handbook, or ask your instructor or librarian for help.
MLA Style Guides
Formatting Parenthetical (In-Text) Citations
How to Cite a Direct Quote (92-105)
The accuracy of quotations in academic writing is very important, and they must reproduce the original sources exactly. When you incorporate a direct quotation into a sentence, you must cite the source. Fit quotations within your sentences, making sure the sentences are grammatically correct. All that is required is the author's last name and the page number where the reference was found. If the author's name has already been included in the sentence, it does not need to be included again in the citation.
e.g. Gibaldi indicates, “Quotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (109).
Remember that “[q]uotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (Gibaldi 109).
If the quotation will run to more than 4 lines in your paper, you must use a block format in which the quotation is indented 1 inch from the left margin, double spaced with no quotation marks.
How to Cite when you are Altering a Direct Quote
When you need to leave out part of a quotation to make it fit grammatically or because it contains irrelevant/unnecessary information, insert ellipses (. . .). They may be inserted into the middle or at the end of a sentence to indicate part of that quotation has been left out (97-101).
If you must add or slightly change words within a quotation for reasons of grammar or clarity, surround the change with square brackets (101).
How to Cite Summaries or Paraphrases
Even if you put information in your own words by summarizing or paraphrasing, you must cite the original author as well as the page or paragraph number(s). For example, a paraphrase of Gibaldi’s earlier quotation might be identified as follows:
Within the research paper, quotations will have more impact when used judiciously (Gibaldi 109).
For more tips on paraphrasing check out The OWL at Purdue.
How to Cite a Work with Multiple Volumes
When you are citing one volume out of a multi-volume work, include the page number and separate the two by a colon and a space. You do not need to include the words volume or page (p 222).
Example: (Ryerson 2: 38).
How to Cite if the Author's Name is Unavailable (223-224)
Use the title of the article or book or Web source, including the appropriate capitalization and quotation marks/italics format, followed by the page number. If the title is long, you may use a shortened version instead.
e.g. (“Asthma Rates Increasing” 29).
How to Cite Two or More Works by the Same Author or Authors (225)
When citing one of two or more works by the same author(s), put a comma after the author’s last name and add the title of the work in italics and the relevant page number. If the title is long, you may use a shortened version instead.
e.g. (Frye, Double Vision 85).
How to Cite Information When You Have Not Seen the Original Source (226)
If a resource contains no page numbers, as can be the case with electronic sources, then you cannot include a page number in the parentheses. However, if the source indicates paragraph numbers, use the abbreviation “par.” or “pars.” and the relevant numbers in the parentheses.
One website describes these specific dragons (King). A solution was suggested in 1996 (Pangee, pars. 12-18).
How to Cite Poetry (95-96)
When citing 2-3 lines of poetry, you would insert a "/" (without the quotes) between the lines.
When citing more than three lines of poetry, you would start the quotation on a new line and indent each of the lines one inch from the left margin.
How to Cite Plays (96-97)
When referencing the lines of only one character, follow the guidelines for poetry and prose.
When quoting a conversation between two or more characters in a play, start the quote on a new line, indented one inch from the left margin.
Write the name of the first speaker in capital letters, followed by a period and the speaker's line(s). Do the same for the next speaker or speakers as necessary.
If the quote you are using for one of the speakers continues onto another line, it is indented an additional quarter inch.
DESDEMONA. Shall I deny you? No. Farewell, my lord. (3.3.83-85)
Learn more about the Modern Language Association style from the association website.
A clearly organized and well presented document offering details on various levels of MLA citation style.
An alternative to College of the Rockies Library MLA Citation Style Guide
The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University offers an online resource which can be used in some cases. However, it does not include everything required for citing sources in one place.
The MLA Style does not cover Canadian government sources, and has only a limited section on American government resources.
Please refer to the staff at the Library Reference Desk for clarification when citing Canadian government sources.
Librarians at SFU have created what is considered the definitive resource for use when citing Canadian Government documents and online resources in MLA Style.