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MLA 8th Edition Citation Style Guide

MLA 9th Edition Coming Soon!

Introduction

This guide is based on the Publication Manual of the Modern Language Association [MLA] Handbook 8th Edition. In it, you will find examples for:

  • structuring your paper
  • formatting in text citations
  • formatting a works cited list

Not all of your questions will be answered here; we have focused on commonly used sources. For more detailed information, you should first consult the MLA manual itself. If you're still struggling to find an answer, please reach out to the library. 

Why & when we cite

When we write a paper, we gather background information and build arguments drawing on the work, knowledge, ideas, expressions, and reportings of others.

This information is found in many places -- journals, books, YouTube, blogs, maybe even in an email. Whatever the source, we are required to acknowledge who or what that source is when we refer to the work in our own.

We may refer to another person's work for many reasons. These include:

  • setting the stage for your position on a topic;
  • demonstrating support for an idea by another person;
  • demonstrating an opposing viewpoint.

Citations create necessary links, directing your reader to the source you're crediting. We make an in-text citation that links to our works cited list at the end of our document, which then links to the original source.

For this reason, when we talk about citations, we're talking about two different instances, once in the body of our text -- In-text citations -- once at the end of our text -- the works cited list.

In-text citations (MLA 54-58)

In-text citations should always appear right after the content you are summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting. They only include a minimal amount of information, but link to a more fulsome citation at the end of your document.

In-text citations are composed of 2 elements: the author(s)' last name(s) and the page number(s). If the quote spans multiple pages use a hyphen to separate the page range.

The format is as follows:

  • (Smith 42)
  • (Smith 42-43)

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing, or summarizing, takes two forms. Either you indicate that an author has said something (narrative), or you write something, and then attribute that to the author (parenthetical).

Narrative Raimi outlines the risks and benefits of fracking through an economic analysis and energy security benefits (145).

Parenthetical Several benefits and risks can be identified in the implementation of fracking for oil extraction. Considerations include regulation, water pollution, tremors etc. (Raimi 145).

Quoting

Quoting follows the same format as above. The in-text citation should appear directly after the closing quotation mark.

Narrative According to Raimi the “social risks of increased oil and gas production has been widely debated in the news media, without a nuanced understanding of the environmental and economic factors" (145).

Parenthetical As has been argued elsewhere, the “social risks of increased oil and gas production has been widely debated in the news media, without a nuanced understanding of the environmental and economic factors" (Raimi 145).

No page number

Sometimes you will not have a page number(s) on the source you are looking at. This is often the case for online sources. In this circumstance, you just leave out that information and just include the author's last name.

Narrative Raimi outlines the risks and benefits of fracking through an economic analysis and energy security benefits.

Parenthetical Several benefits and risks can be identified in the implementation of fracking for oil extraction. Considerations include regulation, water pollution, tremors etc. (Raimi).

Multiple Authors In-Text Citations (MLA 116)

One author:

(Bradley 34)

Two authors:

Include both authors last names separated by an "and".

(Smith and Lacey 76)

Three or more authors:

Include the first authors last name followed by et al.

(McBurney et al. 123)

Works Cited List (MLA 67)

General Rules

Works Cited Page

  • Every source used in your in-text citations needs to be listed as part of your works-cited list, in alphabetical order by author(s)' last names.
  • The title Works Cited should appear centred at the top of a separate page at the end of your paper. 
  • List all authors in the order that they appear in the source.
  • Every line after the first one in your reference should be indented a tab's distance. This is called a hanging indent.

Capitalization

Capitalizing Titles

  • First word
  • Last word
  • All principle words

What do you not capitalize?

  • Articles 
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctive
  • The word 'to'