MLA Format Citation Guide

Citations in MLA style may differ by their form. Read this MLA 8 citation guide go over all the types of sources with clear examples of proper referencing.

Andrew Newman
Updated on

MLA is one of the most common citation styles founded by the Modern Language Association. It is mainly used to cite sources within the language arts, cultural studies, and humanities discipline. This article has prepared a complete guide to cite sources according to the MLA 9th Edition, published in 2021.

Core Components

Citations in MLA style may differ by their form depending on various factors such as specific characteristics (e.g., unknown author’s name). More into this MLA 9th Edition, we will go through all sources and cases and give well-defined illustrations of suitable referencing. Nonetheless, let’s look at vital elements that are usually included in each MLA style citation:

  • Author.
  • Title of source.
  • Title of container,
  • Other contributors,
  • Version,
  • Number,
  • Publisher,
  • Publication date,
  • Location.

Now let’s see the particular rules that apply to each of the core elements of an MLA Citation.

Author’s Name

  • Begin with the surname, then separate it by a comma and list the first name and any initials (Geller, James M.)
  • If the author is unknown, you can use the name of the organization responsible or begin with the title of the source ( for instance, The Modern Language Association. Works Cited: “A Quick Guide”….or “Works Cited: A Quick Guide”….)
  • When citing two authors, begin with the first author’s last name followed by the other author’s name in a regular form (for instance, Geller, James M, and Brian D. Smith)
  • If there are three or more authors, insert the first author’s last name, followed by “et al.” (Geller, James M., et al.)
  • MLA Allows you to mention online usernames or pseudonyms instead of real names, for instance, Pew research or Digiday.
  • You can also incorporate the names of translators or editors here. Still, their names should be followed by their specific titles- “editor” or “translator.” ( for example, Geller, James M., editor or Smith, Brian D., translator).

Title of the Source

  • If the source is part of short work, such as a short article, put the title in quotation marks.
  • You should italicize more extensive works such as books, television shows, and websites.
  • If the source’s title is unknown, replace it in your citations with a brief description, without quotation marks and not italicized ( for example, Website Home page, Review Covering Multiple Books, etc.).

Title of containers 

  • Italicized
  • Can incorporate multiple container titles when necessary

Contributors

  • Only include the most relevant contributors to your work.
  • Before the name of every contributor, indicate his/her role ( for instance, directed by Wheeler, Ben)

Version

  • Refers to a particular edition, version, or revision of the source.
  • This part of the citation should be all lowercase

Numbers

  • This component refers to sources that appear in a sequence, for instance, TV seasons or episodes, issues, and volumes.

Publisher

  • If there are multiple publishers, you need to list all of them in the Works Cited and separate them with a slash(/).

Example:

Oxford University/ Cambridge University Press

Publication date

  • The information you provide relies on the source’s type
  • In case there is more than one publication date (e.g., the source has been republished many times ), you need only to cite the date of publication of the one you used.
  • In some cases, it is right to cite a date range.

Location 

Depending on the type of source, this element can stand for:

  • Printed source- page number (s)
  • Online source- URL
  • DVD – disk number
  • Object- place it is held
  • Performance- city or venue

MLA Referencing: In-Text Citations

An in-text citation appears in the body of the text when one directly quotes or paraphrases a source. In-text citations are used to add validity to your work and support your ideas.

General rules for each MLA in-text citation

  • Each citation encompasses the author’s last name and the page (or range of pages)  where the particular quote or information is found originally.
  • The in-text citation should correspond to its relevant reference from the works cited page.
  • The author’s name can be part of the sentence or included in parenthesis directly after the quote.
  • After writing the quote or paraphrasing the information, you should include the page number, either alone or following the author’s last name.

Example of a citation where the author’s name is part of a sentence.

To portray a society with dualism, Stevenson creates Dr.Jeykll with two personalities: one being a successful scientist and the other an evil human being who commits various crimes. Stevenson makes us know that Dr.Jeykll was aware of his other said by saying, “At this time my virtue was slumbered: my evil kept awake by ambition” ( 58).

Example of a citation that doesn’t mention the author’s name in the sentence:

In the novel, we see a phrase that clearly shows that Dr.Jeykll was aware of his evil personality “At this time my virtue was slumbered: my evil kept awake by ambition” (Stevenson 58).

Now let’s look at how an MLA in-text citation is formed in different cases:

More than One Author

If there are two authors, you can list the names, followed by the page number in parenthesis.

MLA in-text citation example:

“To be successful, one ought to be with a positive mindset. Smart work also plays a big role in success” ( Greens, Harvey, and Jones 23).

If there are more than three authors, only list the name of the first one and type “et al.”

MLA in-text citation example:

He’d thought about it, why mundane kids might come to the Academy. Mundanes would have to choose to give up their parents, their families, their former lives. Unless, of course, they already had no parents and no families” (Clare et al.39).

No author

Suppose the author of the publication is unknown. In that case, there is no need to add anything in the parenthesis, instead italicize the whole title, put the article or webpage in quotation marks, or the shortened title within quotation marks.

Book

 Example:

In the novel Diary of an Oxygen Thief, the feeling of deep satisfaction after a wrong or immoral action is described with the quote: “It’s like when you hear serial killers say they feel no regret, no remorse for all people they killed. I was like that. Loved it.” (5).

If you didn’t include the book’s name in the sentence:

Example:

In the novel (Diary of an Oxygen Thief 5).

Article

Example:

According to the “MLA Citation Guide,” “…” (4)

Or :

(“MLA Citation Guide” 4)

Authors With Multiple Cited Works

When referring to multiple works of the same author, include the author’s name and a shortened title of the specific source, along with the page number.

Example:

(Austen, Persuasion 25)

Authors With the Same Surname

When referring to various works whose authors have the same surnames, as you write the in-text citations, put an initial before the author’s last name.

( A. Burke 12) and (K. Burke 63)

No Page Number

You can use other metrics such as chapters or paragraphs when making a citation, and you don’t know the exact page number.

Example:

(Burke, ch.2).

When there are no numbered patterns at all, mention only the name of the author.

Citing a Quote or Parenthetical 

In this case, type “qtd. in” before the author’s name.

Example :

(qtd. In Austen 23)

Citing Audio-Visual Sources

If you are referring to audio-visual sources, rather than inserting a page number, you can include the time stamp in the following format-hh:mm: ss

Example:

(Mitchell 01:22:12)

How to Cite Different Source Types

Although the in-text citations in MLA mostly look the same, the Works Cited page might have highly variable entries based on their source types. The great disparity applies when the author is unknown or if the cited source is not printed. Below is a well-detailed guide on how to cite sources in MLA based on their type.

How to Cite Books in MLA Format

General rules:

  • Author’s names- When there are two(2) authors, you should only invert the first author’s name. Next should be the word “and” followed by the second author’s name and should be in a common form. When there are more than three (3)authors, you only need to indicate the first author’s surname and put “et al.” after it.
  • Title- Ensure that all words begin with capitalized letters except words less than for letters. Also, italicize the entire title.
  • Title of containers, contributors, versions, and numbers are optional elements. This information should be provided if it is valuable and relevant to the reader.

The standard MLA book citation format is as follows:

Author’s last name, first name. Title.Title of container, Contributors, Version, Numbers, Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Bantam, 2003.

How to Cite Edited and Translated Books in MLA Format

There to ways to cite a source that has been edited or translated:

  • You can indicate the translator or editor in the author’s name section and mention their roles (e.g., “editor” or “translator”). Select this method if your work focuses on translation or editing.
  • Insert the names of translators or editors in the contributor’s section of the citation.

Below are two formats you can follow:

  1. Last name, first name, translator /editor.Title. Title of container, Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example:

Clarke, Alan R, translator. The Alchemist.By Paulo Coelho, HarperCollins,1993.

How to Cite E-Books in MLA Format

In order to cite an e-book, you should use the standard format for book citations and indicate the E-book version section. Follow this template:

Author’s last name, first name. Title. Title of container, Contributors, edition, e-book Number, Publisher, Year of Publication.

Example:

Troy, Ben N., et al. A Guide to Citation. 2nd ed, e-book, New York Publishers, 2010.

How to Cite Articles in MLA Format

To cite articles from several sources such as journals, newspapers, and magazines, utilize the following format:

Name of the Author(s). “ Article Title”. Title of the container, contributors, version, numbers, date of publication, location, Title of the database, DOI, or URL

Things worth noting:

  • Title-  Insert the title of the article in quotation marks and do not italicize it.
  • Title of container-This is where you indicate the name of the source ( e.g. newspaper or magazine).
  • Version-This refers to sections within every section of the publication.
  • Numbers- Here is where you specify the issue number (no.) or volume number (vo.).
  • Date of publication- If citing articles from the newspapers or magazine mention the day, month, and year (e.g. 13 August 2019). And for journals, indicate only the season and year (for example, December 2000).
  • Location – Here you indicate the article’s page number
  • Title of the database, DOI, or URL- This applies only to online articles 

Online Publication

Online example:

Bradshaw, Peter. “Oscars 2020 predictions: who will win?” The Guardian, 7 Feb 2020, https:// www.theguardian.com/film/2020/feb/07/oscars-2020-winners-losers-predictions-peter-bradshaw.

Journal

Journal example:

Gringe, Lea. “Science Fiction Works for the Development of the Aerospace Sector.” The Popularisation of Space, vol.41, Aug.2017, pp. 42-47.

Magazine/Newspaper

Magazine/ Newspaper example:

Smith, John. “Obama inaugurated as President .”Time, 21 Jan.2009:21-23.Print

How to Cite Non-Print Material

Although most of your references will probably be printed sources, for instance, books, articles, in other cases, you may also require to cite non-print materials. This section of our guide will concentrate on the basic rules of citing various non-print sources and will provide a well-detailed citation example for each.

Image in MLA Format

Standard structure:

Author’s last name, other names. “ Title of Image.” Website Title, contributors, reproduction, number, date, URL.

Example:

Gilpin, Laura. “ Terraced Houses, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico. “Library of Congress, Reproduction no. LC-USZ62-102170, 1939,

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/90716883/.

Film in MLA Format

Standard structure:

Director’s name, director. “ Title of film.”Contributors, Distributor, year of release.Medium.

Keep in mind: While this standard structure usually works, in certain situations, you may exchange the title and name of the director in the case that your work focuses more on the film instead of its director:

“Title of the film.” Directed by director name, contributors, Distributor, year of release. Medium.

Remember: MLA 9th Edition does not require you to indicate the medium, nonetheless, you can choose to mention it because it is relevant information for the audience. If the film is derived from the Web, replace the medium with the active URL.

Example:

Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Directed by David Gelb, performance by Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono. Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2011. Netflix, www.netflix.com/search?q=jiro&jbv=70181716&jbp=0&jbr=0.

TV Series in MLA Format

Standard structure:

“Episode Title”. Program Title, created by name, contributors, season number, episode number.Network, Year of Publication.

Example:

“ A knight of the Seven Kingdoms.” Game of Thrones, written by Bryan Cogman, directed by David Nutter, season 8, episode 2, HBO, 2019.

Music in MLA Format

Standard structure:

Author’s name(s). “ Title of the Track”. Title of the Album, other contributors, version, Record Label, Year of Publication.

Example:

Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth. “See you again.” See You Again, Atlantic Records, 2015.

How to Cite a Web Page in MLA Format

Basic structure:

Author’s last name, first name, or organization title. “Title of page/ document.” Title of the overall webpage, date, URL.

Example :

Woodford, Kate. “ Outlooks and Forecasts (The Language of Predictions)”. A Blog from Cambridge Dictionary, 5 Feb 2020,

https://dictionaryblog.cambridge.org/2020/02/05/outlooks-and-forecasts-the-languag-of-predictions/.

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