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MLA Citation Guidelines

Presents the most important basic concepts for college students who need to cite sources in MLA Style.

This work, “Basics of Citing: MLA”, is a derivative of Basics of Citing: MLA by Kirkwood Libraries, used under CC BY. “Basics of Citing: MLA” is licensed under CC BY by Pamela Galovich

MLA Eighth Edition

The latest edition of the MLA Handbook focuses on the elements common to most publications through the use of one standard citation format. There are no special instructions for a particular media type (e.g., book, magazine, journal, or tweet) and there may be more than one way to document a publication depending on how you used the source. The ultimate goal is to provide enough information for the reader to locate your source.

MLA’s Universal Citation Format

Author. "Title of Source." Title of Container, Other Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher,

Publication Date, Location. [Title of Container 2, Other Contributors, Version, Number,

Publisher, Publication Date, Location.]

What is a “container?”

MLA uses the word “container” to refer to the larger body of work from which the documented source originates.

For example, Melissa uses information from a chapter in a psychology textbook for her research paper. The title of the chapter is the source and the title of the book is the container:

A source may have more than one container depending on how it is accessed.

For example, Tom uses an episode of a TV series that is available on Netflix for his research paper. The series title is the first container and Netflix is the second container.

As another example, Kim uses an article he finds in an online database for his research paper. The journal title is the first container and EBSCO is the second container.

What are “other contributors?”

Other contributors are individuals other than the author that are important to include in a citation. In the above example, Tom may be discussing particular performances in the Gossip Girl episode and would include the actors in his citation:

Common descriptions for contributions include: adapted by, directed by, edited by, illustrated by, introduction by, narrated by, performance by, and translated by.

What is a “version?”

A version can be an edition, revision, abridged/unabridged or other special format of the source. Some examples:

What does "location" mean?

The location may be page numbers, a web address or a DOI. It is not the publisher's city.

What about the date of access?

It is important to include the date an item was accessed if there is potential for change to or removal of the item, such as websites or social media posts. This is also important to include if there is no date of publication. Including the date of access will help the reader further understand which version of the item you are using. 

For example, Tom may want to include the date of access for his TV show since Netflix frequently adds and removes content:

It may be helpful to use a template to gather necessary information. A downloadable template is available on the last tab in the MLA section of this website.

Core Elements‚Äč







Citation Formatting Tips:

  • Place a period after the Author, Title of Source if it is part of a larger work, and last item in the container.
  • Place a comma after the items that follow the container.
  • A title is placed in quotation marks if the source is part of a larger work. (e.g., essay, story, poem, chapter, song, photograph or scene).
  • A title is placed in italics if the title is self-contained (e.g., book, album, play, movie.).
  • Use a DOI, or digital object identifier, instead of a web address (URL) when possible. The DOI is listed in the article’s information page in an online database.

Works Cited Page Formatting:

  • The works cited page is located at the end of the body of the paper on a new page and must be double spaced.
  • The page must have the title "Works Cited" in the center of the page. It may not be bolded, within quotation marks, italicized, underlined, or in a larger font.
  • The entries must be alphabetized.
  • The first line of each entry must be flush with the left margin. If a citation is more than one line, each line after the first line shall be indented 1/2 inch from the left margin.


MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Sevastopoulos, Julie. “Citing Sources.” Grammar-Quizzes, 2016,


MLA In-Text Citations

See below examples of how to handle MLA citations in the body of your text.

Direct Quotes

A direct quote is a word-for-word copy of source material. The quote is enclosed in quotation marks. Include the author's name and page numbers. If your quote is more than 4 lines long, use a block quote. 

Author Incorporated into text

Author after quotation

Block Quote

The block quote is used for quotations that are longer than 4 lines. Do not use quotation marks. Introduce the block quote on a new line. Indent the entire quote 1 inch from the left margin. Include the page number at the end of your block quote outside of the ending period. Be sure to specify the source in the introduction phrase/sentence, which ends in either a colon or period.

For example  


A paraphrase is a way to represent an idea from a source in your own words. It is typically as long as the original quotation. Paraphrasing is used most often to explain jargon or difficult to understand information in terms the reader can easily understand. MLA requires you to include the author's name and page number. 

Author Incorporated into text 


Author after paraphrase 


A summary is a condensed version of a longer passage from a outside source. Like a paraphrase, it is written in your own words. MLA requires you to include the author's name and page number. 

Author incorporated into text

Author after summary 

Indirect Quotes

When possible, cite information directly. If you must cite a source that was cited in another source, name the original source in your signal phrase. Include the secondary source in parentheses with the abbreviation "qtd. in" (quoted in). Include the indirect source and in your works cited list. 

For example

In this example, "Johns" should appear in your works cited list. 

About the Sample MLA In-Text Citations

Based off the 7th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers published in 2009. Creators are Jen Klaudinyi, Robert Monge. URL is tutorial is licensed under  CC BY-NC-SA

Presents information on why in text citations are needed and how to create them.

This work, “Basics of In-text Citations: MLA”, is a derivative of Basics of In-text Citations: MLA by Kirkwood Libraries, used under CC BY. “Basics of In-text Citations: MLA” is licensed under CC BY by Pamela Galovich

First Page


Body of Paper



Body of Paper with Image


Body of Paper with Graph


Works Cited Page

Citation: The information given in a bibliography or a database about a particular title. The citation may include the article title, periodical title, book title, place of publication, publisher, volume, pages, and date. Refer to a style manual to learn how to format citations for your own bibliographies.

Common knowledge: Common knowledge is information that can easily be located in any number of reference sources or that is commonly known. Common knowledge does not need to be cited.

Direct quotation: When you use the author’s exact words, you are quoting. A quotation must be enclosed in quotation marks.

In-text citation: Any time you refer to, comment on, paraphrase, or quote another writer’s information, you must document this in your paper through the use of a citation. The purpose of an MLA in-text citation, sometimes called a parenthetical reference, is to help readers easily find the sources in the Works Cited page that correspond to your referenced passage.

MLA (Modern Language Association) style: The MLA style was developed to provide uniform rules for documenting quotations, paraphrases, summaries, and lists of sources used to write a research paper.

Paraphrase: When you restate the author’s ideas in your own words, you are paraphrasing. A paraphrase includes most of the details in roughly the same number of words as in the original version.

Plagiarism: Using another's words, ideas, or other original work without giving proper credit (usually through citation).

Works Cited: A list of sources you have *cited* in your paper.