Students often use a variety of sources in their papers, to provide evidence or support their ideas, analyze something, comment on a point in their reading, or generally because they have found an article that is useful. In order to cite these sources, you need to understand what KIND of source it is, such as a:
- Chapter in a book (edited collection)?
- Academic journal article?
- Magazine or newspaper article (online)?
- Article from a website?
- Photograph or image?
- YouTube video?
Information You Need About the Source
In order to cite your sources in your paper, you need to extract information from the source. Look on the webpage or flip through the book or article to find this information. The first pages of a book often provide information about the publisher and date of publication. The url and main heading section of a webpage often provide information about the website.
- Name of author
- Title of work the article (or video or photograph)
- Name of the book
- Name of the journal
- Name of newspaper, magazine, etc.
- Year or date of publication
- Name of publisher or website
In-text (Parenthetical) Citations
The first element of the MLA system of documentation is in-text parenthetical citation.
Immediately following your use of the information, indicate its source by putting the author’s last name and the page number in parentheses. If an entire paragraph makes use of information from the source, just use one citation at the end of the paragraph.
For in-text citations, you need the name of the author and the page number if it is available or title of the article if the author is not available.
Do not repeat in parenthesis what you have already said in the sentence which includes information about the source. In other words, if you have mentioned the author's name already, you don’t need to include it at the end of the sentence in parenthesis. For books, the page number alone (without “p.”) will be enough.
Put as little as possible in parenthesis to keep interruptions to a minimum. The author’s surname and page number will suffice if you have only one work by that author in your list of works cited. The page number alone will suffice if you mention the author’s name in the text proper and if you have used no other work by that author.
If your paper largely concerns works by a single author, you need not repeat the author’s name each time you quote or refer to what is obviously one of his or her works.
Once you have the information you need, you will be able to cite the sources “in-text” (in your paper) and at the end of your paper in the Works Cited page.
For the Works Cited you need to know:
- How to sort or arrange the information about the source
- How to format the information about the source once you have arranged it
- How to organize and format your list of entries
The Works Cited
The in-text citations give your readers information about the sources you are using in an abbreviated form. Fuller details about each source are provided in the Works Cited.
Every name or title you use in the text must have an entry on the Works Cited page, and the opposite is also true—every entry on the Works Cited page must have a parenthetical citation in the text.
Works Cited basics - what does an entry include?
Author’s name (inverted)
Name of book (in italics)
“Title of chapter/article” (in quotation marks)
Name of journal (in italics)
Place of publication (usually the city)
Name of publisher
Date of publication (year; volume and issue number for articles)
Author (when available) (inverted)
“Title of article or page” (in quotation marks)
Name of institution or organization associated with the site
Date of publication (day month abbreviated to three letters and year)
Formatting your Works Cited.
Works Cited should be on a separate page (insert page break)
List of entries should be in alphabetical order (sort paragraphs)
Entries should have a hanging indent (paragraph special)
MLA Works Cited checklist
- Is the Works Cited presented on a separate page at the end of the document?
- Is the title centered, with no bold or underline?
- Is each source listed only once?
- Author’s name inverted? (Last Name, First Name)
- Are the book titles in italics?
- Are the titles of articles or chapters in books in quotation marks?
- Are the names of academic journals and newspapers in italics?
- Are sources listed alphabetically by author (or title—ignoring ‘a,’ ‘an,’ and ‘the’—if there’s no author). No numbers or bullets.
- Is the first line of each entry at the left margin, but each additional line indented (hanging indent)?
- Are dates in abbreviated form e.g. 9 Jun. 2003.
- Does every entry end in a period (full stop)?
- Is it double spaced?
You can also look up how to cite the source using the following site:
Drag and drop MLA citation quiz (from Gramaar Quizzes.com)
MLA check-sheet/mini-quiz (from Colorado State University Writing Studio)
Extended MLA quiz (from Athabasca University's Write Site)