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MLA Style Guide

Scope: This is an introduction to the most frequently used citations in the Modern Language Association (MLA) style. It is not meant to be a comprehensive guide. For more information and examples, refer to the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers.  The MLA Handbook is available at the McKeldin Reference Desk (LB2369 .G53 2009) and several other campus libraries (check the catalog record for availability), and may be purchased through the University Book Store or other commercial vendors.

 

Table of Contents

 

Why cite?

In researched writing, proper citation increases your credibility and allows readers to locate your sources; conversely, a failure to document your sources is plagiarism, a violation of the University of Maryland's Code of Academic Integrity with serious consequences.

Avoid plagiarism by gathering the information you need to create a citation when you first find each of your sources; don't wait until you begin writing the paper.

 

How to write a works cited entry

Readers of your research paper must be able to determine what information or ideas in your paper came from outside sources as well as where they can find those sources for themselves. In MLA format, this is done through a system of brief in- text citations which point to entries in a list of works cited.

The list of works cited is titled Works Cited (centered, without quotation marks or italics, at the top of the page) and appears at the end of your paper. However, you should begin drafting this list as you write, both so that you know what information must be included in the in-text citations and to minimize confusion at the end of the research process.

The MLA style is flexible about the inclusion and ordering of certain information, so there may be cases where there is more than one "correct" format for a citation.

Note: The 7th edition of the MLA handbook updates several guidelines. They include:

  • Use italics everywhere in place of underlining, for titles of books, words, etc.
  • Give the medium for every source used (e.g., Print, Web, DVD, Lecture, PDF file, E-mail, etc).
  • Websites no longer require complete URLs unless the reader is unlikely to be able to locate the source independently (or your instructor requires it).

 

Common works cited entries

This guide shows the most common sources appearing in Works Cited pages. For more specific needs, see the MLA Handbook.

Common Print Sources

Book by a single author

Cite the author's name; the title (and subtitle) of the book; the city, publisher, and date; and the medium.

Dorbin, Ann E. Saving the Bay: People Working for the Future of the
     Chesapeake. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001. Print.

Book by more than one author

List names in the same order as they appear on the title page. Only the first author should be listed last name first. For books with more than three authors you can list all names or give only the first followed by the words "et al" (meaning "and others").

Lippson, Alice J., and Robert L. Lippson. Life in the Chesapeake Bay.
     3rd ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. Print. 

Scholarly journal article

Cite the author's name and the title of the article, followed by the publication information: journal title, volume number, issue number, year of publication (in parentheses), inclusive page numbers, and medium of publication consulted. Follow the punctuation in the example carefully.

Guo, Xinyu and Arnoldo Valle-Levinson. "Wind Effects on the Lateral
     Structure of Density-Driven Circulation in Chesapeake Bay." Continental
     Shelf Research 28.17 (2008): 2450-2471. Print.

Magazine article

If the magazine is published every month or two, include the month or months and year in the date; if the magazine is published every week or two, give the complete date (e.g., 23 Jan. 2008). Then write a colon, the inclusive page numbers, and the medium of publication consulted. Do not include the volume and issue numbers.

Dybas, Cheryl Lyn. "Requiem for the Chesapeake." Wildlife Conservation
     Mar. 2005: 26-31. Print.

Newspaper article

Give the full name of the newspaper but omit introductory articles (e.g., New York Times, not The New York Times). Abbreviate the names of all months except May, June, and July. Indicate the span of pages on which the article appears; if it is printed on nonconsecutive pages, use the initial page number and a plus sign (e.g., 6+).

Morse, Gordon C. "Blather Won't Bring Back the Bay." Washington Post
     13 July 2003: B8. Print.

Newspaper article with no author

If the author is unknown, begin with the title. If the work is an editorial, write the word "Editorial" after the title.

"Chesapeake Bay Left Up a Creek." Editorial. Christian Science
     Monitor. 12 Jan. 2009: 8. Print.

Government publication

If you do not know the author of the document, state the name of the government and agency that issued it, followed by the usual publication information. Abbreviations are acceptable as long as the context makes them clear.

United States. Dept. of State. U.S. Climate Action Report — 2002:
     Third National Communication of the United States of America under
     the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
     Washington: GP0, 2002. Print.

Unpublished dissertation

The title should be placed in quotation marks, rather than italicized. Then write the abbreviation "Diss.", the name of the degree-granting university, and the year.

Lucas, Michael Thomas. "Negotiating Public Landscapes: History,
     Archaeology, and the Material Culture of Colonial Chesapeake
     Towns, 1680 to 1720." Diss. U of Maryland, 2009. Print. 

Common Electronic Sources

Website with a known author

The 7th edition of the MLA Handbook recommends including the full URL for a website only if the reader is likely to have difficulty finding the source without it (or when your instructor requires it).

A nonperiodical publication on the Web usually contains the following: name of the author; title of the work (italicized if the work is independent or in quotation marks if it's part of a larger work); the title of the overall website; the publisher or sponsor of the site (write "N.p." if none is available); the date of publication (write "n.d." if none is available); the medium of publication; and the date of access.

Willingham, Val. "The dish on fish and mercury: How healthy is your catch?" 
     CNN.com. Cable News Network, 20 Aug. 2009. Web. 27 Aug. 2009.

Website by an unknown author

If no author name is available, begin your entry with the name of the website (note that the general principle is the same for print or electronic sources without author names).

Remember that literally anyone can publish information on the Web. It is up to you to evaluate your sources for credibility. Refer to the guide Evaluating Web Sites for assistance.

"Annapolis, Maryland." Map. Google Maps. Google, 29 Aug. 2009. Web.
     29 Aug. 2009.
"What We Do." Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Chesapeake Bay Foundation, n.d.
     Web. 27 Aug. 2009.

E-book

Use the same citation format as for a print book and then include, as applicable, the name of the website, the medium and date of access. If there are no page numbers use �N. pag.� after the publication information. The example below is from this informative e-book guide.

Welch, Kathleen E. Electric Rhetoric: Classical Rhetoric, Oralism, and a
     New Literacy. Cambridge: MIT, 1999. netLibrary. Web. 21 Oct. 2004.

Blog, listserv or other online communities

Cite an online community in much the same way you would a web site.

Editor, screen name or author name (if available). Posting
     title. Name of site. Version number (if available).
     Publisher/Name of institution or organization, Date of
     publication. Medium of publication (Web). Date of access.

Eney, Lindsay. What Habitats are Found in the Chesapeake Bay
     Watershed. Bay Blog: Chesapeake Bay Program. Chesapeake Bay
     Program. 27, Aug. 2010.  Web. 23 Sept. 2010.

Online database article

Follow the recommendations for citing articles in print, omitting the original medium of publication ("Print"). If pagination is not available, write "n. pag." Conclude with the title of the database (italicized), the medium of publication consulted, and the date of access.

 Note: The 7th edition of the MLA handbook no longer requires the URL for the database (unless your instructor asks for it) or the location from which you accessed it (e.g., the name of the library).

Dybas, Cheryl Lyn. "Requiem for the Chesapeake." Wildlife Conservation
     Mar. 2005: 26-31. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Aug. 2009.
Guo, Xinyu and Arnoldo Valle-Levinson. "Wind Effects on the Lateral
     Structure of Density-Driven Circulation in Chesapeake Bay." Continental
     Shelf Research 28.17 (2008): 2450-2471. Print.
Morse, Gordon C. "Blather Won't Bring Back the Bay." Washington Post
     13 July 2003: B8. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 3 Aug. 2009.

E-mail

Include the name of the writer, the title of the message (from the subject line), a brief description naming the recipient, and the medium of delivery.

O'Malley, Martin. "Re: The Future of the Chesapeake Bay." Message to the
     author. 27 Aug. 2009. E-mail. 

Apps

Rightsholder Last Name, First. Title of app. Computer Software.
     Title of website where app was downloaded. Version number.
     Publisher/Developer, Date available. Web. Date accessed.
     URL to download app.
Gray, Theodore. The Elements: A Visual Exploration. Computer Software.
     Apple App Store. Vers. 1.0.2.1. Touch Press, 2010. 13 Mar. 2012.

Common Multimedia Sources

Interview

For an interview you have conducted, include the name of the person interviewed, the type of interview (e.g., "Personal interview," "Telephone interview"), and the date.

Mote, Dan. Personal interview. 7 Aug. 2009.

Television or radio broadcast

Include the title of the episode or segment (in quotation marks), the name of the program or series (italicized), the name of the network (or call letters and city of the station), broadcast date, and medium.

Additional information (e.g., producer, actors, narrators, etc) may also be included.

"Poisoned Waters." Dir. Rick Young. Frontline. PBS. WGBH, Boston,
     21 Apr. 2009. Television.

Video recording

Generally include the title, director, distributor, year of release, and medium consulted. Other data that is relevant to your use of the source (e.g., screenwriter, performers) may be included after the title.

Chesapeake Born. Prod. David F. Oyster. National Geographic Society,
      1985. Videocassette.

Author. Video title. Name of web site. Sponsor/publisher. Date
      updated. Medium of publication (Web). Date of access.

Seaaroundus. Life in the Chesapeake Bay. YouTube. YouTube. 16 July
      2010. Web. 22 Sept. 2010.

 

How to use in-text parenthetical references

The MLA Handbook requires an in-text parenthetical reference system (as opposed to footnotes or endnotes) to document the sources used in a paper. These parenthetical references contain abbreviated source information since they are tied to an alphabetical list of Works Cited which contains full source information and appears at the end of the paper. When constructing these in-text references, remember that all in-text parenthetical references must correspond to a source cited in the Works Cited list, and that the function of the parenthetical reference is to give the reader information that allows him or her to quickly locate the source in that list.

Imagine writing a paper on the future of the Chesapeake Bay in which you quote a newspaper editorial. The sentence in your paper might look like this:

 

Editorialists have noted that despite "20 years of political posturing and
photo-ops," there has been no discernable improvement to the bay's water
quality (Morse B8).

And the corresponding Works Cited entry would look like this:

Morse, Gordon C. "Blather Won't Bring Back the Bay." Washington Post 13
     July 2003: B8. Print.

The MLA Handbook instructs you to keep parenthetical references "as brief—and as few—as clarity and accuracy permit." In other words, readers need enough information to locate your source on the list of Works Cited. If, for example, you identify the author's name in the sentence, you can omit it from the parenthetical citation:

Gordon Morse from The Washington Post notes that despite "20 years of
     political posturing and photo-ops," there has been no discernable
     improvement to the bay's water quality (B8).

Common parenthetical citations include:

  • Basic form. Author's last name followed by a space and a page reference. If the author's name is mentioned in the sentence, the page number alone is required:
    (Smith 139)
  • No page numbers available. Use the author's last name alone. If no author's name is avaible, use the name of the source:
  (Smith)
  • No author available. When the author's name is not available, use the name of the source (in italics or quotation marks, as necessary). You can shorten this title to its first few words. For websites, do not include the URL in parenthetical citations:
  ("Chesapeake: Still At Bay")
  • More than one source by the same author. In this case, the reader will need further identifying information to differentiate between the sources in the Works Cited page. Use the author's last name followed by a comma and the title of the work before the page reference:
  (Morse, "Blather Won't" B8)
  • Two authors with the same last name. Give the last name and first initial (or full name if they have the same first initial):
  (M. Lucas 314)
  • Two or three authors. Give the last name of each person listed for two or three authors:
  (Lippson and Lippson 43)
  (Dewey, Cheatem, and Howe 133)
  • More than three authors. You may list all names or use the first author's last name followed by the words "et al." What you do in the parenthetical citation should match your Works Cited entry:
  (Smith, et al.)