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19.9: Supplementary Resource: MLA Citation Formatting

  • Page ID
    5697
  • Because of the wide variety of source formats, MLA 8 now requires that researchers follow a simple set of guidelines to create appropriate citations (instead of looking up one of the fifty-nine types of sources inside the previous handbook and following the instructions). Although there are still distinct rules you need to follow to create a citation, the rules are less rigid and and allow for you to look for the main components of a citation and construct it yourself. This means you will need to think about the source and its information, select the appropriate components, and organize it in a logical and useful manner.

    Regardless of the source type, you are now asked to locate the same “core elements” from your sources and place them in a standard order in order to create citations. These core elements are explained in detail below. Note that you do not need to memorize every step of this process, but should take this opportunity to understand how citations are created. You can always return to this page, to the MLA handbook, the MLA Style Center, or to other online resources to help you create the citations you need for your paper.

    HOW TO CREATE CITATIONS

    Each MLA citation should include as many of the following “Core Elements” that are applicable, along with their corresponding punctuation marks, in the order that follows. Click on each of the links below to take you to an explanation and examples of each component: 
    1. Authors.
    2. Title of the source.
    3. Title of container,
    4. Other contributors,
    5. Version,
    6. Numbers,
    7. Publisher,
    8. Publication date,
    9. Location.

    The appropriate punctuation mark will follow each core element, unless it is the final piece. In this case, the punctuation mark would be a period.

    Here’s how an actual source looks when cited using MLA 8:

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    Goodwin, Doris. Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Simon & Shuster, 2012.

    HOW TO FORMAT AN AUTHOR’S NAME

    It’s vitally important to make sure you correctly cite the last name of the author(s) whose work you’re referencing. To correctly cite the author, always begin the citation with the author’s last name, a comma, and the rest of the name as it appears on the source. Place a period after the author’s name. Here are some examples for citing one or more authors:

    How to Cite One Author

    • Patterson, James.
    • Rowling, J. K.
    • King, Laurie R.

    How to Cite Two Authors

    Place the authors in the order in which they appear on the source. Note that only the lead author’s name is listed last name first; all additional authors are listed by their first name, middle initial initial if applicable, and then last name:

    • Shields, David, and Caleb Powell.

    How to Cite Three or More Authors

    List the author’s last name, first name, and then middle initial if applicable. Follow it with a comma, and then add et. al. in place of the additional authors:

    • Beck, Isabel L., et. al.

    How to Cite Works by Individuals Other Than the Author

    In cases where the person responsible for creating a work is someone other than the author, such as an editor, producer, performer, or artist, always include the individual’s role after the name:

    • Kansaker, Tej Ratna, and Mark Turin, editors.

    How to Cite Corporate Authors

    If a corporation is the author of the text, include the full name of the corporation:

    • The New York City Department of Education.

    How to Cite When There Is No Author

    When no author is given in a text, omit this section and start the citation with the title.

    HOW TO FORMAT THE TITLE

    How to Cite Book Titles 

    When citing book titles using the MLA 8 format, always enter the full title, in italics, followed by a period.

    The citation format is as follows:

    • Last Name, First Name. Italicized Title. Publisher, Publication Year.

    Example \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Sparks, Nicholas. The Notebook. Warner Books, 1996.

    If there is a subtitle, place it after the title, using a colon to separate them. The subtitle should also be in italics.

    The citation format is as follows:

    • Last Name, First Name. Italicized TitleSubTitle. Publisher, Publication Year.

    Example \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Weiland, K.M. Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story. PenForA Sword, 2013.

    If the source is part of a larger work, such as an essay, chapter, short story, or poem, place the title in quotation marks, making sure to put a period at the end of the title. Follow it with the title of the larger work, in italics, with a comma at the end.

    The citation format is as follows:

    • Last Name, First Name. “Title.” Italicized Larger Work Title, Editor first and last name, Publisher, Publication Year, Page Numbers.

    Example \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Langer, A.J. “Lessons in Friendships.” Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul: 101 Stories of Life, Love and Learning, edited by Jack Canfield, et al., Simon & Schuster, 1997, pp. 56-62.

    How to Cite Periodical Titles

    When citing periodicals in MLA 8, place the title of the article in quotes, with a period at the end of the title. The italicized title of the periodical follows, along with a comma.

    The citation format is as follows:

    • Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Article.” Periodical Title. Publication Year, Page Numbers.

    Example \(\PageIndex{5}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Barack, Lauren. “Y is for Yoga: Libraries Embrace the Practice to Ease Stress and Promote Literacy.” The School Library Journal, January 2015, pp. 23-28.

    How to Cite Web sites

    These days much of our information comes from digital resources, such as web sites. When citing websites, place the title of the article in quotation marks, with a period at the end of the title. Follow with the name of the website in italics, followed by a comma, and ending with the website URL.

    The citation format is as follows:

    • “Title of the Article.” Name of the Website. URL.

    Example \(\PageIndex{6}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    “What are Annotated Bibliographies?.” Easybib, easybib.com.

    How to Cite Untitled Works

    If a source doesn’t have a title, include the creator of the source and a brief description. Do not italicize or place this information in quotation marks.

    The citation format is as follows:

    • Last Name, First Name. Title of the work. Year, Location of the Work, City, State.

    Example \(\PageIndex{7}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Johnson, Sarah. Painting of a Horse. 1984, PS 86, Bronx, NY.

    HOW TO FORMAT CONTAINERS

    Sometimes a source is part of a larger whole. For example, a magazine article is part of a larger whole, the magazine itself. For citation purposes, we call the larger whole, in this case the magazine, a container. When citing sources, the container is generally italicized and is followed by a comma. Other examples of containers include a book within a collection, a periodical, a television series, a website, or comic book series.

    How to Cite Sources With One Container

    When citing sources with only one container, the title of the direct source is placed in quotes, and the title of the container is italicized.

    The partial format for citing a title within a container is as follows:

    • Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Source.” Italicized Container Title, Performer or Editor etc. Name,

    Example \(\PageIndex{8}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Bazin, Patrick. “Toward Metareading.” The Future of the Book, edited by Geoffrey Nunberg, U of California P, 1996, pp. 153-68.

    How to Cite Sources With Two Containers

    Sometimes the source you’re citing might have two containers. For example, if an article is found on a database, the first container is the name of the larger whole, such as a journal. The second container is the database where you found the article.

    Another example might be a television series you watched on Netflix. The first container is the name of the series, and the second container is Netflix. For sources with multiple containers, follow this template:

    *Elements that are irrelevant are not included in the citation.

    1. Author.

    2. Title of source.

    Container 1

    3. Title of Container,

    4. Other contributors,

    5. Version,

    6. Number,

    7. Publisher,

    8. Publication date,

    9. Location.

    Container 2

    3. Title of container,

    4. Other contributors,

    5. Version,

    6. Number,

    7. Publisher,

    8. Publication date,

    9. Location.

    Example \(\PageIndex{9}\):

    The full citation for a source with multiple containers might look like this:

    Ellingsen, Eric. “In the Listenings: The Gold Waxes.” World Literature Today, vol. 89, no. 1, 2015, pp. 30-32. JSTOR, doi:10.7588/worllitetoda.89.1.0030.

    HOW TO FORMAT OTHER CONTRIBUTORS

    In addition to authors, there may be other contributors who are important to include in the citation, especially if their individual work was important to your assignment.

    To correctly cite the contributions of these individuals, make sure you state their specific role, followed by the word “by” and then add their first and last name.

    Some common roles:

    • edited by
    • translated by
    • adapted by
    • illustrated by
    • directed by
    • performance by

    Example \(\PageIndex{10}\):

    The full citation might look like this:

    Callendar, G.S. “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Temperature.” The Global Warming Reader, edited by Bill McKibbin, Penguin Books, 2011. Google Books, https://books.google.com/books?id=Ps..._4C&lpg=PP1&dq =edited%20bok&pg=PT3#v=onepage&q&f=false.

    HOW TO FORMAT VERSIONS

    In some cases there may be numerous versions of a specific source, and you’ll want to be sure you indicate the version you’re citing. This happens most often with books, which can have several editions still in print. Other examples include director’s cuts of movies and radio edits of songs. When citing a specific version of a source:

    • Always use the symbol for a number instead of spelling it out. For example, use 4th ed. Instead of Fourth ed., regardless of how it appears on the source itself.
    • Abbreviate ed. for edition and rev. for revised (example: use 4th ed. NOT 4th edition)

    The following are examples of how full citations for sources with numerous versions might look:

    Example \(\PageIndex{11}\):

    How to Cite Book Editions

    Ferber, Richard. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Revised ed., Simon & Schuster, 2006, Google Books, https://books.google.com/books?id=so...dition&f=false.

    Nist-Oljenik, Sherrie, and Jodi Patrick Holschuh. College Rules! How to Study, Survive, and Succeed in College. 3rd ed., Ten Speed Press, 2011.

    HOW TO FORMAT NUMBERS

    You may find that your source is numbered, and you’ll want to be sure to include that information in your citation. Some common examples include episodes of television shows, volumes of books and journals, and issue numbers. When including numbered sources, remember:

    • Journal issues are often given a volume and issue number
    • Always abbreviate volume to vol. and number to no.

    Example \(\PageIndex{12}\):

    How to Cite a Journal Article

    Schaefer, Sara E., et al. “Wearing, Thinking, and Moving: Testing the Feasibility of Fitness Tracking with Urban Youth.” American Journal of Health Education, vol. 47, no. 1, 2016, pp 8-16. ERIC, EJ1086821.

    How to Cite a Book Volume

    The New Cambridge Medieval History. Edited by David Abulafia, vol. 5, Cambridge UP, 1999. Google Books, https://books.google.com/booksid=bcl...0books&f=false.

    HOW TO FORMAT PUBLISHERS

    The publisher is the name of the organization or company responsible for making the work available, and you’ll want to be sure to correctly cite this information. To cite publishers using MLA 8:

    • Include only the name of publishers and omit business words. The business words are usually found directly after the name of the publisher. This includes words such as company, corporation, limited, and others. (Example: Use Dream Books NOT Dream Books Company, LLC.)
    • Use UP for University Press (Example: Use Cambridge UP NOT Cambridge University Press)

    How to Cite a Book

    Example \(\PageIndex{13}\):

    Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree, Harper & Row, 1964.

    Sometimes there will be numerous organizations listed as being responsible for publishing the source. In this case, just include the company that is most responsible for the source’s publication.

    If two or more organizations are equally responsible, separate the names with a forward slash.

    Example \(\PageIndex{14}\):

    Bilodeau, Brent L. “Understanding Genderism.” The Art of Effective Facilitation: Reflections from Social Justice Educators, edited by Lisa M. Landreman, ACPA-College Student/Stylus, 2013, pp. 67-80.

    It is not always necessary to include the name of the publisher. For the following sources, omit this information:

    • Any periodicals including journals, magazines, or newspapers
    • A website when the name of it is the same as the publisher

    HOW TO FORMAT THE PUBLICATION DATE

    The publication date refers to the date that the source was made available. When formatting sources with publication dates, keep the following in mind:

    • When there is more than one publication date, use the one that is most relevant to your research.
    • Include the date as it is shown on the source.
    • Online versions of articles sometimes display two dates: 1) the date the article was posted online and 2) the date that the printed version was published. If you used the online version, only include that date in your citation.

    How to Cite an Article on a Website

    Example \(\PageIndex{15}\):

    Richtel, Matt. “Texting and Driving? Watch Out for the Textalyzer.” The New York Times, Apr. 27, 2016,

    28DISTRACTED4-mediumThreeByTwo440.jpg

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Example \(\PageIndex{16}\):

    Example of a YouTube video 

    “Ew!” With Jennifer Lopez”, The Jimmy Fallon Show, 27 Feb. 2016, YouTube, https://youtu.be/KX1bQ1sGiIA.

    *The MLA 8 Handbook recommends locating the publisher directly on the source rather than relying on online catalogs or book retailers, as their information may be incorrect.

    HOW TO FORMAT THE LOCATION

    In many cases, your readers will want to view your cited sources for themselves. This is why it’s important to provide the precise location within a source from which you took your information. The way this information is included in a citation differs by source:

    For Print Resources

    • Include any page ranges to help readers locate the specific information themselves.
    • When citing one page, place ‘p.’ prior to the page number.
    • For a range of pages, use “pp.” prior to the page numbers

    Example \(\PageIndex{17}\):

    Example of a Single Page Location

    Weir, Andy. The Martian, Reprint Edition. Broadway Books. 2014, p. 84.

    Example of a Multiple Page Location

    Chopin, Kate. The Awakening, Avon Books, 1994, pp. 18-24.

    For Online Sources

    When citing online sources, the location is the URL or DOI (Digital Object Identifier) number. Keep in mind that:

    • When there is one available, the DOI is favored over a URL, because while URLs often change, the DOI will always stay the same.
    • When including a URL, use a permalink whenever possible, because it is generally more stable and shorter in length.

    Example \(\PageIndex{18}\):

    Bui, Hoang. “How to Get Financial Freedom When You Can’t Increase Your Salary.” Elite Daily, Mar. 30, 2016, elitedaily.com/money/financial-freedom-increase-salary/1375196/.

    Sassen, Catherine, and Diane Wahl. “Fostering Research and Publication in Academic Libraries.” College and Research Libraries, July 2014. ERIC, EJ1066504.

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