MLA is a common academic formatting style developed by the Modern Language Association. It is widely used in academic papers in humanities and as a guideline for referencing original sources. In this article, we have prepared a complete guide to cite sources according to the MLA 8th edition, published in 2016.
Depending on the type of the source, its specific characteristics (e.g. unknown author’s name), and other factors, citations in MLA style may differ by their form. Further into this MLA 8 citation guide, we are going to go over all the types of sources and cases, and provide clear examples of proper referencing. But first, let’s look at core elements that are typically included in every MLA style citation:
Author name(s). “Title of the Source”. Title of container, other contributors, version, numbers, publisher, publication date, location.
Now, let’s see the specific rules that apply to each of the core elements of an MLA citation.
- Always put the surname first, then separate it by a comma and list the first name and any initials (for example, Black, Jacob K.)
- If the author is unknown, you can use the name of the organization responsible or start with the title of the source (for example, The Modern Language Association. “Works Cited: A Quick Guide”... or “Works Cited: A Quick Guide”...)
- When there are 2 authors, put the first author’s name in inverted form, and follow it with the other author’s name in regular form (for example, Black, Jacob K., and Chris Thorn)
- If there are 3 or more authors, put the first author’s name in inverted form and follow it with “et al” (for example, Black, Jacob K., et al)
- You are allowed to mention online usernames or pseudonyms instead of real names (for example, Pewresearch or Digiday)
- You can also include the names of translators or editors here, but their names should be followed by their relevant titles – “editor” or “translator” (for example, Black, Jacob K., editor or Thorn, Chris, translator)
Title of the Source
- Put the title in quotation marks when the source is part of a short work (for example, a short article)
- Larger works such as books, television shows, and websites should be italicized
- If the source’s title is unknown, replace it in your citation with a brief description, without quotation marks and not italicized (for example, Website Home Page, Review Covering Multiple Books, etc.)
Title of Container
- Can include multiple container titles when necessary
- Only list the most relevant contributors to your work
- Before the name of each contributor, specify his/her role (for example, produced by Jacob Black)
- Refers to a specific edition, version, or revision of the source
- This part of the citation should all be in lower case
- This element refers to sources that appear in a sequence, for example, TV seasons or episodes, issues, and volumes
- When there are multiple publishers, they all need to be listed in the citation and separated with a slash (/)
Example: Oxford University Press/Cambridge University Press
- The information you provide here depends on the source’s type
- If there is more than one publication date (e.g. the source was numerously republished) you only need to cite the date of publication of the one you have used
- In certain cases, it is appropriate to cite a date range
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 and/or venue
MLA Referencing: In-Text Citations
An in-text citation refers to the use of a direct quote or a paraphrase of information taken from another source in the body of the text. In-text citations are used to add value to your work and support your ideas.
General rules for each MLA in-text citation:
- It should correspond to its relevant reference from the works cited page.
- Every citation should contain the author’s last name and the page (or range of pages) where the specific quote or information is found in the original source.
- The author’s name can either be a part of the sentence or included in parentheses directly after the quote.
- The page number or numbers should be included in parentheses after the quote, either alone or following the author’s last name.
Example of a citation where the author’s name is a part of the sentence: To portray the attitude towards women in the American society of the ’20s, Fitzgerald has his character Daisy say “And I hope she'll be a fool — that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (21).
Example of a citation that doesn’t mention the author’s name in the sentence: In the novel, we see a phrase that depicts the attitude towards women in the American society of the 20's “And I hope she'll be a fool — that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” (Fitzgerald 21).
Now, let’s take a look at how an MLA in-text citation is formed in different cases:
More than One Author
When there are 2-3 authors, you can list all the names, followed by the page number in parentheses.
MLA in text citation example: “Everything goes away, Jack Sawyer, like the moon. Everything comes back, like the moon” (King, Steven, and Straub 78).
When there are more than 3 authors, only list the last 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).
If the author of the source is unknown, instead of stating his last name in parentheses after the quote: make the entire title italicized, put the article or webpage in quotation marks, or the shortened title within quotation marks.
Example: In the novel Diary of an Oxygen Thief, the feeling of deep satisfaction after an obviously 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 the 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).
Example: According to the “MLA Citation Guide” “…” (4)
(“MLA Citation Guide” 4)
Authors With Multiple Cited Works
If you refer to multiple works of the same author, include the author’s name and a shortened title of the particular source, along with the page number.
Example: (Fitzgerald, I’d Die for You 35)
Authors With the Same Surname
In case you refer to several works whose authors have the same surnames, when making in-text citations, put an initial before the author’s last name.
Example: (B. MacDonald 17) and (J. MacDonald 56)
No Page Number
When you are making a citation and don’t know the exact page number, use other metrics such as chapters or paragraphs.
Example: (MacDonald, ch. 4).
When there are no numbered patterns at all, mention only the name of the author.
Citing a Quote or Parenthetical
In this scenario, type “qtd. in” before the author’s name.
Example: (qtd. in Fitzgerald 65)
Citing Audio-Visual Sources
When referring to audio-visual sources, instead of the page number, you need to indicate a time stamp in the following format – hh:mm:ss.
Example: (Mitchell 01:22:12)
How to Cite Different Source Types
While the MLA Works Cited page might have highly variable entries based on their source types, in-text citations mostly look similar. The biggest change applies when the author is not known, or if the cited source is not printed. Below is a comprehensive guide on how to cite sources in MLA based on their type.
How to Cite Books in MLA Format
- Authors’ names — when there are 2 authors, only the first one’s name needs to be inverted. The next one should be introduced by the word “and” and be in standard form. When there are more than 3 authors, you only need to indicate the first one (last and then first name) and put “et al” after it.
- Title — all words (except for small words) should start with capitalized letters, and the whole title needs to be italicized.
- 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: Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. Scribner, 2004.
How to Cite Edited and Translated Books in MLA Format
If you refer to a book that was edited or translated, there are two ways to indicate this in your citation:
- List the translator or editor in the author’s name section and specify their role (e.g. “editor” or “translator”). Choose this method if your work focuses on translation or editing.
- Add the names of translators or editors in the contributors' section of the citation.
Here 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.
2.Last name, first name. Title. Title of container, edited/translated by Contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Year of publication.
Example: Coelho, Paulo. The Alchemist. Translated by A. Clarke, HarperCollins, 1993.
How to Cite E-Books in MLA Format
To cite an e-book, you should use the standard format for book citations and specify the e-book identity in the 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
Use the following format to cite articles from different sources, including journals, magazines, and newspapers:
Name of Author(s). “Article Title”. Title of Container, contributors, version, numbers, date of publication, location, Title of database, DOI or URL
Things to keep in mind:
- Title — the title of the article is put in quotation marks and does not need to be italicized.
- Title of container – here, you need to provide the name of the source (e.g. newspaper, magazine, or journal) where the article was published. It has to be italicized.
- Version — this section refers to types within each section of the publication.
- Numbers — in this section, you need to specify the issue number (no.) or volume number (vo.).
- Date of publication — for newspapers and magazines, specify the day, month, and year (e.g. 9 December 2012). And for journals, mention only the season and year (e.g. June 2018).
- Location — this section is devoted to the article’s page number(s).
- Title of database, DOI or URL — only included for online articles.
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 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 example: Smith, John. “Obama inaugurated as President.” Time, 21 Jan. 2009: 21-23. Print.
How to Cite Non-Print Material
While most of your references will probably be printed sources like books, articles, and others, in some cases you may also need to cite alternative non-print materials. In this part of our guide, we will focus on the general rules of citing different non-print sources and will provide a clear MLA citation example for each.
Image in MLA Format
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
Director’s name, director. “Title of film”. Contributors, Distributor, year of release. Medium
Please note: although this standard structure typically works, in some cases you may swap the title and name of the director in the case that your work focuses more on the film rather than on its director:
“Title of film”. Directed by director name, contributors, Distributor, year of release. Medium
Also, note that mentioning the medium is not required in MLA 8, but you are allowed to mention it since it is useful information for the reader. If the film is taken from the Web, replace the medium with its relevant URL.
Example: Hitchcock, Alfred, director. “Psycho”. Performances by Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh, Paramount Pictures, 1960, DVD
TV Series in MLA Format
“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
Author’s name(s). “Title of the Track”. Title of the Album, other contributors, version, Record Label, Year of Publication
Example: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. “Shallow.” A Star Is Born, Interscope, 2018.
How to Cite a Web Page in MLA Format
Author’s last name, first name or organization title. “Title of page/document”. Title of 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-language-of-predictions/.