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Citation Styles and How to Guide

Citation Guidance

MLA Style

MLA Style is a citation style created by the Modern Language Association, which is how it got its name!  Although it's most commonly used in the humanities, MLA can be used across many disciplines.  Therefore, the current citation style for this edition is more like a set of guidelines rather than strict rules.

MLA Style is currently in the 9th edition.  For an overview of changes between the 8th and 9th editions of MLA, check out this article from the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).


MLA Citation Style Basics

These are some recommended resources for getting started citing in MLA Style.

You must format your paper according to MLA guidelines if you are citing using MLA Style.  

Purdue OWL provides some general guidelines for formatting your paper in MLA Style, which include:

  • Papers should be typed
  • Use double spacing
  • 1 inch margins 
  • Use 12 pt. size font
  • The first line of each paragraph should be indented with the Tab key
  • On the first page of your paper, you should include the following information indented left: your name, your instructor's name, the course that the assignment is for, and the date.  All subsequent pages should have a header in the top right corner with the page number.
  • A Works Cited page at the end of your paper that includes all the sources

For MLA Style formatting examples, take a look at MLA Style Center's Sample Papers and Purdue OWL's Sample Papers.

MLA Style's in-text citations use parenthetical citations that consist of an author-page style. 

The author's last name and page number(s) from where the quotation or paraphrase is taken appears in the text.  The structure of the in-text citation will depend on whether you are paraphrasing or quoting the text.  This in-text citation will correspond to a complete reference on the Works Cited page.

For example, if you are citing something paraphrased by Jasmine Plott on page 3 of her work, you would provide an in-text citation that looks as follows: (Plott 3).  The full citation would appear in the works cted page.

For more information about how to craft an in-text citation, refer to Purdue OWL's guidance available here.

Your Works Cited page appears at the end of your paper and will alphabetically lists all the sources that you included as in-text citations in your paper.  For MLA Style, there are a set of core elements that serve as general guidelines for what should go into a citation.  Structure your citations using the core elements listed below.  Don't forget to include the punctuation after each element in the below list, since that is an important part of the citation too!

Title of source.
Title of container,
Other contributors,
Publication date,

Try to include as many core elements as you can in your citation, but don't sweat it if some of the information simply isn't available.  For instance, only some sources will have containers, which are bigger sources where that particular source is held.  As an example, an entry in an encyclopedia would be the source, and the encyclopedia itself would be the container.

MLA Style Center's Works Cited: A Quick Guide, and Purdue OWL's MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format are recommended resources for getting more information about how to structure your Works Cited page.  Check out the selected links from MLA Style Center and Purdue OWL for more detailed information!