General Information about the MLA Format

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association. The format created by this association is the most widely used in schools in the U.S., though its style is connected to the humanities and to liberal arts. In high school and in college, you will use this citation style the most for writing assignments.

The Basic Rules of Usage for an MLA Format Citation

For creating a works cited list, these elements should be used in this order:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container.
  4. Other contributors.
  5. Version.
  6. Number.
  7. Publisher.
  8. Publication date.
  9. Location.
  • Author

    Start with the author’s last name, followed by a comma and the rest of the name, as presented in the work. End this part with a full stop.


    Klacsanzky, Nicholas. Zen and Son. Evergreen, 1994.

  • Title of Source

    The title of the source should come after the author’s name. Depending on the type of source, it should be listed in italics or quotation marks.

    A book should be in italics:

    Brooks, Michael. Blood Moon. MacMurrae, 1997.

    A website should be in italics:

    Sant, Laura. “How to Meditate.” eHow,

    A periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper article, and so on) should be in quotation marks:

    Fordi, Todd. “Bumping Heads: Putin and Obama.” Political Advisory, vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.

    A song or piece of music on an album should be in quotation marks:

    Einstein’s Shadow. “Virtual Particles.” The Expanding Universe, Parkwood Entertainment, 2016,

  • Title of Container

    Containers are the larger wholes in which the source is located. For example, if you want to cite a song that is listed on an album, the individual song is the source, while the album is the container.

    The title of the container is commonly italicized and a comma is put after it.

    Herman, Geoffrey. “The Value of Nothing.” Essays on Physics to Amaze, edited by Tobias Wolff, Rider, 1994, pp. 344-352.

    A television series can also be a container, comprised of episodes.

    “94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur, performance by Amy Poehler, season 2, episode 21, Deedle-Dee Productions and Universal Media Studios, 2010.

    A website can be a container.

    Zinkievich, Craig. Interview by Gareth Von Kallenbach. Skewed & Reviewed, 27 Apr. 2009, Accessed 15 Mar. 2009.

    In some cases, containers could be even larger. The following shows Netflix to be the container:

    “94 Meetings.” Parks and Recreation, season 2, episode 21, NBC, 29 Apr. 2010. Netflix,

  • Other Contributors

    There may be other contributors to the source who should be credited. If their contributions are key to your research, or necessary to identify the source, include their names.

    Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. Translated by Richard Howard, Vintage-Random House, 1988.

  • Version

    If a source is shown as an edition or version of a work, include it in your citation.

    The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.

  • Number

    If a source is part of a series, or a numbered volume, include those details in your citation.

    Dolby, Nadine. “Research in Youth Culture and Policy: Current Conditions and Future Directions.” Social Work and Society: The International Online-Only Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008, Accessed 20 May 2009.

  • Publisher

    You need to cite the publishing company of the source. If there is more than one publisher, and they are all important to your research, add them in your citation, separated by a forward slash (/).

    Klee, Paul. Twittering Machine. 1922. Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Artchive, Accessed May 2006.

  • Publication Date

    There are instances when something has been published multiple times. If you are confused about which date to write, you can write the date from the very first appearance of the source. The publication date is the last item to add, commonly, though location can be added at the end at times.

  • Location

    You should show which page you got certain source material from, which URL location you received information from, and also where it was published. Below is an example of a page listing at the end.

    Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi. “On Monday of Last Week.” The Thing around Your Neck, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, pp. 74-94.

The MLA Style of In-Text Citations

An in-text citation is a listing that shows what source you used for a quote or a paraphrase. It should direct readers to the works cited list.

Usually, an in-text citation is simply the author’s name and page number (or only the page number if the author is mentioned in the sentence) in parentheses:

Imperialism is “the practice, the theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center ruling a distant territory” (Said 9).