This page will give you a quick overview of MLA style, the primary citation style for scholars of literature and languages. It attempts to cover the most common sources and situations that you’ll run into, but there are many types of sources and specific cases that are not discussed here. If you have a more specific question, you’ll want to check out one of these more detailed guides:
You can also access a printable version of our MLA Citation Guide.
Works Cited Page—Basics
List citations in alphabetical order by author’s or editor’s last name. If your citation goes over one line, use a hanging indent for all subsequent lines. No matter the resource, all citations follow the same basic pattern: author, title, publication information, and format.
The most basic book citation would look something like this:
Author Last Name, First Name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Medium of publication.
Addams, Jane. Twenty Years at Hull House. New York: Macmillan, 1910. Print.
Book with More Than One Author
If you have more than one author, the first name appears in last name, first name format; subsequent authors appear normally. These same rules apply to any kind of source, not just books.
Selby, Paul, and Newton Bateman. Encyclopedia of Illinois. Charleston: BiblioLife, 2009. Print.
Grossberg, Lawrence, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler, eds. Cultural Studies. New York: Routledge, 1991. Print.
Book with No Known Author
If there isn’t a known author, simply begin with the title. The first word of the title will also replace the author last name as the word that you use to identify the work in an in-text citation.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2005. Print.
Articles in a Scholarly Journal
Citations for articles still follow the same basic “author, title, publication information, and medium” pattern, but in this case you have to account for two titles instead of just one, and the publication information is presented differently. Note that, unlike many other pieces of information in the citation, the title of the periodical does not end with a period.
A simple journal article citation would look like this:
Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium.
Heard, Matthew. “‘Dancing is Dancing No Matter Who Is Doing It’: Zora Neale Hurston, Literacy and Contemporary Writing Pedagogy.” College Literature 34.1 (2007): 129-55. Print.
Articles in other periodicals
Citations for magazine articles are similar, but use date of publication rather than volume and issue. A simple magazine citation might look like this:
Last name, First name. “Title of article.” Title of Periodical Date of Publication: Start page-End page. Medium.
Gillette, Felix. “The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace.” Bloomberg Businessweek 27 June 2011: 52-59. Print.
Cite newspaper articles as you would magazine articles, but note that the pagination is indicated differently. Instead of beginning and ending page numbers, simply indicate the page the article begins on, and add a “+” if it goes beyond that page. If the newspaper has separate editions, name the edition after the date.
Last name, First name. “Title of article.” Title of Periodical Date of Publication, edition: page. Medium.
Jeromack, Paul. “This Once, a David of the Art World Does Goliath a Favor.” New York Times 13 July 2002, late ed.: B7+. Print.
Articles in online databases
Many times, the articles that you cite will be ones that you found in an online database. Citations for articles in databases begin the same as other articles, but include some additional information at the end of the citation regarding the database and the date of access.
Heard, Matthew. “‘Dancing is Dancing No Matter Who Is Doing It’: Zora Neale Hurston, Literacy and Contemporary Writing Pedagogy.” College Literature 34.1 (2007): 129-55. Project Muse. Web. 8 July 2015.
Gillette, Felix. “The Rise and Inglorious Fall of Myspace.” Bloomberg Businessweek 27 June 2011: 52-59. Academic Search Complete. Web. 8 July 2015.
Citing internet sources can be difficult because technology is constantly changing and citation styles struggle to keep up. However, there is a certain basic format that you can follow and adapt as needed. Remember, no matter the kind of source, you can still expect the same pattern: author(s), title(s), publication info, medium. In many cases, the publisher or sponsor of the website will be the same as the name of the website. Omit any information (e.g., author, date of publication) that isn’t available.
The most basic citation would look like this:
Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of Webpage.” Title of Website. Publisher or sponsor of site. Date of Publication. Web. Date of Access.
“Can You Prevent Type 2 Diabetes?” WebMD. WebMD. 28 September 2014. Web. 13 May 2015.
Krogstad, Jens Manuel, Renee Stepler, and Mark Hugo Lopez. “English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos.” Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center. 12 May 2015. Web. 9 Nov. 2015.
Use parenthetical citations for quotations and paraphrases in the body of your text. They are usually pretty simple, but if things start to get complicated, remember their purpose: to indicate which item from the list of works cited is being referred to, and where in that work the information can be found.
In general, in-text citations will follow this format:
However, if the author is named in your signal phrase, only the page number is necessary in parentheses. Otherwise, include both author last name and page number.
Author not named in signal phrase:
Romantic poetry is characterized by the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” (Wordsworth 257).
Author named in signal phrase:
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that “to believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,—that is genius” (1).
Three or fewer authors: list the authors’ last names in the text or in the parenthetical citation, just like you would for a single author.
The authors state that “tighter gun control in the United States erodes Second Amendment rights” (Smith, Yang, and Moore 76).
More than three authors: Provide the first author’s last name followed by “et al.”
Some scholars have argued that “these novelistic features heighten the serial audience’s engagement” (Goodlad et al. 25).
No known author: Use a shortened title of the source in parentheses.
Mayo Clinic staff members note the potential health benefits of yoga include “stress reduction, improved fitness, and management of chronic conditions” (“Yoga”).
Multiple works by the same author: Include a shortened title in addition to author name.
In order to better understand the modern university, we need to “embody the reward and turmoil of education in a democracy” (Rose, “Lives” 238).
Indirect quotations: When possible, quote directly from the source. If you must quote indirectly (e.g., you need to use words already quoted by another author), use qtd. in (“quoted in)”
Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as “social service centers, and they don’t do that well” (qtd. in Weisman 259).
Citing multivolume works: When citing multivolume works, include volume number before page number.
. . . as Quintilian wrote in Institutio Oratoria (1: 14-17).
Internet sources: You do not need page or paragraph numbers for internet sources. Use last name or shortened title if there is no named author. If you name the author in the signal phrase, no parentheses are necessary.
One online music critic declared that Yeezus is “the most adventurous album Kanye West has ever released” (Lusk).
Darian Lusk declared that Yeezus is “the most adventurous album Kanye West has ever released.”
Still not sure? Consult one of the resources listed at the top of the page or contact your library’s citation expert, Andy Newgren (815.226.4165; email@example.com).