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MLA Format: The Complete MLA Citation Guide

Overview of MLA 8 Format

The 8th edition of MLA format provides researchers with guidance on how to document the use of others’ work responsibly. Published in April 2016, the new handbook illustrates examples of citations made in the revised style, and explains how to create two types of citations: full citations that are placed in a works cited list, and in-text citations, which are abbreviated versions of full citations and located in the body of the work.

MLA 8th Edition: What’s New?

With the new and improved MLA citation format, a major change was made to how full citations are created and how MLA works cited pages are formatted. Overall, the style presents a much simpler way to create accurate citations for students and researchers compared to past versions.

1. One standard citation format that applies to every source type

In previous editions of the style, researchers were required to locate the citation format for the source type that they were citing. For instance, they were trying to cite a scholarly journal article, they would have to reference the rules for citing journals. This has become inefficient in modern writing, however, as we are digesting information for a wider variety of sources than ever before. With information readily available in tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, etc., it has become unrealistic for to create citation formats for every source type. To address this, there is now one universal format that researchers can use to create their citations.

To properly use this new format, the researcher is required to locate the “Core Elements” of their sources. These are what make up the information that will populate the citation. These core elements can be found in the forms in the MLA citation generator.

The “Core Elements” of a citation, along with their corresponding punctuation marks, include the following (in this order):

  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 must follow each core element, unless it is the final piece. In that situation, the punctuation mark should always be a period.

These core elements are then placed within the citation, and generally follow this format:

Author. Title. Title of the container. Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher’s name, Date of publication, Location.

Here is an example of how an actual source (in this case, a book) looks when cited using the 8th edition style:

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

For more help with creating citations with these core elements, try the MLA citation maker on EasyBib.

2. Inclusion of “containers” in citations

When the source you are referencing is actually a small part of a larger source, such as a chapter within a book, the larger source is called the “container,” as it “contains” the smaller source. Generally, the container is italicized and is followed by a comma. For more details on this, see the examples below. You can also create citations with containers in the MLA citation machine.

MLA citation format for citing a title within a container might looks as follows:

Source Author(s) Last Name, First Name. “Title of Source.” Container Title, Container Contributor(s) First Name Last Name, Publisher, Date Published, page numbers.

Here is an example full citation of how to cite a book chapter using the 8th edition format:

Uenten, Wesley Iwao. “Rising Up from a Sea of Discontent: The 1970 Koza Uprising in U.S. Occupied Okinawa.” Militarized Currents: Toward a Decolonized Future in Asia and the Pacific, edited by Setsu Shigematsu and Keith L. Camacho, University of Minnesota Press, 2010, pp. 91-124.

3. The ability to use pseudonyms for author names

In order to more efficiently create accurate citations for new source types, it is now acceptable to use online handles or screen names in place of authors’ names.

Formula:

@TwitterHandle. “Content of Tweet.” Twitter, Date, Time, URL (omit http:// or https://).

Example:

@realDonaldTrump. “I will be having a general news conference on JANUARY ELEVENTH in N.Y.C. Thank you.” Twitter, 3 Jan. 2017, 6:58 p.m., twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/816433590892429312

4. Adding the abbreviations vol. and no. to magazine and journal article citations

In previous versions of the style, there was no indication that the numbers in periodical citations referred to the volume and issue numbers. This has changed in the 8th edition to be clearer to the reader.

Example in MLA 7:

O’Carol, John. “The Dying of the Epic.” Anthropoetics 30.2 (2011): 48-49. Print.

Example in MLA 8:

O’Carol, John. “The Dying of the Epic.” Anthropoetics, vol. 30, no. 2, 2011, pp. 48-49.

5. Inclusion of URLS

Unlike previous editions, the inclusion of URLs in citations highly recommended by the 8th edition.

Omit “http://” or “https://” from the URL when including it in a citation.

6. Omitting the city of publication

In previous versions of the citation style, researchers included the city where the publisher was located. Today, this information generally serves little purpose and the city of publication can often be omitted.

Only include the city of publication if the version of the source differs when published in a different country (Example: British editions of books versus versions printed in the United States).

7. Flexibility in citation formatting

In addition to one universal format for all source types, the 8th edition now allows for more flexibility in citation presentation than previous versions of the style. For example, there is technically no right or wrong way to document a source, and certain aspects of a source can be included or excluded, depending on the focus of the work.

For example, if you are citing the movie, Casablanca, and your research project focuses on the main character, Rick Blaine, it would be beneficial to your reader for you to include the name of the actor, Humphrey Bogart, in your citation. Other writers who instead focus on the whole movie in their paper may elect to just include the name of the director in their works cited page.

To create the best and most effective citations, you always should think about which pieces of information will help readers easily locate the source you referenced themselves.

More on MLA 8

8th Edition: Style Guidelines

Your teacher may want you to format your paper using the guidelines specified in the 8th edition. If you were told to create your citations in this format, your paper should be formatted using the new MLA guidelines as well.

General guidelines:

  1. Use white 8 ½ x 11” paper.
  2. Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides
  3. The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch.
  4. Indent set-off quotations one inch from the left margin
  5. Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman. Make sure that italics look different from the regular typeface
  6. Use 12 point size
  7. Double space the entire research paper, even the works cited page.
  8. Leave one space after periods and other punctuation marks, unless your instructor tells you to make two spaces.
  9. You can either create a title page using EasyBib’s Title Page creator or omit the title page completely and use a header.

To create a MLA header, follow these steps:

  • Begin one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin.
  • Type your name, your instructor’s name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, using double spaces between each.
  • Double space once more and center the title. Do NOT underline, bold, or type the title in all capital letters. Only italicize words that would normally be italicized in the text. Example: Character Development in The Great Gatsby.
  • Do not place a period after the title or after any heading.
  • Double space between the title and first lines of the text.

Example:

Page Numbers

  • Placed in the upper right-hand corner, one half inch from the top, flush with the right margin.
  • Type your last name before the page number. (To make this process easier, set your word processor to automatically add the last name and page number to each page).
  • Do not place p. before the page number.
  • Many instructors do not want a page number on the first page. Ask your instructor for their specific preferences.

Example:

Tables and Illustrations

  • Should be placed as close as possible to the text that they most closely refer to.
  • Label tables with: “Table,” an arabic numeral, and create a title for it.
    • This information should be located above the table, flush left, on separate lines.
    • Format the title the same way as the title of the paper.
    • Underneath the table, provide the source and any notes. Notes should be labeled with a letter, rather than a numeral, so the reader is able to differentiate between the notes of the text and the notes of the table.
    • Use double spacing throughout.
    • Label illustrations with: Fig. (short for figure), assign an arabic number, and provide a caption.
      • The label and caption should appear underneath the illustration.

**If the table or illustration’s caption gives complete information about the source and the source isn’t cited in the text, there is no need to include the citation in the works cited page.

  • Label musical scores with: Ex. (short for Example), assign it an Arabic numeral, and provide a caption.
    • The label and caption should appear below the musical illustration.

Use of Numerals

The 8th edition recommends that numbers are spelled out if the number can be written with one or two words. For larger numbers, write the number itself.

Examples:

One, forty four, one hundred, 247, 2 ½, 101

If the project calls for frequent use of numbers (such as a scientific study or statistics), use numerals that precede measurements.

Examples:

247 milligrams, 5 pounds

Here are some other formatting tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not start sentences with a numeral, spell out the number.
  • Always use numerals before abbreviations or symbols, ex. 6 lbs.
  • In divisions, use numbers, ex: In page 5 of the study

8th Edition: Works Cited Lists

The purpose of an MLA works cited list is to display the sources that were used for a project, and to give credit to the original authors of the works that were consulted for a project.

Works Cited lists are typically found at the very end of a project. Citations are what make up a works cited list.

Here are some tips on how to create a works cited list for your citations:

  • Citations are listed in alphabetical order by the first word in the citation, which is typically the last name of the author.
  • Each citation should have a hanging indent.
  • When there are two or more sources with the same author, only include the author’s name in the first citation. In the second or subsequent citations, use three hyphens in place of the author’s name, followed by a period.

Example:

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford UP, 2007.

– – -. Colonial America. Oxford UP, 1999.

Example of a Works Cited List:

Connell, James. “The Battle of Yorktown: What Don’t We Know?” The American History Journal, vol. 19, no. 6, 2005, pp. 36-43.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution. Oxford UP, 2007.

– – -. Colonial America. Oxford UP, 1999.

The Patriot. Directed by Roland Emmerich, performed by Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger. Columbia Pictures, 2002.

Formatting: Titles

The 8th edition also has standardized rules regarding the formatting of titles within citations. Here are some of the rules pertaining to titles in the new MLA format:

How to Cite Book Titles:

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

See the MLA format citation below:

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

Click here for additional information on book titles.

How to Cite Periodical Titles:

When citing periodicals, 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.

An MLA format example is below:

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

How to Cite Website Titles:

When citing a website, the title of the web page or article is placed in quotation marks, with a period before the end quotation. The title of the website is written in italics followed by a comma. If the name of the publisher differs from the name of the website, include it after the title. Immediately following the publisher is the date that the page or article was published, or posted. Finally, end with the URL. The URL is the website’s address.

The citation format is as follows:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the website, Name of the publisher, Date of publication, URL.

Click here for additional information on website titles.

Formatting: Authors

Giving credit to the author of works that you use in your research paper is not only important for citation accuracy, but will prevent plagiarism. In order to include the author’s name in your citation, follow the guidelines listed below:

One Author:

Author formatting: Olsen, Gregg.

Citation example: Olsen, Gregg. If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children. St. Martin’s True Crime, 2015, pp. 18-22.

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 if applicable, and then last name:

Author formatting: Bernecker, Sven, and Fred Dretske.

Citation example: Bernecker, Sven, and Fred Dretske. Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology. Oxford: UP, 2007.

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:

Author formatting: George, Michael L., et al.

Citation example: George, Michael L., et al. The Lean Six Sigma Pocket Toolbook. McGraw-Hill, 2005.

Individuals Other Than an 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.

When citing works of entertainment, such as film or television, include the name and role of the person on whom you’ve focused:

Byrne, Rose, performer.

*Note: If you are writing about a film or television show that does not focus on an individual’s role, omit the author’s name and start the citation with the title.

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

The American Heart Association.

Translated Works:

Treat the translator as the author. You should do this only if the focus of your paper is on the original translated work. Include the name of the original creator after the title, preceded by the word “By”:

Author formatting: Rabassa, Gregory, translator.

Citation example: Rabassa, Gregory, translator. One Hundred Years of Solitude. By Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Random House, 1995.

No Author:

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

Formatting: Versions

Sources can be released in different versions, or forms. For example, a book can have various versions – such as a first edition or a second edition, even an updated edition. A movie can have an unrated or an uncut version. It is important to communicate to the reader which version was used to help them locate the exact source themselves.

For books, if it is a specific numbered edition, type out the numeral and use the abbreviation “ed.” for edition.

If no specific version is mentioned or located, omit this information from the citation.

Examples of 8th edition citations for sources with various versions:

Weinberger, Norman M. “The Auditory System and Elements of Music” The Psychology of Music, edited by Diana Deutsch, 2nd ed., Academic Press, 1999, p.61. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=A3jkobk4yMMC&lpg=PP1&dq=psychology&pg=PR6#v=onepage&q=psychology&f=false.

JFK. Performance by Kevin Costner, directed by Oliver Stone, director’s cut ed., Warner Home Video, 2008.

Formatting: Dates

When including the date of publication, there aren’t any set rules to how the date should be input into the citation. For example, you can use May 5, 2016 or 5 May 2016. What does matter is consistency. Whichever way the date is placed in one citation, the same format should be used in the other citations in your project.

Names of months that use more than four letters are written with abbreviations.

Examples:

Jan., Sept., Nov.

In-Text Citations

Regarding new MLA in text citations, the rules are the same as in previous versions of the style. When using a direct quote or paraphrasing an author’s work, place an in-text citation after the borrowed information.

Generally, the in text citation is found immediately following the direct quote or paraphrase, but it is acceptable to insert it in a place, soon after, that allows for a natural pause while reading.

Example in text citation:

(Author Last Page Number[s]).

(Rowling 19). Find out more here.

Citing Sources in MLA 8

Ready to start citing? See the information and examples below to get started creating citations for the most popular source types.

How to Cite a Print Book:

Formula:

Author’s Last name, First name. Title of the work, translated by or edited by First Name Last name, vol. number, Publisher, Year the book was published, page number(s).

Examples:

Roth, Veronica. Divergent. Katherine Tegen Books, 2011.

Olsen, Gregg, and Rebecca Morris. If I Can’t Have You: Susan Powell, Her Mysterious Disappearance, and the Murder of Her Children. St. Martin’s True Crime, 2015, pp. 18-22.

Matthews, Graham, et al. Disaster Management in Archives, Libraries, and Museums. Ashgate, 2009.

How to Cite a Book Chapter:

Formula:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of chapter or section.” Title of the work, translated by or edited by First Name Last name, vol. number, Publisher, Year the book was published, page number(s).

Examples:

Montrose, Louis. “Elizabeth Through the Looking Glass: Picturing the Queen’s Two Bodies.” The Body of the Queen: Gender and Rule in the Courtly World, 1500-2000, edited by Regina Schulte, Berghahn, 2006, pp. 61-87.

How to Cite an E-book Found Online:

Formula:

Author’s last name, First name. “Title of the chapter or section.” Title of the e-book, translated by or edited by First name Last name, vol. number, Publisher, Year of publication, page number(s). Title of the web site or database, URL.

Examples:

Austen, Jane, and Seth Grahame-Smith. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Quirk, 2015. Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=x5xPaPeZzmUC&lpg=PP1&dq=zombies&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q=zombies&f=false.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Gold Bug.” Short Stories for English Courses, Edited by Rosa M.R. Mikels, 2004. Project Gutenberg, www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/5403/pg5403-images.html.

How to Cite an E-book on a Device:

Formula:

Author’s last name, First name. “Title of the chapter or section.” Title of the e-book, translated by or edited by First name Last name, Name of e-reader device, vol. number, Publisher, Year of publication, page number(s).

Examples:

Doer, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See. Kindle ed., Scribner, 2014.

For more info click here.

How to Cite a Website:

Formula:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the website, Name of the publisher, Date of publication, URL.

Examples:

White, Lori. “The Newest Fad in People Helping People: Little Free Pantries.” Upworthy, Cloud Tiger Media, 3 Aug. 2016, www.upworthy.com/the-newest-fad-in-people-helping-people-little-free-pantries?g=2&c=hpstream.

Click here for more on websites.

MLA Citation Website with no author:

Formula:

“Title of the Article or Individual Page.” Title of the website, Name of the publisher, Date of publication, URL.

Examples:

“Giant Panda.” Smithsonian National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institute, 2004, nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/giantpandas/pandafacts

How to Cite a Website with no webpage title:

Formula:

Webpage Description. Title of the website, Name of the publisher, Date of publication, URL.

Examples:

General Information on the New York Mets. NYCData, The Weissman Center for International Business Baruch College/CUNY, www.baruch.cuny.edu/nycdata/sports/nymets.htm.

How to Cite a Journal Article found on a Database:

Formula:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of the article.” Title of the journal, First name Last name of any other contributors (if applicable), Version (if applicable), Numbers (such as a volume and issue number), Publication date, Page numbers. Title of the database, URL or DOI.

Examples:

Brian, Real, et al. “Rural Public Libraries and Digital Inclusion: Issues and Challenges.” Information and Technology Libraries, vol. 33, no. 1, Mar. 2014, pp. 6-24. ProQuest, ezproxy.nypl.org/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.i.ezproxy.nypl.org/docview/1512388143?accountid=35635.

How to Cite a Journal Article found in Print:

Formula:

Author’s Last name, First name ” Title of the article.” Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages.

Examples:

Bagchi, Alaknanda. “Conflicting Nationalisms: The Voice of the Subaltern in Mahasweta Devi’s Bashai Tudu.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50

How to Cite an Essay:

Follow the formula for citing a book. Cite the author of the essay, the name of the essay, the name of the collection, the editor of the collection, the publication information, and the page number(s) of the essay.

How to Cite an Image from a Website:

If there is no title available for the image, include a brief description of the image instead.

Formula:

Creator’s Last name, First name. “Title of the digital image.” Title of the website, First name Last name of any contributors, Version (if applicable), Number (if applicable), Publisher, Publication date, URL.

Examples:

Vasquez, Gary A. Photograph of Coach K with Team USA. NBC Olympics, USA Today Sports, 5 Aug. 2016, www.nbcolympics.com/news/rio-olympics-coach-ks-toughest-test-or-lasting-legacy.

Gilpin, Laura. “Terraced Houses, Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico.” Library of Congress, Reproduction no. LC-USZ62-102170, 1939, www.loc.gov/pictures/item/90716883/.


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