Creating an MLA Bibliography
If you write a research paper in MLA format, then you will need to include a Works Cited page (sometimes referred to as an MLA bibliography) according to the current edition of the Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines. Along with citing your sources within the body of your paper, you also need to include full citations of all sources at the end of your paper.
When you use the correct MLA bibliography format, it shows what sources you used, makes finding your sources easier for the reader, and gives credibility to your work as a researcher and writer.
Works cited or bibliography?
You may be wondering, what is a bibliography, and how is it different from a Works Cited page? The difference between the two is that while a bibliography refers to any source you consulted to write your research paper, a Works Cited page only includes full citations of the sources you quoted or paraphrased within your paper.
Typically, when someone says, “MLA bibliography” they really mean a Works Cited page, since the MLA format uses a Works Cited page instead of a bibliography.
A bibliography in MLA format may also refer to a Works Consulted page. If you used other sources that you did not directly quote or paraphrase within the paper, you will need to create a Works Consulted/Additional Resources page. A Works Consulted page starts on a separate page and follows the Works Cited page. It follows the same formatting guidelines as a Works Cited page, but you will use Works Consulted (or Additional Resources) as the title.
If you’re unsure of what to include in your citations list (works cited, works consulted, or both), ask your instructor. For the rest of this article, we will refer to this page as the MLA bibliography.
MLA bibliography formatting guidelines
These are the formatting rules you need to follow to create your bibliography according to MLA’s current edition guidelines.
- Your MLA bibliography should begin on a separate page at the end of your essay.
- Include the same header (including your last name and the page number) in the top right corner on your bibliography page as the rest of your essay.
- Your essay should have a header on every page that includes your last name and the page number.
- The last name/page number header should be on the top right of each page with a ½ inch margin from the top of the page.
- One-inch margins.
- Title the page Works Cited (no italicization or quotation marks) unless otherwise instructed. Center the title. The top of your bibliography should look like this:
- Only center the Works Cited title; all citations should be left-justified.
- Double-space citations.
- Do not add an additional space between citations.
- After the first line, use a hanging indent of ½ inch on all additional lines of a citation. The hanging indent should look like this:
- List citations alphabetically by the first word of the citation.
- Typically, this is the author’s last name, but sometimes it could be the title of the source if the author’s name is not available.
MLA citation guidelines
These are the rules you need to follow to create citations for an MLA bibliography. This section contains information on how to correctly use author names, punctuation, capitalization, fonts, page numbers, DOIs, and URLS in the citations on your MLA bibliography.
After the title Works Cited, the last name of the author of a source should be the first thing to appear on your page.
List the author’s last name followed by a comma, then the first name followed by the middle name or middle initial if applicable, without a comma separating the first and middle names. Add a period after the name.
Smith, Alexander McCall.
- Do not include titles such as Dr., Mrs., etc. or professional qualifications such as PhD, M.S., etc. with author names.
- Include suffixes such as Jr. or III after the author’s first name. Separate the first name and the suffix by a comma unless the suffix is a numeral. For example, to cite an author named John Smith, Jr., you would type Smith, John, Jr.
Sources with two authors
For a source with two authors, list the author names in your citation in the order they appear on the source, not alphabetically.
Type the last name of the first author listed on the source followed by a comma, then the first author’s first name followed by a comma. Then type the word “and” then list the second author’s first name and last name in the standard order. Follow the second name with a period.
Include middle names or initials and suffixes when applicable according to the guidelines for one author as listed above
1st Author’s Last Name, First Name, and 2nd Author’s First Name Last Name.
Lutz, Lisa, and David Hayward.
Clark, Mary Higgins, and Alafair Burke.
Sources with three or more authors
For a source with three or more authors, only type the last and first name of the first author listed in the source, followed by a comma and the phrase et al., which is Latin for “and others.” Be sure to always place a period after the al in et al. but never after the et.
1st Author’s Last Name, First Name, et al.
Charaipotra, Sona, et al.
Williams, Beatriz, et al. All the Ways We Said Goodbye. HarperLuxe, 2020.
Organizations and corporations as authors
For sources with organizations or corporations listed as the author, type the name of the corporation in place of an author’s name. If the organization begins with an article like a, an, or the, it should be excluded in the Works Cited entry.
Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook. 2016.
*Note: If the organization is listed as both the author and the publisher, begin the citation with the title and include the organization’s name within the publisher field instead.
For a source with no author listed, simply omit the author’s name and begin the citation with the title of the source. Use the first letter of the title when considering alphabetical order in your MLA bibliography.
Use MLA title case when citing titles of sources.
- Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and subordinating conjunctions should be capitalized.
- Articles, prepositions, and coordinating conjunctions should not be capitalized.
- Italicize the titles of larger works such as magazines and books. Also, italicize database and website names.
- Instead of italicization, use quotation marks around titles of shorter works such as poems, short stories, and articles.
- End all bibliography citations with a period.
Include page numbers in your full citations whenever possible. This helps the reader find the information you cited more quickly than if you just cited the entire source and lends more credibility to your argument. If you cite different pages from the same source within your paper, you should cite the entire source on your MLA bibliography instead of listing all of the page numbers you used.
When including page numbers in a citation, use the abbreviation p. to cite one page and the abbreviation pp. to cite multiple pages with a hyphen between the page numbers.
p. 25 or pp. 16-37
When citing page numbers in MLA, omit the first set of repeated digits.
pp. 365-69, not pp. 365-369
DOIs and URLs
A Digital Object Identifier (DOI) is used to locate and identify an online source. While URLs may change or web pages might be edited or updated, a DOI is permanent and therefore more useful in a source citation.
- Use a DOI (digital object identifier) whenever possible. Otherwise use a permalink or URL.
- DOIs should be formatted with “https://doi.org/” before the DOI number.
- Do not include “http://” or “https://” in your URLs.
- As either one will be the last part of your citation, place a period after the DOI or URL. (Note that this period is not part of the DOI or URL.)
Butarbutar, R, et al. “Analyzing of Puzzle Local Culture-Based in Teaching English for Young Learners.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, vol. 343, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/343/1/012208.
Since the previous 8th edition of the MLA Handbook was published, you do NOT need to list an accessed date for a stable source (e.g., online newspaper article, journal article, photograph, etc.). However, including an access date is good to include when a source does not have a publishing date, and some instructors will request that accessed dates be included for all sources.
If you do include an access date, here’s how to format it:
- Place it at the end of the citation without “http://” or “https://”.
- Write “Accessed” first, followed by the date accessed.
- The date accessed should be formatted as Day Month (abbreviated) Year.
Butarbutar, R, et al. “IOPscience.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, IOP Publishing, 1 Oct. 2019, iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/343/1/012208/meta. Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.
Note: If you choose to list an accessed date after a DOI, the accessed date part of the citation will follow the period after the DOI and will end with a period as the end of the citation
Butarbutar, R, et al. “Analyzing of Puzzle Local Culture-Based in Teaching English for Young Learners.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science, vol. 343, 2019, https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/343/1/012208. Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.
Published October 25, 2020. Updated July 2, 2021.
Written by Grace Turney, freelance writer and artist. Grace is a former librarian and has a Master’s degree in Library Science and Information Technology.
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