How to Cite a Book Chapter in MLA

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This page is a how-to guide for using individual book chapters as sources and citing them correctly in your papers. This guide will help you determine when to cite a chapter separately and learn how to cite a chapter both in the text of your paper and in the Works Cited page.

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The information below follows the guidelines of the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition, but is not associated with the Modern Language Association.

Table of contents

  • Why You Need to Cite Sources
  • When to Cite a Chapter
  • How to Cite a Chapter in a Paper
    • In-text citations
    • Works cited citations/references
    • Core elements of MLA citations
    • Note on containers
  • Chapter/Article in an Edited Book
  • Chapter in an Anthology/Compilation/Reference
  • Chapter in an Encyclopedia or Multi-volume set
  • Introduction/Preface/Foreword/Afterword
  • Work Cited

Why You Need to Cite Sources

To write successful papers, you need to do research on your topic, and you include that research in your papers using citations. Citing a source in your paper means that you are using other people’s expertise to support your ideas. You “borrow” the credibility of  these experts to increase your own credibility as a researcher. According to the Modern Language Association’s Handbook, references allow writers and researchers to “give credit to the precursors whose ideas they borrow, build on, or contradict and allow future researchers interested in the history of the conversation to trace it back to its beginning” (5).

In other words, when you cite sources properly, you are establishing and demonstrating your credibility as a researcher, and you ensure that you are not plagiarizing the material. This improves your writing and makes it more persuasive. The citations also allow readers to distinguish the information found in sources from your original thoughts on the topic.

When to Cite a Chapter 

The main reason writers will cite a chapter of a book instead of the whole book is when the chapter is written by an author(s) different from the book’s editor(s). An editor compiles a selection of articles written by other experts in the field.

If the author of the book wrote all of the chapters, you do not need to cite the chapter separately, even if the chapters have names. You should include page numbers. 

How to Cite a Chapter in a Paper

You can use information from your research in three ways:

  • Paraphrase – Take the information from a specific sentence, paragraph, or section of the chapter and rewrite it in your own words.
  • Summarize – Take a larger view of the section or the chapter and rewrite it in your own words.
  • Quote – Use the exact words written  by the author and enclose the words in quotation marks.

With all the above methods of citing research in your paper, you need to follow that information with an in-text citation and create a corresponding reference for the source (on the Works Cited page)

In-text citations

Creating correct in-text citations within your text are important. Each in-text citation:

  • Alerts your reader that you are using information from an outside source.
  • Usually appears in parentheses at the end of a sentence.
  • Is short and only has enough information to help the reader find the complete reference listed in the Works Cited page at the end of the paper.

An in-text citation in the Modern Language Association (MLA) style has two parts (54):

  • Name of the author or authors
  • A page number
    • While many online sources do not have a page number, academic journals almost always do, even when they are available online.

In most cases, the in-text citation is at the end of the sentence in parentheses. When you cite the author’s name in your text, you don’t have to repeat it in the parentheses at the end. Do not separate the author’s name and the page number with a comma. See below for examples.

Works cited citations/references

In-text citations are helpful, but do not give a lot of information on the source. That’s where your works cited citations come in handy. The works cited citations are designed to provide enough information so that your reader can find the original source, if needed. Every full citation follows the core elements outlined below.

Core Elements of MLA Citations

The outline for any MLA citation follows this format. Please note the punctuation at the end of each section.

Works Cited
Author(s). The first author’s name is printed inverted with the last name first followed by a comma and the first name. The second author’s name is listed in normal order with no comma. For three or more authors, list only the first author’s name followed with et.al.
“Title of Source.” The title should be listed exactly as they appear in the source with each main word capitalized. Titles of individual works that are part of a larger whole are written in quotation marks. The section titles Introduction, Preface, Foreward, and Afterword are not enclosed in quotation marks.
Title of 1st Container These titles are printed in italics.
Other Contributors Editors’ names are always listed first name first.
Version Can be volume number or edition
Number Used when the version is divided into separate sections.
Publisher Company or organization that makes the work available to the public.
Publication Date Date the work in its current edition or format was made available.
Location Depends on the medium of publication. Print sources will usually have page numbers. Online sources will have a URL, a DOI, or a Permalink.

Note on Containers

The 8th edition of the official Handbook, MLA introduced a new term for citing references: Containers (30-31).

In books that have individual chapters written by different authors, the book is considered the container because it contains parts of a larger whole. The title of the first container, the book name, is printed in italics and follows the chapter name.

When accessing book chapters through a database, the database is considered the second container. This title is also printed in italics.

Below, let’s look at how to cite different types of chapters.

Chapter/Article in an Edited Book

An edited book contains chapters that are written by authors different from the editor. When citing from a book that has been edited by someone other than the writer of the chapter, the chapter writer’s name is cited first, followed by the title of the chapter. The chapter is the source article and the book is the first container. The editor(s) name(s) follow the name of the book.

Example citations for a chapter in an edited print book:

Works Cited
Structure

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Chapter.” Book Title, edited by Editor Name, publisher, year, page number(s).

Example

Craig, Jacob, et al. “Against the Rhetoric and Composition Grain: A Microhistorical View.” Microhistories of Composition, edited by Bruce McComisekey, University Press of Colorado, 2016, pp. 284-306.

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In-text examples
Example #1 The field of rhetoric and composition is similar to other disciplines in that it finds its origin stories in the competing grand narratives usually found in a given philosophy or ideology (Jacob et al. 284).
Example #2 Jacob et al. points out that the field of rhetoric and composition is similar to other disciplines in that it finds its origin stories in the competing grand narratives usually found in a given philosophy or ideology (284).
Example #3 As noted by Jacob et al., “Like other disciplines, rhetoric and composition finds its origin stories in competing grand narratives, most of them situated in a given philosophy or ideology” (284).

Cite your source

Example citations for the same  chapter accessed through an online source/database:

Works Cited
Structure

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Chapter.” Book Title, edited by Editor Name, publisher, year, page number(s).

Example

Craig, Jacob, et al. “Against the Rhetoric and Composition Grain: A Microhistorical View.” Microhistories of Composition, edited by Bruce McComisekey, University Press of Colorado, 2016, pp. 284-306. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt19zbzwq.14. Accessed 14 Mar. 2020.

Cite your source

In-text examples
Example #1 The field of rhetoric and composition is similar to other disciplines in that it finds its origin stories in the competing grand narratives usually found in a given philosophy or ideology (Jacob et al. 284).
Example #2 Jacob et al. points out that the field of rhetoric and composition is similar to other disciplines in that it finds its origin stories in the competing grand narratives usually found in a given philosophy or ideology (284).
Example #3 As noted by Jacob et al., “Like other disciplines, rhetoric and composition finds its origin stories in competing grand narratives, most of them situated in a given philosophy or ideology” (284).

Cite your source

Chapter in an Anthology/Compilation/Reference

Anthologies or compilations are collected works of literary works such as poems or stories. An anthology can contain a selection of work from one author or from many authors. The editor of the book chooses the pieces to include and usually writes a foreword or introduction. When citing work from an anthology or compilation, the original creator of the work is listed first, followed by the title of the piece. The anthology is the first container and is listed in italics after the name of the individual piece. The editor(s) name(s) follow the name of the book.

Example of citations from a chapter in an anthology:

Works Cited
Structure

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Chapter.” Book Title, edited by Editor Name, publisher, year, location [page number(s), or DOI or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional)].

Example

Dungy, Camille T. “Is all Writing Environmental Writing.” Best American Essays 2019. Edited by Rebecca Solnit. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2019, pp. 70-76.

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In-text examples
Example #1 We can see what our current society values by looking at what we value in our art. (Dungy 70)
Example #2 Camille Dungy points out that we can see what our current society values by looking at what we value in our art (70).
Example #3 Camille Dungy says that “What we do and do not value in our art reveals what we do and do not value in our times” (70).

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Chapter in an Encyclopedia or Multi-volume Set 

Encyclopedias are reference works that provide summaries of information from all branches of knowledge or all branches of knowledge in a particular field. Entries in an encyclopedia often have a title, but no author listed. When citing a section of an encyclopedia, the section or chapter name is listed first. The name of the encyclopedia is the first container. The publisher of the encyclopedia follows its name.

Encyclopedia sections often do not have author names. If no author is listed, start the citation with the section name. Online sources will also not have page numbers so omit that as well.

Examples of citations from an encyclopedia:

Works Cited
Structure

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of the Chapter.” Encyclopedia Name, publisher, year, location {page number(s), or DOI or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional)].

Example

“Halloween.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 26 February 2020. www.britannica.com/topic/Halloween. Accessed March 5, 2020.

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In-text examples
Example #1 Early American colonists forbid the celebration of Halloween. However, some festivals did develop in the 1800s that marked the end of harvest and incorporated elements of Halloween. (“Halloween”)
Example #2 According to Encyclopedia Britannica, early American colonists forbid the celebration of Halloween. However, some festivals did develop in the 1800s that marked the end of harvest and incorporated elements of Halloween. (Halloween)
Example #3 Encyclopedia Britannica says, “Alon with other festivities, the celebration of Halloween was largely forbidden among the early American colonists, although in the 1800s there developed festivals that marked the harvest and incorporated elements of Halloweeen” (Halloween).

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Multivolume sets can have one title for the entire set and may have individual titles for each volume. When citing these sources, cite the title of the entire multi-volume set followed by the volume number.

Example of citations from a multi-volume work:

Works Cited
Structure

Author Last Name, First Name. Multivolume work name, vol. #, publisher, year, location [page number(s), or DOI or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional)].

Example

Durant, William and Ariel. The Story of Civilization, Vol. 5, Simon and Schuster, 1967, p. 422.

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In-text examples
Example #1 Coleridge’s range was varied, moving from idealism to disaster in the areas of love and morals, and literature and philosophy. (Durant and Durant 422)
Example #2 In their far ranging work, The Story of Civilization, William and Ariel Durante say that Coleridge’s range was varied, moving from idealism to disaster in the areas of love and morals, and literature and philosophy (422.)
Example #3 According to William and Ariel Durant, “[Coleridge] ran the gamut from idealism to disaster in love and morals, in literature and philosophy” (422)

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Introduction/Preface/Foreword/Afterword

Books that are edited or are an anthology or compilation often have additional sections that are written by the book’s editor or another writer. These pieces can be an introduction, preface, or foreword that is at the beginning of the book, or an afterword which is at the end. When citing information from one of these sections, the writer of that section is listed first, followed by the name of the section (Introduction, Preface, etc.). This section is not enclosed in quotation marks. The title of the book is the first container and it is listed in italics after the section name. The editor(s) name(s) follow the name of the book.

Examples of Citations from an Introduction/Preface/Foreword/Afterword:

Works Cited
Structure

Author Last Name, First Name. Introduction. Book Title, edited by Editor Name, publisher, year, location [page number(s), or DOI or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional)].

Example

Hunter, John C. Introduction. Renaissance Literature: An Anthology of Poetry and Prose, 2nd Ed., Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 1-17.

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In-text examples
Example #1 In the history of literature, the most pressing issues of a society did not become the subject of art (Hunter 5).
Example #2 Hunter notes that in the history of literature, the most pressing issues of a society did not become the subject of art (5).
Example #3 Hunter says “As so often elsewhere in the history of literature, the most pressing and immediate issues in a society are not the ones that become the subject of art” (5).

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Work Cited

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.


Published October 31, 2011. Updated April 16, 2020.

Written by Catherine Sigler. Catherine has a Ph.D. in English Education and has taught college-level writing for 15 years.


 

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