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.

Another option: Easily cite your chapter using the EasyBib citation generator for chapters . Use the form for help quickly generating an accurate citation for your paper.

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.

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:

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

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.


MLA Formatting Guides: Formatting | MLA 8 Updates | Annotated Bibliography | Works Cited | Citations | In-text Citations | Citing Sources | Citation Generator

MLA Citation Examples: Website | Journal Article | Book | Book Chapter | eBook | Bible | Blog | Database | Dictionary | Encyclopedia | Image | Interview | Magazine | Newspaper | Report | Thesis | YouTube Video

APA Citation Examples: Website | Journal Article | Book | Book Chapter | eBook | Bible | Blog | Database | Dictionary | Encyclopedia | Image | Interview | Magazine | Newspaper | Report | Thesis | YouTube Video

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