How to Cite a Journal in MLA

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This page is a how-to guide for using scholarly journals as sources and citing them correctly in your papers. Academic journals publish scholarly, peer-reviewed articles written by experts in a specific field. This guide will help you understand what journals are and why they are valuable for your research. When you’ve found a journal article to use, the guide will show you how to cite the article both in the text and in the Works Cited page following the guidelines of the Modern Language Association Handbook, 8th Edition. 

Quickly cite a journal article by using our online form here.


Summary of information on this page:

  • Why You Need to Cite Sources
  • What is an Academic Journal?
    • The importance of peer-reviewed academic journals
    • How journals are organized
    • Where to find journal articles
  • Using a Journal Article in a Paper
    • In-text citations
    • Works cited references
  • Citation Structures and Examples: Databases
    • Citation with one author
    • Citation with two authors
    • Citation with three or more authors
    • Citation with no known author
  • Citation Structures and Examples: Print & Web
    • Citing a journal in print
    • Citing a journal article not found using a database

Why You Need to Cite Sources

Writing successful papers requires that you do research on your topic and including that research in your papers means you need to include citations. Citing your sources properly demonstrates your skill as a researcher and makes your writing better and more persuasive. 

When you cite a source in your paper,  you are using other people’s expertise to support your ideas. You are  “borrowing” the credibility of experts in the field. 

According to the official Modern Language Association Handbook, references enable 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, citing sources properly helps establish your credibility as a researcher and ensures that you are not plagiarizing the material. And the citations allow readers to distinguish the information found in sources from your original thoughts on the topic. 


What is an Academic Journal?

Academic or scholarly journals are periodicals published by universities and other research organizations to present the findings of original research conducted in a particular field. These journals contain highly specific knowledge and are written by experts in that field. 

Journals are different from other periodicals such as newspapers or magazines, which cover a broad range of topics and are written in easy to read prose. Because  journals are written by experts for other experts, they can be difficult to read. The writers often use jargon and other complex language that students may not understand. But that doesn’t mean you should not use journals in your research. Journals are where the most recent research is published and provide in-depth information on a topic. 

Tip: Reading the abstract and the conclusion first may help you to understand the article as you read.


The importance of peer-reviewed academic journals

Journals are good sources for academic research not only because they are written by experts, but because most (but not all) are also reviewed by other experts before the article is published. Journals that are peer-reviewed have a board of experts in the field that review articles submitted to the journal. The peer reviewers scrutinize every article closely to validate its findings and ensure that the research was done properly. The process of peer review gives credibility to the journal because it means that every article published has been approved by other experts in the field. 


How journals are organized

Academic journals are organized in volumes and issues

  • Volume:  The volume is all of the editions of the journal published in a calendar year. 
  • Issue(s):  The issues are all the specific editions of the journal published in that year.  

Tip: Journals frequently publish issues around a certain theme, so all of the articles in that issue will relate to a certain topic. This means that there may be other articles in a particular issue that you can use for your research. It pays to check the table of contents for the issue when you find an article that fits your needs. 

You will need to include the volume and the issue numbers, and the page numbers in your citations so make sure to write those down when you take notes from a journal. 


Where to find journal articles

When you are doing scholarly research, you can’t use popular search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo. These will lead you to popular sources that may not work for a school paper. You need to search for information using an academic database which will lead you to scholarly articles. 

Databases are organized computer based collections of data that allow researchers to find a large number of articles quickly and easily. 

Some popular general academic databases are: 

  • Academic Search Premier
  • JSTOR
  • Google Scholar 

Some databases are about specific subjects and will only provide information for journals in that field. For example:

  • MEDLINE, PubMed Central — focus on biomedical and life sciences 
  • Lexis Web — focus on legal information
  • Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) — focus on education

Many of these databases charge fees for use. The good news? Many can be accessed through a university library. Check your library’s website to see what databases it subscribes to and how you can access them. 


Using a Journal Article in a Paper

You can use information from your research in three ways:

  • Paraphrase – Take the information from a specific paragraph or section of the article and rewrite it in your own words.
  • Summarize – Write a broad overview of the section or the article in your own words.
  • Quote – Repeat the exact words used by the author using quotation marks.

Whenever you quote, paraphrase or summarize information in your paper, you need to follow that information with an in-text citation and create a corresponding reference for the source (in the Works Cited)


In-text citations

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. 

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

  • Name of the author or authors 
    • If there is no author listed, include a shortened version of the title
  • 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. If you use the author’s name in the text, you don’t have to repeat it in the parenthesis at the end. Do not separate the author’s name and the page number with a comma. See below for examples.


Works cited references

A Works Cited page is included at the end of your paper. It lists full references/citations for all of the sources mentioned in your paper via your in-text citations. 

In the 8th edition of the official Handbook, MLA introduced a new term for citing references–Containers (30-31). Periodicals like journals are considered “containers” because they contain the articles that are part of a larger whole. The container holds the source article and is crucial in identifying the source. The title of the first container, the journal name, is printed in italics and follows the article name. When accessing journals through a database, the database is considered the second container. This title is also printed in italics. 

Another new feature in citing sources is the DOI (Handbook, 48). DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier, which is used to permanently identify an article or document and link to it on the web. Although a website or database may change names, the DOI will not change and will help your readers locate the document from your citation. Whenever possible, list the DOI in place of the URL. When you have a DOI, you do not need to give the URL of the website.  Indicate that a reference is a DOI with the letters doi: in lowercase followed by a colon. 

Another way to identify an online location is with a permalink. Permalinks are URLs that are identified as a stable link that the publisher promises not to change. 

For journal references, the following elements need to be included in your Work(s) Cited entries: 

  • Author names
  • Title of article
  • Title of Journal (the Container)
  •  Volume and issue number
  • Date of publication
  • Page numbers 
  • Database (the 2nd Container)
  • DOI, URL or Permalink. 
  • Date of access (optional, but should be included if the information has no publication date listed.) 

Citation Structures and Examples: Databases

The following are examples of how to cite a journal in MLA 8, both in text and as a full reference in the Works Cited. These were all found via a database.

Note that “Date Accessed” is the day that the journal article was found and read. Including this date is optional.


Citation With One Author

Works cited structure:

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Journal Title, vol. #, no. #, year, page number(s). Database Title, DOI (if available) or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional).

Example:

Adams, Mark C. “Educating the Music User.” Music Educators Journal, vol. 103, no. 1, 2016, pp. 64–69. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44677803. Accessed 15 Feb. 2020.

In-text citation examples:

  • Teachers who connect classroom learning with students’ daily interaction with music can better serve student’s needs (Adams 64).
  • According to Mark Adams, music educators who connect classroom learning with students’ daily interaction with music can better serve student’s needs (64).
  • In his 2016 article on music education, Mark Adams says, “music educators must connect classroom learning with how students use and interact with music in their daily lives” (64).

Citation With Two Authors

Works cited structure:

1st Author Last Name, First Name, Second Author First Name Last Name. “Title of Article.” Journal Title, vol. #, no. #, year of publication, page number(s). Database Title, DOI (if available) or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional).

Example:

McCorkle, Ben, and Jason Palmeri. “Lessons from History: Teaching with Technology in 100 Years of ‘English Journal.’” The English Journal, vol. 105, no. 6, 2016, pp. 18–24. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26359250. Accessed 15 Feb. 2020.

In-text citation examples:

  • English teachers are often represented in the media as book-loving frumps. (McCorkle and Palmeri 23).
  • McCorkle and Palmeri point out that English teachers are often portrayed as book-loving frumps (23).
  • As McCorkle and Palmeri point out, “When English teachers are represented in the popular media, we are too often still positioned as dated, book-loving frumps” (23).

Citation With Three or More Authors

Works cited structure:

1st Author Last Name, First Name, et al. “Title of Article.” Journal Title, vol. #, no. #, year of publication, page number(s). Database Title, DOI (if available) or URL (without http://)  or Permalink. Access Date (optional).

Example:

Portier, C. J., et al. “A Human Health Perspective on Climate Change: A Report Outlining the Research Needs on the Human Health Effects of Climate Change.” Journal of Current Issues in Globalization, vol. 6, no. 4, 2013, pp. 621-710. ProQuest, http://ezalumni.library.nyu.edu:2048/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.alumniproxy.library.nyu.edu/docview/1627086437?accountid=33843.

In-text citation examples:

  • One of the likely outcomes of climate change is longer and more severe heat waves, which have the potential to harm a lot of people (Portier et al. 621).
  • According to Portier et al., one of the likely outcomes of climate change is longer and more severe heat waves, which have the potential to harm a lot of people (621).
  • Portier et al. say, “increases in the frequency and severity of regional heat waves–likely outcomes of climate change--have the potential to harm a lot of people” (621).

Citation With No Known Author

Works cited structure:

“Title of Article.” Journal Title, vol. #, no. #, year of publication, page number(s). Database Title, DOI (if available) or URL (without http://) or Permalink. Access Date (optional).

Example:

“Climate Change and Cattle.” The Science Teacher, vol. 77, no. 1, 2010, pp. 15–16. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24145045. Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

In-text citation examples:

  • If geographic patterns continue as in examples of future climate change, cattle are likely to experience greater nutritional stress (“Climate Change” 16).
  • According to the article, “Climate Change and Cattle,” if geographic patterns continue as in examples of future climate change, cattle are likely to experience greater nutritional stress (16).
  • As stated in the article, “Climate Change in Cattle,” “cattle are likely to experience greater nutritional stress in the future if geographic patterns hold as examples of future climate change” (16).

Citation Structures and Examples: Print & Web

Citing a Journal in Print

Citing a journal from a print source requires less information than an online source. For a print source, you need the following information: 

  • The name of the author or authors for articles with one or two authors. For articles with three or more authors, only the first author’s name is used followed by et. al
  • The name of the article in quotation marks.
  • The name of the journal in italics.
  • The volume and issue number of the journal.
  • The year of publication. 
  • The page number(s). 

Works cited structure:

Last, First M. “Article Title.” Journal Title vol. #, no. #, Year Published, page numbers. 

Example:

Anand, Raktima, et al. “Management of Swine-flu Patients in the Intensive Care Unit: Our Experience.” Journal of Anaesthesiology Clinical Pharmacology vol. 28, no. 1, 2012, pp. 51-55.

In-text citation example:

  • (Anand et al.)

 

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Citing a journal article not found using a database

Some journal articles are accessible online without the use of a database. Citing an online journal article not found in a database requires that you cite the website that you used to access the article as the second container. Do not include the http:// in the web address.

Works cited structure:

Last, First M. “Article title.” Journal Title. Series vol. #, no. #,  Year Published, page numbers. Website URL. Date Month Year Accessed (optional).

Notes: If you cannot identify a series, leave it out of the citation. Also, since journals are usually stable and credible sources, including an access date is optional and not required (“When Should I Include an Access Date for an Online Work”).

Example:

Marsh, Joanne, and Gill Evans. “Generating Research Income: Library Involvement in Academic Research.” Library and Information Research vol. 36, no. 113, 2012, pp. 48-61. www.lirgjournal.org.uk.

In-text citation example:

  • (Marsh and Gill)

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Works Cited

MLA Handbook. Modern Language Association of America, 2016. 

“When should I include an access date for an online work?” MLA Style Center, Modern Language Association, 29 Dec. 2016, style.mla.org/access-dates/


Published October 31, 2011. Updated March 23, 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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