How To Use Mla Citation In An Essay

MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format

Summary:

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Contributors: Tony Russell, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli, Russell Keck, Joshua M. Paiz, Michelle Campbell, Rodrigo Rodríguez-Fuentes, Daniel P. Kenzie, Susan Wegener, Maryam Ghafoor, Purdue OWL Staff
Last Edited: 2017-06-11 11:24:36

According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text.

Basic rules

  • Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper.
  • Label the page Works Cited (do not italicize the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.
  • Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries.
  • Indent the second and subsequent lines of citations by 0.5 inches to create a hanging indent.
  • List page numbers of sources efficiently, when needed. If you refer to a journal article that appeared on pages 225 through 250, list the page numbers on your Works Cited page as 225-250. Note that MLA style uses a hyphen in a span of pages.
  • If you're citing an article or a publication that was originally issued in print form but that you retrieved from an online database, you should type the online database name in italics. You do not need to provide subscription information in addition to the database name.

Additional basic rules new to MLA 2016

     New to MLA 2016:

  • For online sources, you should include a location to show readers where you found the source. Many scholarly databases use a DOI (digital object identifier). Use a DOI in your citation if you can; otherwise use a URL. Delete “http://” from URLs. The DOI or URL is usually the last element in a citation and should be followed by a period.
  • All works cited entries end with a period.

Capitalization and punctuation

  • Capitalize each word in the titles of articles, books, etc, but do not capitalize articles (the, an), prepositions, or conjunctions unless one is the first word of the title or subtitle: Gone with the Wind, The Art of War, There Is Nothing Left to Lose.
  • Use italics (instead of underlining) for titles of larger works (books, magazines) and quotation marks for titles of shorter works (poems, articles)

Listing author names

Entries are listed alphabetically by the author's last name (or, for entire edited collections, editor names). Author names are written last name first; middle names or middle initials follow the first name:

Burke, Kenneth

Levy, David M.

Wallace, David Foster

Do not list titles (Dr., Sir, Saint, etc.) or degrees (PhD, MA, DDS, etc.) with names. A book listing an author named "John Bigbrain, PhD" appears simply as "Bigbrain, John"; do, however, include suffixes like "Jr." or "II." Putting it all together, a work by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be cited as "King, Martin Luther, Jr." Here the suffix following the first or middle name and a comma.

More than one work by an author

If you have cited more than one work by a particular author, order the entries alphabetically by title, and use three hyphens in place of the author's name for every entry after the first:

Burke, Kenneth. A Grammar of Motives. [...]

---. A Rhetoric of Motives. [...]

When an author or collection editor appears both as the sole author of a text and as the first author of a group, list solo-author entries first:

Heller, Steven, ed. The Education of an E-Designer

Heller, Steven, and Karen Pomeroy. Design Literacy: Understanding Graphic Design.

Work with no known author

Alphabetize works with no known author by their title; use a shortened version of the title in the parenthetical citations in your paper. In this case, Boring Postcards USA has no known author:

Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulations. [...]

Boring Postcards USA. [...]

Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. [...]

Formatting Direct Quotations Properly in MLA Format

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Using direct quotations involves using the exact words of others in your paper, and under the MLA format, you must format quotations differently depending on their length.

Short quotations are less than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (poetry)
Long quotations are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (poetry) and include multi-paragraph quotes.

In addition, you might sometimes need to add words to direct quotations for clarity, or omit words that are unnecessary from the quotation. In MLA format, certain formatting rules apply in these situations.

Short direct quotations in MLA format

Short direct quotations include prose that is no more than four lines or verse that is no more than three lines. To format these correctly in MLA format, there are a few rules you must follow.

  • Enclose the direct quotation in quotation marks.
  • Reference the original author or title (if no author) and page number or line number (verse).
  • Place punctuation after the parenthetical citation.
  • Place questions marks or exclamation points that are part of the quote inside the quotation marks; place them outside if not part of the original author’s words.
  • Include complete reference to the source on Works Cited page.

Examples:

  • According to Spools, sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (289).
  • Sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289).
  • Some say that sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289), but other researchers disagree that this level of vigilance is necessary.
  • Is sustainable weight loss possible without engaging in “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289)?

Short quotations that consist of verses from poetry are handled a little differently.

Breaks are notated with a “/,” and a space appears before and after the slash mark. In addition, the line of the verse is used instead of a page number for the parenthetical citation (unless the poem is quoted in a secondary source). Keep the capitalization of each line of verse intact after the slash mark.

Example:

  • Silverstein ends with “For the children, they mark, and the children, they know / The place where the sidewalk ends” (15-16).

Long direct quotations in MLA format

Long direct quotations consists of quotations that are longer than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, and the MLA format dictates how these are presented.

  • Use a free-standing block of text (block quote).
  • Omit the quotation marks.
  • Start the direct quotation on a new line.
  • Indent one inch from the left margin.
  • Indent the first word of paragraphs ONLY if quoting multiple paragraphs.
  • Use double spacing in the quotation.
  • Include parenthetical citation after the ending punctuation.

Examples:

Fitness and health guru Jillian Michaels stresses the importance of believing in yourself.

If you are citing poetry, maintain the original formatting to the best of your ability. Use poetry line numbers unless you are quoting something quoted in another source.

In his poem “The Sphinx,” Ralph Waldo Emerson personifies the sphinx as many different pieces of nature, and this shows the transcendental ideals Emerson often touted.

Uprose the merry Sphynx,

And crouched no more in stone,

She melted into purple cloud,

She silvered in the moon,

She spired into a yellow flame,

She flowered in blossoms red,

She flowed into a foaming wave,

She stood Monadnoc’s head. (120-128)

Showing changes to direct quotations in MLA format

Sometimes when you use direct quotations, you might need to add a word or words for clarity or omit portions of the quotation to shorten it or make it work within the context of your words. When this is necessary, you must show changes with brackets [ ], and show omissions of text with an ellipsis […].

When using brackets, place the words you add between the brackets.

  • According to Putz, “Some people [who are trying to lose weight] try one fad diet after another with little success because these diets do not promote sustainable or ongoing weight loss” (98).

When using an ellipsis to show the omission of words, put a space before and after it.

  • According to Jillian Michaels, success is within reach when you “Have establishment in yourself; trust in the significance of your life … [because] destiny is awaiting you (285).

Direct quotations should stay a small part of your research paper. Paraphrasing and summarizing information into your words is a larger part of including information from your sources. Understanding [URL]direct quotations versus indirect quotations[/writing-resources/punctuation/direct-versus-indirect-quotations] is important in presenting information.

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