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MLA citation quick guide

MLA Citation handbook

MLA is one of the most common citation styles used by students and academics. This quick guide explains how to cite sources according to the 9th edition (the most recent) of the MLA Handbook.

An MLA citation has two components:

  1. In-text citation: Every time you quote or paraphrase a source, you cite the author and the page number in parentheses.
  2. Works Cited: At the end of your paper, you give a full reference for every source you cited, alphabetized by the author’s last name.


MLA Works Cited list

The list of Works Cited (also known as the bibliography or reference page) gives full details of every source you cited in your text. Each entry is built from nine core elements:

Following this format, you can create a citation for any type of source—for example, a book, journal article, website, or movie. You only include information that’s relevant to the type of source you’re citing.

MLA citation examples

Using the interactive tool, you can see what an MLA citation looks like for different source types.

Missing information in MLA citations

Regardless of the source type, the most important elements of any MLA citation are the author, the source title, and the publication date. If any of these are missing from the source, the Works Cited entry will look slightly different.

What’s missing? What to do Works Cited example
No author Start with the source title instead. Alphabetize by the first word (ignoring articles). “Australia fires: ‘Catastrophic’ alerts in South Australia and Victoria.” BBC News, 20 Nov. 2019,­news/­world-­australia-­50483410.
No title Give a brief description of the source. Use sentence case and no italics or quotation marks. Mackintosh, Charles Rennie. Chair of stained oak. 1897–1900, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
No date Leave out the publication date. Add the date you accessed the source at the end of the citation. “Who are Scribbr Editors?” Scribbr,­about-­us/­editors/. Accessed 10 June 2019.

Learn more about MLA Works Cited

MLA in-text citations

MLA in-text citations are brief references that direct your reader to the full source entry. You include them every time you quote, block quote, paraphrase or summarize a source.

The in-text citation must match the first word of the Works Cited entry—usually the author’s last name. It also includes a page number or range to help the reader locate the relevant passage.

Author What to do Citation example
1 author Give the author’s last name. (Wallace 11–12)
2 authors Give both author’s last names. (Wallace and Armstrong 11–12)
3+ authors Name the first author followed by “et al.” (Wallace et al. 11–12)
Corporate author If a source was created by an organization other than the publisher, use the organization name as author. (U.S. Global Change Research Program 22)
No author If the author is the same as the publisher, or if no author is credited, use the source title instead. Format the title the same as in the full Works Cited reference, and shorten if it is more than four words. (“Australia Fires”)
Multiple sources by the same author Include the title (or a shortened version) after the author’s name in each source citation. (Morrison, Beloved, 73)
(Morrison, Sula, 45)

If you already named the author in your sentence, include only the page number in parentheses:

  • Smith and Morrison claim that “MLA is the second most popular citation style” (17) in the humanities.
  • According to Reynolds, social and demographic circumstances still have a major effect on job prospects (17–19).

Sources with no page numbers

If the source has no page numbers, you either use an alternative locator, or leave the page number out of the citation:

Source type What to do Citation example
Audiovisual source (e.g. a movie or YouTube video) Give the time range of the relevant section. (Arnold 03:15–03:21).
Source with numbered sections (e.g. an online book) Give a paragraph, section, or chapter number. (Smith, par. 38)
(Rowling, ch. 6)
Source with no numbered sections (e.g. a web page) Leave out the page number. (Barker)

Learn more about MLA in-text citations

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the Scribbr Citation Generators free?

Yes, the Scribbr Citation Generators are 100% free.

Why should I use the Scribbr Citation Generator?

The Scribbr Citation Generator is easy to use, accurate, and accessible for all students. Some features you’ll definitely like include:

  • Lightning-fast autocite using a URL, DOI, ISBN or title
  • Smart citation forms that help you avoid incorrect citations
  • Quick tips that make citing easier
  • No costs, no ads, no limitations
Can I download my sources to Word?

Yes, after creating your citations you can download your reference list to Word. Simply click on download > Microsoft Word (.docx) in the menu above your reference list.

To save you some time, the downloaded file is already set up in APA or MLA format, depending on which citation style you used.

What does a citation generator do?

A citation generator is an easy tool that helps you cite sources in a specific citation style.

You fill in the forms with information about a source, such as the author(s), title, and publication date. The tool then creates an accurate reference and in-text citation that you can use to give credit to the original author.

What should I do if information about my source is missing?

If information about a source is missing or unknown, and our explanatory tooltips (?) cannot help you, you can either check the ‘unknown’ checkbox (if available) or simply skip the input field.

The citation will still be generated with the information you have provided.

More information and examples

Which citation software does Scribbr use?

The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project. It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github.