MLA Citation Quick Guide

MLA Citation handbook

MLA is one of the most common citation styles used by students and academics. This quick guide lays out the most important guidelines of the eighth (most recent) edition of the MLA Handbook, published in 2016.

MLA citation consists of two major components:

  1. In-text citations: 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 doWorks Cited example
No authorStart 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, www.bbc.com/­news/­world-­australia-­50483410.
No titleGive 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 dateLeave out the publication date. Add the date you accessed the source at the end of the citation.“Who are Scribbr Editors?” Scribbr, www.scribbr.com/­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.

AuthorWhat to doCitation example
1 authorGive the author’s last name.(Wallace 11–12)
2 authorsGive both author’s last names.(Wallace and Armstrong 11–12)
3+ authorsName the first author followed by “et al.”(Wallace et al. 11–12)
Corporate authorIf 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 authorIf 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 authorInclude 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 typeWhat to doCitation 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

MLA Citation Generator FAQ

Why should I use the Scribbr Citation Generator?

The Scribbr MLA Citation Generator excels in accuracy and ease of use. Some things you’ll definitely like are:

  • Autocite sources using a URL, DOI or ISBN
  • Custom-made citation forms that are clear and efficient
  • Helpful tips and articles that help you cite better
  • 100% free without annoying ads
What citation styles does the Scribbr Citation Generator support?

The Scribbr Citation Generator currently supports the following citation styles and we’re working hard on supporting more citation styles in the future.

Scribbr uses industry-standard citation styles from the Citation Styles Language project.

Is creating an account required?

Creating an account is not required, but there are some benefits to it. Having a Scribbr account allows you to:

  • Save your list of works cited safely in the cloud
  • Create a separate list of works cited for every project
  • Continue working on multiple devices

Don’t want an account? No problem! Just be sure to download a backup on a regular basis, otherwise you might lose your generated references when accidently deleting your cookies.

Which source types are supported?

We have developed custom citation forms for the most common MLA source types:

  • Web pages
  • Books (entire book or collection, chapter, or work in collection)
  • Articles (journal, newspaper, magazine)
  • Word in a dictionary
  • Encyclopedia entry
  • Online (YouTube) video

We’re working hard on supporting more source types. Let us know if you’re missing a specific source type by using the purple feedback button on the right side of your screen.

What if information about a source is missing?

It may happen that information about your source is missing (e.g. the author or publication date). Don’t worry about this, most of the time the citation can still be correctly generated.

Information that is really needed is marked as required in the citation form.

Can I download my works cited to Word?

Yes, you can download your works cited list with the click of a button. Just go to your Works Cited and click the ‘Export to Word’ button in the top-right corner.

The list is automatically alphabetized by the author’s last name and the latest MLA formatting guidelines are applied.

Can I give feedback?

Yes, we love feedback! Just click on the purple feedback button on the right side of your screen to share your thoughts. We read everything and if needed fix things right away!