Information is taken from the 8th edition MLA Handbook, latest version, 2022.
It may feel a bit overwhelming to accurately cite sources for an entire research paper using MLA style, but once you get a handle on the basics, you’ll notice it’s not as scary after all.
The MLA Style Guide calls for in-text citations and a full Works Cited page at the end of your research essay. Here’s an easy tip to get you started: Find your sources and create your Works Cited page before you begin actually writing your essay—this is going to make your in-text MLA citations so much easier to complete. And make sure to alphabetize your sources by the author’s last name in your Works Cited page!
How to Cite Author Names in MLA Style
One of the most critical parts of any citation, no matter the style or format you’re using is making sure you’re citing the author accurately. If you’re using information or research from another researcher, you want to give them credit, right?
Author names will follow this format:
Last Name, First Name Middle Name/Initial.
Danielewski, Mark Z.
If you’re using a source with no author, you’ll start your MLA citation with the title of that source instead.
See? It’s not so tricky!
How to Cite Books in MLA Style
Odds are, most of your sources for academic research papers will be books. Luckily, they’re pretty simple to cite!
Here’s a basic MLA citation format for books:
Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication, Publisher, Publication Date.
Krakauer, Jon. Under the Banner of Heaven. Sydney, Pan MacMillan, 2004.
If a book has more than one author, you’ll start your MLA citation like usual with the first author mentioned in the book and then tack on the second author.
Pratchett, Terry and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens. New York, Workman, 1990.
Most of the books you cite for your essays will probably use the two basic MLA citation types shown above. But there are some more specific book citations that you may need to use along the way.
Books in Translation:
Condé, Maryse. I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem. Translated by Richard Philcox, New York, Ballantine Books, 1994.
Anthology or Essay Collection:
Ellison, Harlan, editor. Dangerous Visions. New York, Doubleday, 1967.
Article in a Reference Book:
“Ideology.” The American Heritage Dictionary, 3rd ed., Dell, 1997.
How to Cite Periodicals in MLA Style
If you’re writing an academic essay that needs to have scholarly sources, you will probably have to cite at least a few periodicals. But what are they? Magazines, newspapers, and scholarly journals are all examples of periodicals.
Here’s a basic MLA citation format for periodicals:
Last Name, First Name. Title of Journal, Other Contributors, Edition, Volume Number, Publisher, Publication Date, Page Number.
For a research essay in an academic setting, you will probably spend a lot of time scrolling through databases and reading through scholarly articles written on your research topic. Don’t get too bogged down in all the abstracts and summaries because you might end up forgetting how to cite the materials you plan to use.
Scholarly journals and articles follow the same general format for MLA citations as non-scholarly sources, making them easy to cite!
Here’s a basic MLA citation format for scholarly articles:
Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, Page Number.
Since periodicals tend to be a bit more specific than books, let’s look at some more examples of a periodical MLA citation.
Article in a Magazine:
Smith, Cara Michelle. “Valuable Lessons I Learned From Statues.” The New Yorker, 15 July 2020.
Article in a Newspaper:
LeVaux, Ari. “The Spice of Summer.” Star News [Wilmington, NC], 15 July 2020, p. C1.
How to Cite Electronic Sources in MLA Format
In this day and age, you will probably use tons of electronic sources when researching an important academic paper. Lucky for us, electronic MLA citations don’t wander too far from the more basic citation formats we’ve already covered.
One fundamental rule you can always keep in mind when citing electronic sources is that you need to keep up with the date you accessed the sources you intend to mention. You’ll only need the date, not the time, but it’s essential to keep up with this information to use later in your Works Cited page.
The key difference between electronic citations and others is that you’ll use the website URL rather than the page number of most of the sources you’re citing.
Here’s a basic MLA citation format for electronic sources:
Last Name, First Name. “Title.” Title of Journal, Other Contributors, Edition, Volume Number, Publisher, Publication Date, Location (URL, DOI, or permalink).
Here are a few examples of more specific MLA citations for different electronic sources.
Page on a Website:
“Cherokee.” Wikipedia, www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherokee. Accessed 15 July 2020.
Do you see that the website URL started with “www” here rather than “HTTP?” That’s precisely how you should format URLs in MLA Style. Don’t forget that important step!
Article in a Web Magazine:
Wright, Lawrence. “How Pandemics Wreak Havoc—and Open Minds.” The New Yorker, 13 July 2020, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/07/20/how-pandemics-wreak-havoc-and-open-minds. Accessed 15 July 2020.
How to Cite Other Common Sources in MLA
There are a few other sources that we haven’t covered yet, but that might still pop up from time to time in your research. Here’s how to accurately cite those sources using MLA format.
Smith, John. Personal Interview. 15 July 2020.
Speeches and Lectures:
Snyder, Sarah. “How the United States Joined World War II.” U.S. History, 23 Jan 2020, UNCW, Wilmington, NC. Lecture.
Painting, Sculpture, or Photograph:
da Vinci, Leonardo. The Mona Lisa. 1503, Louvre Museum, Paris.
Song or Album:
Nirvana. “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nevermind, Geffen, 1991.
Lucas, George, director. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.
How to Do In-Text Citations in MLA Style
When using MLA citations, you’ll rely heavily on in-text citations to show what information you’re using from your sources, compared to your personal argument. Almost all of your in-text MLA citations will contain the author’s last name and the page number your information is coming from unless you’ve already used the author’s name in your sentence.
Here’s what I mean:
Grammar is a writer’s most important tool (King 156).
Stephen King believes that grammar is a writer’s most important tool (156).
If you’ve already mentioned your author’s name in the sentence, there’s no need to repeat yourself in the in-text citation. If your source has no author, your in-text MLA citation should contain the title of that source and the page number, following the same format as above.
If you’re flipping through the MLA Style Guide and completely freaking out, don’t worry. We’ve broken things down here in a way that makes MLA citations feel like a breeze. Don’t let the pressure of citing sources correctly distract you from the meat of your remarkable essay!
MLA citations usually follow a simple overall format, no matter what source you need to cite. Just pay attention to the specifics of your Works Cited page, and let our guide do the rest. You’ve got this!
Emmi holds a BFA in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She’s been published in Adelaide Literary Magazine, and Atlantis Magazine. Emmi has written multiple articles for Writer’s Hive in the academic section with topics about MLA, APA, and Chicago Style essay writing.