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MLA Style Citation Guide: How to Cite Sources in MLA Format

In academic writing, where clarity and precision reign supreme, adherence to a consistent and recognized citation style is paramount. The most common style guides used are APA (American Psychological Association), AMA (American Medical Association), Chicago Manual of Style, and MLA (Modern Language Association) style. While APA style, AMA style, and CMS styles are applied in the social sciences, medicine and biomedical sciences, and history and literature fields, respectively, MLA style is applied in the field of humanities.

What Is MLA Style Format? Definition

As mentioned above, MLA style is widely used in the humanities, encompassing disciplines such as literature, language studies, cultural studies, and more. This guideline provides a standardized approach to citing sources, formatting papers, and organizing bibliographies, ensuring clarity, consistency, and integrity in scholarly communication.

The latest edition of the MLA Handbook – the 9th edition, was released in April 2021 by the Modern Language Association.

MLA suggests including 9 core elements such as author, title of source, publisher, publication date etc. which are vital components required when citing sources. They provide essential details to accurately identify and locate sources cited in academic works.

Core elementDescription
AuthorThe individual(s) or organization responsible for creating the work.
Title of SourceThe title of the work being cited, such as a book, article, or webpage.
Title of ContainerThe larger work that contains the source, such as a book’s title for a chapter, or a journal’s title for an article.
Other ContributorsIndividuals or entities besides the author who contributed to the work, such as editors or translators.
VersionSpecific edition or version of the source being cited.
NumberThis refers to volume, issue, or episode number.
PublisherThe company or organization responsible for producing and distributing the source.
Publication DateThe date when the source was published or made available.
LocationThe location of the source, which can include page numbers for print sources, or URLs for online sources.

MLA in-text citations and examples

MLA in-text citations are positioned immediately after the source information and before the period or any other punctuation mark. They are enclosed within parentheses and include the author’s last name (or the title of the source if no author is available) and, if applicable, the page number(s) from which the information was retrieved.

In longer academic papers, citations may also be incorporated into the body of the text if they are part of a signal phrase introducing the source material.

Below are general rules followed in MLA style in-text citations:

1 author(Author’s last name page number)(Robert 25)
2 authors(Name both authors)(Robert and Jones 48-51)
3 authors(Name one author followed by et al. and then page number)(Robert et al, 34)
When author’s name mentioned in the textMention only page number enclosed in parenthesesAccording to Robert, climate change is…. (25).
No identifiable authorUse a shortened version of the source title followed by page number(“Climate Change Report” 7).
Sources without page numbersUse alternative locators like paragraph(Robert, par. 5). Or (Robert, ch. 5).

Always ensure that every citation corresponds to an entry in the works cited page and that all sources are appropriately cited throughout the text.

Works cited page

The Works Cited page is as a comprehensive list of all the sources cited in the paper. This provides necessary information to locate and verify the references. The general rules to be followed for a works cited page are described below:


  • Begin the Works Cited page on a new page at the end of your paper.
  • Center the title “Works Cited” at the top of the page, without bolding or underlining.
  • Arrange entries alphabetically by the author’s last name. If there is no author, alphabetize by the first significant word in the title.
  • Double space the citations.
  • Use a hanging indent for each citation, where the first line is flush left, and subsequent lines are indented.
  • Include header in the upper right-hand corner of each page containing contain the author’s last name, followed by a space and the page number

Citation Elements            

  • Include essential details such as author(s), title, publication date, publisher, and page numbers (for print sources).
  • For online sources, include the URL or DOI (Digital Object Identifier) if available. If the URL is lengthy or complex, use a shortened version.


  • Use punctuation marks (periods, commas, etc.) as indicated by MLA guidelines to separate elements within each citation.
  • End each citation with a period.

Below are few examples of works cited in MLA format

BooksAuthor Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Publisher, Publication Year.Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic Inc., 1997.  
Journal ArticlesAuthor Last Name, First Name. “Article Title.” Journal Title, vol. Volume Number, no. Issue Number, Publication Year, page range.  Smith, John. “The Impact of Technology on Education.” Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 32, no. 3, 2020, pp. 45-60.    
WebsitesAuthor (if available). “Page Title.” Website Title, Publisher (if different from website title), Publication Date, URL.Smith, Emily. “Climate Change: Causes and Effects.” Environmental Science Today, Environmental Science Association, 25 May 2023, Accessed 20 May 2024.
YouTube videoLast name, First name (of the individual who posted the content) OR the name of the company. “Title of the Video.” Title of the Website, Name of the Publisher that uploaded the video, Date it was uploaded, URL.Climate Change Committee. “Explainer: Proposed Methodology for the Seventh Carbon Budget.” YouTube, 28 Nov. 2023,

Annotated bibliography

Annotated bibliographies provide concise summaries and evaluations of sources. A concise annotation is typically around 150 words and has source’s main arguments, findings, and conclusions written in clear and concise language. Always maintain an objective tone, focusing on factual information and critical analysis.

Arrange entries alphabetically by the author’s last name, maintain double-spacing throughout and use hanging indents for each entry. The first line (author’s name) is flushed left, and subsequent lines are indented.


Garcia, Maria. “Sustainable Agriculture Practices in Developing Countries.” Journal of Sustainable Development, vol. 25, no. 2, 2020, pp. 45-60.

Garcia’s article explores sustainable agriculture practices in developing countries, shedding light on innovative approaches to address pressing environmental and socioeconomic challenges. Drawing on empirical research and case studies, Garcia argues for the adoption of agroecological principles and community-based initiatives to promote resilience and food sovereignty. The author’s nuanced analysis underscores the importance of context-specific solutions tailored to local needs and conditions. This source offers valuable insights for scholars and practitioners seeking to advance sustainable development goals through transformative agricultural practices.

MLA paper format

The following are the general formatting guidelines of MLA style:

PaperAlways use white 8.5 x 11-inch paper to print your article.
Title PageMLA papers typically do not require a separate title page. Instead, the author’s name, instructor’s name, course title, and submission date are aligned at the top left corner of the first page.
Header  Include a header in the upper right-hand corner of each page.The header should contain author’s last name, followed by a space and the page number.Align the header to the right margin.
TitleCentre the title of your paper above the first line of your essay.Do not italicize, bold, or underline the title unless it contains the title of a published work (e.g., a book or film).Use title-case
In-Text CitationsWhen quoting or paraphrasing sources within the text, include the author’s last name and the page number(s) in parentheses if available.If the author’s name is mentioned in the text, only include the page number(s) in parentheses.
Works Cited PageList all sources cited in the paper on a separate Works Cited page.Entries should be arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name.Follow specific formatting rules for different types of sources (books, articles, websites, etc.).

An example of a model MLA paper can be found at

MLA Block quotes format

Block quotes are used to highlight lengthy passages of text, typically exceeding four lines in length. They are set apart from the main text and indented. When incorporating block quotes, it is essential to maintain the integrity of the original text while seamlessly integrating it into your own writing.

If word(s) are added to a quotation, it should be in squared brackets, for example: [this]. On the other hand, if words are omitted in a quotation, use an ellipsis (…), to show where the words were removed. Proper attribution with in-text citations should be placed at the end of the quote.


In his seminal work On Liberty, John Stuart Mill articulates the concept of individual freedom:

The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right… The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.(Mill 21-22)

MLA Footnotes or Endnotes

Footnotes or endnotes offer a seamless way to provide brief explanations or citations without interrupting the flow of the main narrative. They are used:

  • If numerous sources have to be cited simultaneously.
  • If additional clarification regarding your citation or translation methodology is required.
  • To further expand concepts.
  • To supply supplementary examples.

While footnotes appear at the bottom of the page, endnotes are listed at the end of the document. Both are indicated by superscript numbers within the text. Choose either footnotes or endnotes throughout the document.


Main Text: The theory was first proposed in the early 20th century.1

1Albert Einstein, Relativity: The Special and General Theory (New York: Crown Publishers, 2010), 32.

MLA List formatting

Lists draw the reader’s attention to the items that are itemised, making them advantageous in educational and marketing scenarios.

Below are MLA’s guidelines for styling lists:

List typeFormatExample
Lists introduced with a complete sentenceCapitalize the first letter of the first word of each item.End by using closing punctuation, such as a period or question markStudents were asked the following questions: What are your favourite hobbies?What motivates you to learn more?Which activities in the classroom do you enjoy the most?
List items with fragments:   if the list is numbered             if the list is not numbered    Capitalize the first letter of the first word of each item           First letter should be in lower case.  The questions asked by the teachers can be grouped in 4 areas: Interests/hobbiesLearningGoalClassroom     The questions asked by the teachers can be grouped as follows: interests/hobbieslearningcoalclassroom
Lists that continue the sentence introducing them  Do not use colon before the start of the lists.the first letter should be in lower case.use no punctuation after the itemYou may be required to bring many items such as sleeping bagspanswarm clothing

MLA Table and Figures

Tables and figures should always be placed close to the relevant text.

Label the table “Table” and figures as “Fig”, and assign the number (e.g., Table 1, Fig. 2 etc.). Include a descriptive title (table title) for the table using title case and provide the source and any necessary notes below the table. For figures, the caption with all key information should be included below the image.

Do not capitalize the word “table” in the in-text citations.

MLA abbreviations

MLA style offers specific guidelines for abbreviations in academic writing. For example:

  • Define abbreviations at the first mention and then use the abbreviated form consistently.
  • When incorporating initials within a name, use a period and a single space after each letter. For instance, “S. John.”
  • When abbreviating academic degrees, use periods and capitalize each letter. For example, “Ph.D.” for Doctor of Philosophy.
  • A period should follow the abbreviation if it concludes with a lower case. For instance, “p.,” “pp.,” or “vol.”
  • Month names longer than four letters should be abbreviated:

E.g., Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec.

MLA Date Format

In MLA style, dates are typically formatted as follows:

In-text citations:

  • When citing a source within the text, use either the day-month-year or the month-day-year format, provided that you maintain consistency with your chosen format.  
  • Always use numerals for dates and spell out the complete names for months in the main text. For example, 18 September 2016 or September 18, 2016

Work cited page:

Present the publication dates in DD-MM-YYYY format. For months that have more than four letters, use their abbreviations followed by a period.


Doukas, David J et al. “Virtue and care ethics & humanism in medical education: a scoping review.” BMC medical education vol. 22,1 131. 26 Feb. 2022, doi:10.1186/s12909-021-03051-6