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Citing Sources: MLA

MLA is the citation style of the Modern Language Association. MLA is used for many college courses, and also professionally in the humanities disciplines such as English, foreign language studies, literature criticism, cultural studies, and many others. To get an idea of how to cite various sources, check out the links below, the MLA Handbook 9th edition, and the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) website.

In April 2021, the MLA released an updated set of guidelines for citation and style. The 9th edition presents a general documentation style that can be applied to any kind of source. Instead of a lot of specific rules, there only a few basic principles to follow.  Once you are familiar with these principles, you will be able to properly document any kind of source.

In addition, the MLA handbook features guidelines to answer common citation questions, adds visuals and sample citations, as well as many other useful information for writers.

Work Cited

Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook, 9th edition, MLA, 2021.

Basic Principles of MLA


  • When you borrow the ideas of others you must document them in a Works Cited list and in text, both to avoid plagiarism and to allow someone else to look up your sources.
  • Any source can be documented using all or some of nine Core Elements (see more about Core Elements below).
  • You, as the researcher, and in consultation with your professor's requirements and guidelines, are in charge of deciding how many of the Core Elements are needed to fully document each of your sources.
Nine Core Elements and Useful Tips More Details in MLA 9th ed, Ch. 5
1.  Author.

Last name, First name as it appears in the work. 

If there are two authors, the second name should be in regular order.  Three or more authors, list only the first then follow with “et al.”

End with a period.

p. 107-121
2.  Title of source

Self-contained sources (books, websites, tv episodes) should be italicized.

Sources that are part of a larger work (articles, web pages, tv shows) should be “in quotation marks.”

End with a period.
p. 121-134
3.  Title of container

This is the larger work that your source may be from.

Italicize, and with a comma.
p. 134-145
4.  Other contributors

If appropriate add other contributor names preceded by “_____ by”

End with a comma.

Ex.: edited by Christian Gould, directed by Joss Whedon,
p. 145-154
5.  Version

If your source is a special version, indicate the version.

End with a comma.

Ex.: director’s cut, version 1.2.3, unabridged version,
p. 154-158
6.  Number

If your source is part of a numbered sequence, identify the number.

End with a comma.

Ex.: vol. 1, no. 34, season 2, episode 8,
p. 158-164
7.  Publisher

This is the organization primarily responsible for making the source. 

End with a comma.
p. 164-173
8.  Publication date

If there are multiple dates, cite the date that is most relevant to your use. 

End with a comma.
p. 173-187
9.  Location

Location will depend on the type of source.  Provide enough information so that someone can find what you used.

End with a period.

Ex.: pages, p., URL, doi, disc 3,
p. 187-197


In Text Citations

There are two different citations you need to make when you use a source. The first is a short in text citation, shown below. The second is the full citation in your Works Cited list (example in the box below). 

In Text Citations

These go in the body of the paper you are writing.  The MLA 9th edition requires that you include enough information so a reader could find the source in your list of works cited, plus the specific page numbers referenced.  Usually that will mean you use an author's last name, since that is the first thing listed in your Works Cited.  For example, if you were writing a paper on the history of comics in America and wanted to quote an author, it could look like this:

      Picking up on the counter-cultural undercurrents that were pervasive in both youth culture and the nascent civil rights movement, comics as a medium changed profoundly to accommodate new tastes, and new social outlooks.  One author notes "one telling example was Marvel's Iron Man: a staunch anticommunist since his origin, the character experienced (or rather, was made to experience) an ideological about-face in 1971 following the growing number of fan letters criticizing his politics" (Gabilliet 74).

You would also use a parenthetical citation when paraphrasing an author. For example:

In Jean-Paul Gabilliet's book Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books, the author makes the case that sequential art (comics) has a uniquely interconnected mechanism of production that is not necessarily present in other art forms.  In Gabilliet's view,  the decline of print periodicals has caused comics to take on a more mature tone that will eventually allow comics to be taken more seriously by critics (310).

Note that the citations in parentheses always come after the final quotation mark and before the period at the end of a sentence.

For more on in text citations, see Ch. 6, "Citing Sources in the Text" pages 227-286 in the MLA Handbook 9th ed., available at the Hillsboro library circulation desk.


Further Assistance

For help with writing your research paper, consult Jefferson College's Online Writing Lab

For help with research and citations, consult a Librarian

Additional Features in Handbook


  • Formatting (Ch. 1)
  • Basic Writing Mechanics (ex: punctuation) (Ch. 2)
  • Using Inclusive Language (Ch. 3)
  • Avoiding Plagiarism (Ch. 4)

And, of course, citing works in the MLA style.

Citing a Book in MLA

Giordano, Paolo. How Contagion Works : Science, Awareness, and Community in Times of Global Crises. Translated by Alex Valente, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2020.

This citation for a book includes five of the nine Core Elements: Author, Title of Source, Other contributors, Publisher, and Publication Date.  To find out exactly how to cite your particular book, refer to Ch. 5, "The List of Works Cited" pages 105-226, in the 9th edition MLA Handbook, available at the Hillsboro library circulation desk.

Citing an Article in MLA

Garielson, Tenna. "Woman-Thought, Social Capital, and the Generative State: Mary Austin and the Integrative Civic Ideal in Progressive Thought." American Journal of Political Science, vol 50. no 3, 2006, pp.650-663.

Notice that you no longer need to indicate whether you located the source in web or print.  You simply need to provide enough information so that someone could find this article. 

This citation includes six of the nine Core Elements: Author, Title of source, Title of container, Number, Publication Date, and Location.  You could provide additional optional information, such as date of access, but you are not required to.  To find out exactly how to cite your particular book, refer to Ch. 5, "The List of Works Cited" pages 105-226, in the 9th edition MLA Handbook, available at the Hillsboro library circulation desk.

Citing Other Sources in MLA

For complete guidance, refer to Ch. 5, "The List of Works Cited" pages 105-226, in the 9th edition MLA Handbook, available at the Hillsboro library circulation desk.


Shute, Nancy. "Title." NPR, 26 Aug. 2014,



Mandela, Nelson. Nightline. Interview by Ted Koppel, ABC, 15 Feb. 1990.

Work of Art

Utagawa, Kuniyoshi. Mitsikuni Defying the Skeleton Ghost. Woodblock Print, 1845, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Forrest Gump. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, performance by Tom Hanks, Paramount, 1994, disc 1.



MLA 9th Ed

Works Cited Example

After citing another work, you need to use the full citation in your Works Cited page at the end of your paper.  The works cited page is a collection of all your sources, cited in official MLA style, and listed alphabetically--generally by the author's last name.  The beginning of a works cited page might look like this:

Works Cited

Gabilliet, Jean-Paul. Of Comics and Men: A Cultural History of American Comic Books.

          Translated by Bart Beaty and Nick Nguyen, University Press of Mississippi, 2009.

Gabrielson, Teena. "Woman-Thought, Social Capital, and the Generative State: Mary Austin

          and the Integrative Civic Ideal in Progressive Thought." American Journal of Political

          Science, vol. 50, no. 3, 2006, pp. 650-663.