How to Do a Bibliography in MLA

by Lori L. Woods, Demand Media

The Modern Language Association, or MLA, provides a writing style guide for both scholars and students of the humanities and liberal arts, particularly in the subjects of language and literature. MLA style is a set of rules for structuring academic papers, citing sources, and unifying punctuation and capitalization. An MLA bibliography lists all sources you consulted in planning or writing a paper. The rules are the same as for the more commonly-used works cited page, which includes only works that were directly cited in the article.


Your bibliography should begin on its own page with the title, "Bibliography," centered at the top. Other titles, according to the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook, include "Works Cited," "Works Consulted" or "Literature Consulted." The margins should be one inch all around. Alphabetize your entries by the last name of authors or editors or the first word of the title. Your list should be double spaced, and if an entry runs longer than one line, subsequent lines for each citation should be indented one-half inch.

General Rules

Capitalize all words in titles except for articles, prepositions or conjunctions, unless they are the first word of a title. Titles of larger works, such as books, journals, magazines and films, should be italicized unless you are handwriting your bibliography, in which case you should underline the titles. Titles for shorter works, such as articles, poems and songs, should appear in quotation marks. Authors names should be listed last name first, followed by first name and middle initial. Titles or degrees are not listed, but suffixes, such as Jr., Sr., III, are listed after the middle initial.


When listing books in your bibliography, put the author's name first, then the title in italics, followed by a period. Next, list the city of publication, followed by a colon, the name of the publisher, followed by a comma, and the year of publication, followed by a period. Lastly, list the medium of publication. For example: "Franzen, Jonathan, Freedom: A Novel. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. Print." Be sure to italicize the title or underline it if handwritten. If there are two or more authors, list only the first author in the last name first. List subsequent authors with the first name, followed by the last name. For example: "Roberts, Edgar V and Robert ZweigIf." For three authors, use the same format: "Abcarian, Richard, Marvin Klotz and Samuel CohenIf." For more more than three authors, you have the option of listing them all, or just listing the first author, followed by "et al." For example: "Abcarian, Richard, et al."


Entries for print periodicals -- magazines, newspapers and journals -- are listed much like books, except that the title of the article is enclosed in quotation marks and precedes the title of the publication which, like book publishers, is italicized. Because periodicals appear at intervals, it's important to write the date of the issue or volume number and the page numbers of the article. For example: "Maksik, Alexander. "Deeper Winter" Harper's 6 Mar. 2013: 56-64. Print."


MLA no longer requires URLs in internet citations. However, if the site would be difficult to find by your citation, it would be a good idea to include it in angle brackets. In citing websites, use as much of the following information as possible: author or editor name, title of the article in quotations, website name in italics, version, date or issue number, website publisher name, page number, medium of publication and date accessed. Online magazines and journals are cited the same as the print versions, with the medium of the publication being web instead of print. For example: "Bolick, Kate. "Working Girl." Poetry Magazine. Poetry, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 7 Mar. 2013." If a journal is accessed though a database, list the database in italics right before the medium.

Style Your World With Color


  • Modern Language Association (MLA) Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition


About the Author

Lori L. Woods is a writer, educator and communicator in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more than 15 years, she has been covering the environment, food, health, entertainment and education issues for various magazines and online publications. Woods holds a bachelor's degree in world arts and cultures from UCLA, as well as a graduate degree in English and education from California State University, Northridge.

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