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How to Cite According to the MLA Format

by Jackie Stark, Demand Media

    Different fields of study utilize different forms of citation. The Modern Language Association, or MLA, style of citation is most commonly used to cite sources within the fields of liberal arts or the humanities. Combining a strict code of punctuation usage, with rules governing indentation and margin width, MLA citations are typically used in essays or research papers to cite other, written sources. Citing in MLA style is simple, once you learn a few basic formats.

    Citations In Your Essay

    Citing in MLA is simply a matter of following a few guidelines. According to the seventh edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers and the third edition of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, all referenced works in your essay should include a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence they're referenced in, and any direct quotes should be placed in quotation marks, so as to easily differentiate your ideas from your source's. For example, in writing an essay on a Shakespearian play, you may want to reference another essay written by an expert on the subject: John Doe wrote in his essay, "Hamlet's Heroes" that Hamlet was "totally incapable of making any decisions." The parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence should correspond with the page the citation appears on. When directly quoting a source without providing attribution first, include the author's last name in the parenthetical citation: Hamlet was "totally incapable of making any decisions." (Doe, 1). When citing a work with no author, simply use the title of the work inside the parenthesis. All in-text citations should appear the same way they do on the Works Cited page, to easily refer readers to the longer citation at the end of the paper. The Works Cited page is one of the key elements of an MLA style paper. The list of every citation of all sources should appear at the end of your essay.

    Citing Books

    With the proliferation of the Internet, books are not cited as sources as often as they used to be, but the MLA style citation for a book lays the groundwork for all other citations in that style. To properly cite a book, make sure to jot down the following information from your source: the author's or authors' name, the title of the work, the place of publication, the publisher, the date of publication and the pages the material appears on. On the Works Cited page, a book citation should read like this: Last name, First name. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication. MLA style also requires the use of hanging indents in the Works Cited, meaning each line on the page used in the same citation, after the first line, should be indented five spaces.

    Citing Periodicals

    The MLA style citations for magazine, journal or newspaper articles are rather similar, and only vary slightly from a standard book citation. The main differences from a book citation are the inclusion of the specific time period of the publication, as well as the use of quotes around the title of the article. Magazine articles should be cited in the following manner: Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Periodical Day Month Year: pages. Medium of publication. A newspaper citation differs only in that the page identification should be modified to reflect the section of the newspaper it appears in. Lesser-known newspapers, such as small-town daily publications, should also have the name of the city and state they came from included in brackets after the title of the newspaper. Author. "Title of Article." Title of Periodical [City, State] Day Month Year: page, Medium of publication.

    Citing Electronic Sources

    Electronic sources can include online-only publications as well as entire websites. It's sometimes more difficult to find all the necessary information to provide a complete citation, so jot down as much of the following as possible: names of authors or editors, as well as the name of the article, title of the website, posting date, volume or issue number, publisher information, date you found the material and URL. (Though MLA no longer requires URLs to be used in citations, it's good practice to write it down during your research, in the event you need to refer back to the site.) To cite an entire website, enter the following information: Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publishers), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access. Citing an individual page on a website is similar. For that, you need to have the following information: "Title of article." Name of website. Publisher, publishing date.

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    About the Author

    Jackie Stark is the education reporter for a small-town newspaper. First published in 2007, she has covered a wide range of topics, from Pres. Obama's election victory to international travel. Stark holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in English from Northern Michigan University.

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