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How to Cite an Entry in a Reference Work for MLA

by Kristie Sweet, Demand Media

    According to the 7th edition of the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers," several types of references works may yield good information to include in a research paper, including encyclopedias, dictionaries, biographies, atlases and almanacs, each of which may appear in print or electronic form. The Modern Language Association sets out specific guidelines for citing such sources.

    In-Text

    MLA in-text citations typically include the author's last name and a page number. However, reference works often do not have traditional authors. In this case, use the title of the article or entry in the work, within quotation marks, instead of an author: ("Anasazi" 22). To indicate a specific definition from a dictionary, also put a comma inside the quotation marks and then write "def." (without the quotation marks) and the letter or number to indicate which definition you refer to: ("Pottery," def. 2a).

    Print Sources

    The Works Cited entry for a print copy of a reference work follows similar structure as that for a piece of a collection. Begin the entry with the author if you have one, last name first with a comma before the first name. The title of the entry appears next, in quotation marks. If no author appears, the entry starts with the title. The name of the larger work comes next, italicized. Then you should list the edition, the year and the medium, placing periods between all portions except between the author's first and last name. An entry for a well-known work with no author might look like this: "Anasazi." The Encyclopedia Britannica (italicized). 11th ed. 2010. Print. If the reference work is not as well known, you should include publication information, such as an editor if there is one, between the book's title and edition. After the edition, give the city of publication, a colon, the company, a comma and the date. Then the medium comes after a period: "Anasazi." The New Encyclopedia (italicized). Ed. Sue Johnson. 2nd ed. New York: Know Stuff Publishers, 2011. Print.

    Web

    An entry on the Works Cited for an Internet reference work follows similar guidelines as that for print. It starts with an author if there is one, followed by the entry title, but then you should type the title of the site (in italics). The edition appears next, and then comes the sponsor for the site if there is one. If not, indicate by typing "N.p." (without the quotation marks), meaning "no publisher." Give the date of publication or "n.d." (without the quotation marks) to indicate "no date." Then the medium is indicated (Web) and the access date in day-month-year format. You should use periods between all portions except between the author's last and first name. An entry with no author might look like this: "Anasazi." The New Encyclopedia Web Site (italicized). 2nd ed. Know Stuff Publishers. 2011. Web. 23 March 2013.

    CD-ROM

    Companies sometimes publish reference works on CD-ROM or DVD formats. You should indicate this format on your Works Cited entry. The entry begins with the author, if you have one. The comes the title of the entry, in quotation marks, the title of the disc, italicized, and the edition, with periods between all portions except the author's last and first name. Then you should list the city of publication, a colon, the publishing company, a comma and the year of publication. The medium appears next, with a period. An entry like this with an author would follow this format: Smith, Joe. "Anasazi." The New Encyclopedia CD (italicized). 2nd ed. New York: Know Stuff Publishers, 2011. CD-ROM.

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    References

    • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition); Modern Language Association; 2009

    About the Author

    Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.

    Photo Credits

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