How to Cite Material With No Author in MLA Style

by Kristie Sweet, Demand Media

According to the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" (7th edition), the purpose of MLA documentation is to indicate what information you included from research in your paper and to give your readers enough information to find those sources. The system uses authors to reference sources, so those without authors must follow different structure.


You may find books either in hard copy or electronic form that do not list an author. Entries for such sources on the Works Cited page begin with the italicized title of the book instead of the author. MLA does not use "Anonymous" as an author name. When organizing the Works Cited page, you should place the entry for the book according to the first word in the title, disregarding articles "a," "an" and "the.". For instance, The Book of Kells would appear in italics and be alphabetized according to the word Book.


The same idea holds true for periodicals without an author. Instead of using "Anonymous," the Works Cited entry begins with the title of the article. The difference between the entry for a book and that for an article is the article title appears within quotation marks instead of in italics. As with anonymous books, you should alphabetize titles of periodical pieces according to the first word but ignore "a," "an" and "the." MLA does not use the names of wire services such as Associated Press or UPI as authors.


Internet sources commonly appear in research papers today, and they sometimes leave out author names. If you reference the entire site in your paper, the Works Cited entry begins with the site name, italicized. If you use a single page within a site, the entry appears inside quotation marks instead of in italics. Sources may also have groups as authors, such as MLA. In this case, you should use the organization's name in place of the author in the Works Cited entry. With all these types of authors, alphabetize entries according to the first word, ignoring the articles.


The parenthetical citation usually includes the author's last name in MLA style. Sources without authors use the title in the in-text citation instead. The citation must begin with the word at the start of the Works Cited entry but may be shortened beyond that if the title is long. For instance, the citation for "Snow Leopards on a Sunday Afternoon" may be reduced to "Snow Leopards." Use the same formatting, quotation marks or italics, for the title in the citation as you do for the title on the Works Cited.


  • 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.

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