MLA Citation Guide

Note that this guide is for MLA 8th edition. It may thus be different from what you have previously been taught as MLA.

This is a simple guide to citing sources using MLA style, adapted loosely from Robin Turner’s From Brainstorm to Bibliography. If you want more detailed information, take a look at MLA Formatting and Style Guide at Purdue University.

In-Text Citation

Basic Format

For citations in the middle of the essay (known as “in-text citations”) you normally just need the author’s surname and the page number, like this:

In “The Music of the Ainur”, Iluvatar says that “no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me” (Tolkien 4).

Attebury points out that “modern fantasy is not simply a revival of the fairy tale” (72).

In the second example, we only give the page number, since the author’s name is included in the sentence. (Notice the punctuation; the full stop comes after the citation, not before.)

If you refer to more than one work by the same author, you can clarify by giving the title, or a shortened version of the title:

Bilbo complains that adventures “make you late for dinner” (Tolkien, Hobbit 16).

You may also want to cite a whole work; e.g.,

A Game of Thrones is the first novel in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire.

Here (unlike APA style) no parenthetical citation is necessary because you have both author and title in the sentence, and you are referring to the whole work rather than specific pages.

Unusual cases

If there are no page numbers in your source (e.g., a website) then just leave them out. Unlike some citation formats, 8th edition MLA does not require section or paragraph numbers.

If there is no author, you can use the title; e.g.,

Arya is seen by some as a role-model for girls (“GoT—Feminist or Mysogynist?”).

The general principle is that you use whatever comes first in the citation in your Works Cited list (see below).

You can refer to more than one work in the same citation; e.g.,

Caliban is one of Shakespeare’s most popular characters (Howard 132, Jerrod 98, Maynard 177).

Note that the sources are in alphabetical order.

Sometimes you may want to quote something that is already a quotation in your source. If you do this, cite both the original source (if the author gives it) and the source you actually took it from, joining them with “qtd. in” (“qtd.” is short for “quoted”).

As the science fiction author William Gibson puts it, writing is “a crazy, sloppy process with thousands of false starts and painful backtrackings” (MacNair 23, qtd. in Olson 5).

Don’t forget to put both references as separate items in your Works Cited page.

Works Cited

The Works Cited list comes at the end of your paper; in some other citation styles it is called “References”. Some general points to follow are:

  • Cite all the sources that you refer to (and no others) on a separate page at the end of the paper. The page has the title Works Cited at the top centre (in strict MLA style, there is no special formatting such as bold or underlining for this).
  • Citations are in alphabetical order by the first element—usually the author’s surname. If there is more than one work by the same author, only give the name for the first entry; after that use three hyphens and a full stop (—.).
  • Titles are in title case; i.e., all the important words start with a capital letter. (This is different from APA format, which uses sentence case for most titles.)
  • Citations are in hanging indent format: the second and subsequent lines of a citation are indented, not the first one. Look at the end of this syllabus for examples.

For a citation, include as much of this information as is possible and relevant, in this order:

  1. Author(s). First names are given as they appear in the publication (so it’s “Meyer, Stephanie” but “Tolkien, J. R. R.”). Do not include titles (such as Dr., Prof., Sir, PhD.). For the first author only, put the surname first.
  2. “Title of Source.” The source is the particular text you use—article, web page, chapter in a compilation etc. (Does not apply with complete books or films.)
  3. Title of Container, The container is the publication where you found the source—book, journal, newspaper, website etc. (Also used for complete books or films.)
  4. Other contributors, Editors, translators etc.
  5. Version, Rarely used—editions of books, versions of software etc.
  6. Number, Mainly for academic journals and magazines.
  7. Publisher, (The place of publication is not now required except for books printed before 1900.)
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location. For print sources, the page numbers; for electronic sources, the URL or DOI [A]  [A] Document Object Identifier—a unique number given to academic, technical and governmental documents on the web. Where a DOI exists, it is preferable to a URL, since URLs can change, but DOIs don’t..


Unlike previous versions of MLA, the formats for different media are not rigid; so long as you follow the principles above you should be OK. However, the formats in the examples below are strongly recommended, and will help you understand how MLA works.


If all of the book is by the same author, then the source and container are the same.

Surname, First Name(s). Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

Haywain, Barbara, J. Love’s Revenge. Bodice Books, 1988.

If there is more than one author, give the first author’s name in the format above, and other authors as they appear on the title page, e.g.,

Morpheus, John, and Lucy N. Trinity. Ghosts in the Shell, Daemons in the Kernel: Artificial Intelligence in Japanese Film. Penguin, 2008.

For e-books, add the DOI or URL (the former is preferable).

Chapter or essay in a book

Surname, First name(s). “Title of Essay / Chapter.” Title of Collection, edited by Editor’s Name(s), Publisher, Year, pp. page numbers.

Kristova, Juliet. “The submerged feminine in Haywain’s novels.” Postmodernism and Popular Romance, edited by Roland O’Rorty, Cambridge University Press, 1996. pp. 23–45.

Article in an academic journal

Surname, First name(s) “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, vol. Volume number, no. Issue number, Year, pp. page numbers.

Johnson, Marcus. “The Bodice in the Mind: Conceptual Metaphor in Haywain.” Cognitive Literary Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, 1999, pp. 231–250.

If you accessed the journal online, add the DOI or URL (the first is preferable) and the date you accessed it. If you accessed it from an academic database like JSTOR, include that as a second container before the URL / DOI.

Johnson, Marcus. “The Bodice in the Mind: Conceptual Metaphor in Haywain.” Cognitive Literary Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, 1999, pp. 231–250. Wiley Online Library, doi:10.1017/S0015246X06003576. Accessed 17 Mar. 2016.

Article in a newspaper or magazine

Surname, First name(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Newspaper / Magazine, Day Month Year, pp. page numbers.

Muddreicker, Gordon, O. “Was Haywain Jeffrey Archer’s Mistress?” Daily Drool 31 Jul. 1987: pp. 13.

Note that the date format is day month year (the reverse of APA), and that months can be abbreviated. With monthly magazines, just miss out the day.

If there is no author given, just miss it out and start with the title of the article.


Like a book, for a film the source and container are the same.

Title Directed by. Director’s name, performances by main performers’ names (if relevant), Film company / distributor, year. 

Cyborg Warriors 3. Directed by. Frank Buick, performances by Juliette Binoche, Leonardo DaCaprio, Dolph Lundgren, Beta Movies, 1995.


TV series are containers; episodes are sources. For live broadcasts, use the following format:

“Episode Title.” Show Title. TV Station, Call letters, City, day, month year.

“Going for the Jugular.” The Vampire Chronicles. Fox, WXIA, Atlanta. 19 Aug. 2009.

Note the odd letters (“call letters”) and the name of the city. This is not necessary for non-American TV shows.

If you watched it online, the format is a little different:

“Episode Title.” Show Title, season number, episode number. TV Company, day, month year. Website/service, URL.

“Going for the Jugular.” The Vampire Chronicles, season 4, episode 11. Fox 19 Aug. 2009 Dizibox.

If a TV series is released in a physical format like DVD or Bluray, then the format changes again.

“Episode Title.” Title of DVD etc., written by Writer(s), directed by Director, episode number. Publisher, year.

“Going for the Jugular.” The Vampire Chronicles: The Complete Fourth Season, written by Rupert Giles, directed by Spike Lee, Fox 2011.

Web page

For web pages, use as much of the following format as you can find and is relevant.

Surname, First Name(s). “Title of page.” Name of Website, Name of publisher (if different). Date of creation (day month year), URL. Accessed Date of access (day month year).

Constable, Tom. “Guide to Haywain’s Fiction” The Modern Novel, Cambridge University, 29 Nov. 2002, Accessed 14 Aug. 2015.

Treat a forum post as though it were a web page. Use the writer’s user name in the author position, and add their real name (if known) in square brackets; e.g.,

nerdymcnerdface [Wayne Mooney] “Re: Did Jon Snow break his oath?” Castle Black, 15 Oct. 2015, Accessed 11 Jun. 2016.

For other electronic sources (tweets, YouTube videos etc.) see a more comprehensive guide, such as OWL at Purdue.