As a college student and essay writer, you must have heard a million times about the necessity to properly cite sources to avoid plagiarism. It is mandatory for both direct quotations and paraphrased summaries of someone else's ideas you allude to within paper. However, there is no one uniform way to cite your sources. Here is where confusion begins. Academia acknowledges multiple styles – APA, MLA, Chicago-Turabian, Oxford, Vancouver, etc.
In this post, we will discuss how to correctly cite your source according to the Modern Language Association's guidelines (hence, MLA.) We will talk about details of in-text and full citations, how to cite multiple sources for one piece of information, how to cite two different sources in the same sentence MLA-style, and details you must provide for print and non-print sources, such as website articles, videos, and other multimedia.
Of course, if you buy a personal statement, essay, research paper, or any other piece of academic writing from us, you wouldn't have to worry about all this. Just indicate which style is required – and our experts will format everything accordingly.
If, however, you want to learn all the formatting details independently, read on. By the way, you might also want to look at our previously published guide on APA citation to compare and note the differences between the two most popular styles in academia.
How to Cite Primary Sources MLA-Style
Since the namesake of the style guide – the Modern Language Association – focuses on language and literature, MLA citation is often used in related subjects: linguistics, history of literature, literary analysis, liberal arts, and other humanities. However, when choosing a citation style for your paper, always consult the assignment sheet and course instructions from your professor.
If MLA is indeed the required style, your bibliography will be called the "Works Cited" page at the end of your paper. All the entries there must correspond to the sources you cite in the main text. The list itself must be given on a separate page, labeled as Works Cited (centered, not italicized, no quotation marks), with the same spacing, font, and margins as the main text.
The citation entries should be alphabetized, aligned with the left margin, and indented from the second line down by 0.5 inches creating a hanging indent of the first line of each entry.
Here is the general template on how to cite your sources in MLA format in the "Works Cited" section for standalone books, for example, novels or monographs:
Author's Last Name, First Name. Title of the Book. Place of Publication, Publishing House, Publication Date.
Carey, M. The Girl With All the Gifts. Reprint, Orbit, 2015.
Here is how to cite an article in a journal, magazine, or newspaper:
Author's Last Name, First Name. "Article's Title." Periodical's Title, Day Month Year, pages.
Peterson, Kathleen and Fuller, Rebecca. “Anorexia Nervosa in Adolescents.” Nursing, vol. 49, no. 10, 2019, pp. 24–30.
How to Cite Sources in MLA Format in Essay
In the "Works Cited" section, you give the fullest information about each source. However, within the text of your essay, you provide only a brief indication of the source (in-text version of the citation) for clarity and readability.
MLA uses parenthetical citations, just as the APA. This means that when you use a quotation or paraphrase in a sentence, you give relevant source information in parenthesis at the end of it. MLA uses the author-page style, offering only the author's last name and the page containing the text you cite or paraphrase. For example:
The poem To His Coy Mistress uses symbolism and personification to convey the flow of time (Marvell 54).
If you mention the author within the sentence, you can omit to give the name again in parenthesis. Still, the page number should always be indicated in parenthesis, not in the text. For example:
To convey the flow of time in his poem To His Coy Mistress, Andrew Marvell uses symbolism and personification (54).
That's pretty straightforward. However, some cases are a bit trickier. For example, what if there is no known author to the source? In that case, you use the name of the work itself in place of the author's name. If it's a short work (a blog post or an article), put the title in quotation marks. For example, ("Global Impact of COVID-19"). If it's a longer work (a book, a play, or the entire website), italicize the name instead. For example, (National Geographic). If the name is too long, you can use abbreviations to avoid disrupting the flow of the text.
What if your source doesn't have pages as such? Never mind! If a page number is unavailable, you can omit it. Also, you can use other non-standard labels, such as lines, chapters, scenes, etc., instead.
What about multiple authors? Easy! If there are two, give their last names together. For example, (Jenkins and Llewellyn 371). However, if there are three or more, provide just the name of the first author followed by "et al." (stands for Latin "et alia" meaning "and others"). That will do for the in-text citation. However, don't forget to provide the complete information with all the names in the "Works Cited."
Okay, but how to cite two sources in one sentence MLA-style? It depends. If you have several sources to reference for one statement, put both sources in the same parentheses and separate them by a semi-colon. For example:
Phatic expressions, although seemingly breaking Grice's conversational maxims, play an essential role in establishing and maintaining social bonds between the interlocutors (Malinowski 297; Kendon et al. 17)
When you need to cite several sources successively for different pieces of information, put each parenthetical reference directly after the relevant clause. Like this:
While some researchers attribute phatic expressions to the function concerning merely the channel of communication (Jakobson 28), others stress its social and communal role (Malinowski 297).
This might seem complicated at first blush, but it is actually very logical. After all, style guides are there to accommodate you, not to hamper you.
How to Cite Sources in MLA: Examples for Electronic Sources
Being a student in the 21st century, you can hardly be expected to cite only printed books and journals. They are more convenient, of course, providing all the details you require for citation handily under the front cover. In fact, the manner of citation is fashioned after the published books, so no wonder it feels more naturally fitted for the traditional hard copies found in campus bookstores and libraries.
However, style guides are updated regularly, and there is a recognized way to cite anything under the sun, even the latest meme. Essentially, what you have to do is take primary elements of the source (author, title, container, etc.) and present these data in a general format. This rule of thumb allows you to site anything, even if it isn't specified in the official style guide. Here are the general requirements:
Author (or editor) Last Name, First Name. "Article title." Name of the website, book, project, etc. Other Contributors (editors, translators, etc.), Version (edition), Number (vol., no., etc.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs, URL, DOI, permalink). Date of Access (if applicable).
- Cite the containers (JSTOR, Spotify, Youtube, Netflix, etc.) in a www.address format
- Drop the https:// when citing URLs
- If DOI (digital object identifier) is available for an electronic copy of the book or journal article, use DOI instead of the URL
- If a permalink is available for an online newspaper or magazine, use it instead of the URL
- If pages are not available, use paragraphs to locate the quoted text (abbreviated par. for a single paragraph and pars. for several sections)
For example, here is how to cite a webpage:
"Jane Austen Biography." Jane Austen - English Author, pars. 5-7, www.janeausten.org/jane-austen-biography.php. Accessed 25 Aug. 2022.
Here is what a Youtube video citation will look like:
Cox, Octavia. "Jane Austen's Zeugma Jokes | What Is Zeugma? and How Does Jane Austen Use It? Literary Analysis." YouTube, uploaded by Dr Octavia Cox, 5 Aug. 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2T32p2gCM0. Accessed 25 Aug. 2022.
Here is how to cite a Tweet in MLA:
@austendaily. "What are men to rocks and mountains?" Twitter, 24 Aug. 2022, 9:10 p.m., twitter.com/austendaily/status/1562502498849636352.
Okay, that was easy. Yet what if you need to reference an image? Basically, all the same, only you add the place housing the original artifact in case of a painting, sculpture, etc. For example:
Austen, Cassandra. "Portrait of Jane Austen in Watercolor and Pencil." circa 1810. National Portrait Gallery, London, Wikimedia, 15 May 2014, upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/cc/CassandraAusten-JaneAusten%28c.1810%29_hires.jpg/800px-CassandraAusten-JaneAusten%28c.1810%29_hires.jpg Accessed 25 Aug. 2022.
To cite a comment, list the username as an author, preface the title with Comment on, and proceed with all the usual details: article (or the original post) title, publisher, date and time of the comment, and URL. For example:
Sethendal. Comment on "My favorite new Jane Austen adaptation is an elaborate game of Dungeons & Dragons." Polygon, 24 Aug. 2022, 9:54 p.m., www.polygon.com/reviews/23318857/dnd-dimension-20-court-of-fey-and-flowers-review-aabria-iyengar-good-society. Accessed 25 Aug. 2022.
Finally, here is how to cite an email from an expert:
Smith, John. "Re: Proto-realism in English Literature." Received by Lynette Dean-Howell, 3 Oct. 2021.
That should be enough for starters. Of course, you don't have to do all the citing manually. Helpful citation generators allow you to search the source and create accurate full and in-text citations with a click of a button. They also keep your citation lists, allowing you to rearrange and reformat all references according to different citation styles. That will save you hours if the requirements for your paper suddenly change. Excellent compensation for all the finicky job of citing web sources, wouldn't you say? Stay curious and love writing!