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Citing Sources: MLA 8 Overview

Guides for citing sources in MLA and APA format

Sample Paper & Works Cited


Take a look at the graphic from the MLA website below--there are 9 elements in a container of a citation.  You can repeat a container for a citation, if necessary.  The good thing about MLA 8 for students? The rules are less strict! Notice that commas are EVERYWHERE except after the author, title, and location. A Quick Guide to MLA Style Listing the 9 Containers

A Closer Look at the Core Elements

1. Author - Last name, first name is still the standard in MLA 8.  However, if you have three or more authors, just use the first author's name as usual, and add ", et al." to indicate that there are many more authors. You can also write out "editor" or "translator" here if those people are the main contributors to the source you are using. You can use social media handles as authors now, too! 

2. Title of Source - Capitalize the main words in the title and subtitle and italicize if the only title.  If it's a little title (my phrase), like a song, episode of a TV show, a poem, etc., then it's placed inside quotation marks. 

3. Title of Container - This is the "bigger title" which might be the name of the website, or the name of the journal or book. These are usually italicized, since the the title of source up above is in quotes. 

4. Other Contributors - This is where you write out who helped with the source. So you can actually state  ", illustrated by Sarah Hill," and use other phrases like directed by, translated by, edited by, introduction by, performance by, etc.  See page 37 in the MLA Handbook for more information. 

5. Version - In librarian words, this can also mean  edition.  So here you can use ", New International Version," or ", revised ed., " or ", 10th ed.," if it's noted in your source. 

6. Number - Look for key words like volume, issue, number, episode.  If your source has them, then you use descriptions like ", vol. 2," or "vol. 26, no. 3," 

7. Publisher - Look on the title page or the back of the title page (the tp verso) to find the publisher of a book. On a website, the publisher is sometimes an organization or the overall sponsor of the site that is mentioned at the very bottom of the page. You can chop off words like company and incorporated and university press can still be abbreviated as UP. Sample publishers: "Harcourt Press" or "U of Illinois P."

8. Date - Sources often have more than one publishing date, like online and print. If you used the online version, then stick with that date and use it in your citation. Write the full date that you see in your source--you may be given a month and day or just a season and year.  Some examples are "18 Nov. 1943" or "Fall 2017" or "2011"

9. Location - In print sources, location means pages numbers: "pp. 24-34" or "A3." For web sources, location means the URL or website, but omit the "http://" part at the beginning. If you are using a scholarly article, then you will have a DOI, or digital object identifier number that can serve as a location: "doi:39.28503/dkb2001."

Optional elements to add to an entry are discussed on pages 50 - 53 of the MLA Handbook, 8th edition.

Seneca College Libraries

This guide is used/adapted with the permission of Seneca College Libraries. For information please contact

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What is MLA?

MLA Handbook Front Cover

MLA style was created by the Modern Language Association of America. It is a set of rules for publications, including research papers. There are two parts to MLA: In-text citations and the Works Cited list. In MLA, you must "cite" sources that you have paraphrased, quoted or otherwise used to write your research paper. Cite your sources in two places:

  1. In the body of your paper where you add a brief in-text citation.
  2. In the Works Cited list at the end of your paper where you give more complete information for the source.

Need the book? Visit the library! There are copies to check out and one copy that will always be in the reference area. 

Quick Rules for MLA Works Cited List

Your research paper ends with a list of all the sources cited in the text of the paper. This is called a Works Cited list.

See an example in the "Sample Paper & Works Cited List" box on this page.

Here are eight quick rules for this list:

  1. Start a new page for your Works Cited list (e.g., if your paper is 4 pages long, start your Works Cited list on page 5).
  2. Center the title, Works Cited, at the top of the page and do not bold or underline it.
  3. Double-space the list.
  4. Start the first line of each citation at the left margin; indent each subsequent line five spaces (also known as a "hanging indent").
  5. Put your list in alphabetical order. Alphabetize the list by the first word in the citation. In most cases, the first word will be the author’s last name. Where the author is unknown, alphabetize by the first word in the title, ignoring the words a, an, the.
  6. For each author, give the last name followed by a comma and the first name followed by a period.
  7. Italicize the titles of full works: books, audiovisual material,websites.
  8. Do not italicize titles of parts of works, such as: articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals / essays, poems, short stories or chapter titles from a book / chapters or sections of an Internet document. Instead, use quotation marks.

Commonly Used Terms

Access Date: The date you first look at a source. The access date is added to the end of citations for all websites except library databases.

Citation: Details about one cited source.

Citing: The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

In-Text Citation: A brief note at the point where information is used from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Works Cited List.

Paraphrasing: Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism: Taking, using, and passing off as your own, the ideas or words of another.

Quoting: The copying of words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Works Cited List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.


Contact Sarah Hill, Information Services Librarian at or 217-234-5440