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How To...: MLA Style

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MLA Style

Welcome to the Guide on MLA Style!

This guide will not provide an intensive look into MLA, but it will give a basic idea of what an MLA citation should look like and some of the basic formatting of an MLA style paper. The information for this guide will come primarily from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Seventh edition and from OWL at Purdue. Proper citations will be listed within the guide.

Note: You as a student are responsible for your MLA citations--while this guide represents the style as accurately as possible at the time of completion, it is best to refer to the most recent MLA style manual to ensure accuracy.

What is MLA?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association of America. The MLA style is designed to be used with literature and language fields. Of course, like the APA, it is not limited to language and literature subjects. Instructors may specify which style they want their class to use; if not, make sure to ask!

The MLA Style is a style of formatting research papers. It provides a standard for writers and for readers so that they know what to expect when reading a paper with that format. Every MLA style paper should have the same style of title, margins, works cited page, and page numbers. Unlike the APA, MLA style allows writers the freedom to organize their paper as they want, so long as it follows some type of logical order. It has its own standards for punctuation, spelling, capitalization and more. For full details on the formatting side of MLA, look at the MLA Handbook.

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MLA Style In-Text Citations

MLA Style In-Text Citations

This section will cover how to create in-text citations for the most common situations. For how to cite materials besides those listed below, please consult the MLA Handbook, speak to a librarian, or speak to your instructor for individualized help. OWL at Purdue also offers citation information for a variety of sources.

In-text Citations

In-text citations are the same for the majority of materials. Always include the author's last name and when quoting directly, include page numbers.

To cite a single work in its entirety, include the author's last name and possibly the title. MLA prefers this to happen in text, but in parentheses is acceptable as well.


The Modern Language Association's MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers focuses on making citations easy for students writing in the humanities fields by encouraging students to cite information according to author rather than author and date.

The MLA style focuses on making citations easy for students writing in the humanities fields by encouraging students to cite information according to author rather than author and date (Modern Language Association).

To cite a part of a work such as a quotation, give page numbers, or if unavailable, paragraph or section numbers. If the author's name is in the text, the number at the end of the paragraph is enough; if the author's name is not in the text, it must be included with the page numbers.


"In crimes of violence and in burglary, the scene of the crimes may be the most important aspect of the investigation" (Nickell and Fischer 23).

Shusta, Levine, Harris, and Wong "present practical reasons why officers should have an understanding of the cultural backgrounds of the groups they commonly encounter" (3).

To cite two or more works by separate authors, cite normally, but separate with a semicolon.


Racial discrimination and profiling are still evident in the United States, and when officers are not aware of this, it can lead to defense lawyers using real or conceived racial tension to try and turn the case, such as in the O. J. Simpson case (Nickell and Fischer; Shusta et al. ).

To cite two or more works by the same author, place a comma after the author's name and then insert a shortened version of the title, or the title itself in italics.


A common theme in the stories of Charles Dickens is the ability of his characters to overcome the difficult life they begin in. Pip gets entangled with criminals, but survives it to get married and earn a good job; Oliver starts as an orphan only to be found by distant relatives that are eager to take care of him (Dickens, Great Expectations; Dickens, Oliver Twist).

To cite a work without an author, use the title instead--or a shortened version if it is particularly long.


"Long-term memory has an enormous capacity. It includes all the facts and knowledge that we accumulate throughout our entire lives-from the rules of English grammar to the lyrics of a favorite song" ("Learning and Memory").

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MLA Style Reference Citations

MLA Style Reference Citations

This section will cover how to create both in-text and reference citations for the three main resources. For how to cite materials besides books, articles, and websites, please consult the MLA Handbook, speak to a librarian, or speak to your instructor for individualized help. OWL at Purdue also offers citation information for a variety of sources.

Reference Pages

References pages change slightly depending on the type of material being cited. In the MLA style, always abbreviate the names of publishers when possible. See the MLA Handbook for a list of appropriate abbreviations. Titles are usually capitalized for each important word, and any word directly after a colon.


Information specific to books: Book titles are italicized. If using a print book, include the word "print" at the end.

Book template:
Author's last name, Author's first name. Title. Edition when available Location of publisher: Publisher, year of publication. Publication medium.

Books written by a company leave out initial articles in the company's name such as A or The. Do not abbreviate.


Modern Language Association.MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: Modern Language Assoc., 2009. Print.

Books with the same author should be placed in alphabetical order by title. The first entry should have the author's name as usual. The second has three dashes and a period to show that it belongs to the same author. In the case of the books cited below, the first date is that of the original publication, the second date and publication information is for the book being used.


Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. 1861. New York: Tor, 1998. Print.

---. Oliver Twist. 1937-1839. New York: Penguin, 1985. Print.

Books with multiple authors have the first author's name reversed (last name, first name) and subsequent authors with first name then last name. If there are two or three authors, include all authors in the order shown on the title page. If there are more than three authors, have the first author's name and then choose et al. or write out each author's name.


Nickell, Joe and John F. Fischer.Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1999. Print.

Shusta, Robert M., et al. Multicultural Law Enforcement: Strategies for Peacekeeping in a Diverse Society. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2002. Print.


Information specific to print (physical) articles: For journals, include the volume and issues numbers and the year of publication. For newspapers or magazines, do not include volume or issue numbers but do include day, month and year if possible. Include page numbers for the length of the articles, whether in magazines, newspapers, or journals. Titles are enclosed in quotation marks.

Information specific to online articles from databases: If the information was taken from a print article and placed online, then cite it like usual, but instead of putting the medium after page numbers, include the title of the database or website, medium, and the date accessed. If a scholarly journal published only online, begin the citation like a print periodical, but if no page numbers are used, then use "n. pag.". Finish with medium and date of access. URLs are not necessary.

Print Article Template:
Author's last name, First name. "Title of Article." Name of Periodical volume.issue number (date of publication): page numbers. Publication medium.

Online Article Template:
Author's last name, First name. "Title of Article." Name of Periodical volume.issue number (date of publication): page numbers. Name of Database, when necessary. Publication medium. Date of access.

Print article from a magazine


Woodbridge, Kim. "Make Your Own Small-Business Facebook Page." 29.12 (Dec. 2011): 29-32. Print.

Print article from a journal


Nelson, Roxanne. "AJN Reports: Childhood Vaccinations." American Journal of Nursing 111.11 (2011): 19-20. Print.

Print article from a newspaper


Fram, Alan. "Congress Approves Bill Averting Weekend Government Shutdown. Chattanooga Times Free Press 18 Nov. 2011: A6. Print.

Online article from a magazine


Harbert, Tam. "IT's Age Problem." Computerworld. Computerworld, 21 Nov. 2011. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Online article from a journal


Turale, Sue. "Preparing Nurses for the 21st Century: Reflecting on Nursing Shortages and Other Challenges in Practice and Education. Nursing and Health Sciences 13.3 (2011): 229-231. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.

Online article from a database


MacLin, Otto H., Ryan Tapscott, and Kimberly M. MacLin. "Face Recognition in Context: A Case Study of Tips on a Call-in Crime TV Show." North American Journal of Psychology 12.3 (2010): 459-468. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

Online article from a newspaper


Taylor, Andrew. "Debt Panel's Demise Sets Up Partisan Wrangling." Atlanta Journal Constitution. Atlanta Journal Constitution, 22 Nov. 2011: n. pag. Web. 22 Nov. 2011.


Information specific to websites: When listing information that can only be found online, it is important to include the name of the author or creator of the website, the title of the work (italicized if the entire site, or within quotation marks if an article or page), the title of the website and the publisher or sponsor. Also necessary is the date of publication, the medium, and the date of access. If unable to locate information on the publisher or date, use n.p. or n.d. respectively. URLs are not listed unless your instructor asks for them.

Website template
Author's last name, First name. Title of site or "Title of Article". Title of website, if different from title of work. Publisher/Sponsor or n.p., Date of publication or n.d. Medium. Date of access.

Website page


Russell, Tony, et al. "MLA Works Cited Page: Basic Format." The OWL at Purdue. Purdue U Online Writing Lab, 13 July 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.

Website page from database


"Learning and Memory." The Human Body: How it Works Online. Infobas Publishing, n.d. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.

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MLA Style Formatting

MLA Style Formatting


Aside from having its own method for creating citations, the MLA Style has specific requirements for formatting papers so that each paper looks similar and is easy to read. Below are some basic instructions for formatting an MLA style paper. Please note that your instructor may not require some elements be in MLA formatting.

Elements of an MLA paper

  • Title/Author Information
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

Title/Author Information
The title and author information in an MLA paper does not receive its own page. Instead, using the word processor's default margin (1"), begin typing the information at the top left hand corner of the page. Include your full name, followed by a double spaced line, your instructor's last name, followed by a double spaced line, the course name and number, followed by a double spaced line, and finally the date of submission. Then, double space again and put the title centered on the page. It should have capital letters for the important words.

The introduction is the introduction of the paper. It should include the thesis statement, and a brief explanation of what will be covered and how it will be organized. This is the first thing readers see and it should get them prepared and excited for the rest of the paper.

The body of the paper is the majority of the text. This addresses the topic and thesis statement set out in the introduction. It should follow some kind of logical order, whether that is chronological, by importance, or cause an effect. This is where the majority of any information being cited will be.

The conclusion of the paper sums up everything that was said in the body of the paper. It relates the important items back to the thesis statement and shows how each paragraph relates to the topic. This is the final chance to impress on your instructor or any other reader why the topic is important and why the paper was written.

Works Cited
The works cited page starts a new page and should have "Works Cited" as the title centered at the top of the page. Include the information from the MLA Style Reference Citations. Each entry should be in alphabetical order by the first author's last name. The first line should be all the way to the left, while any additional lines are indented (called a "hanging indent").

Appearance of an MLA Style Paper

MLA papers are typically written using Times New Roman in 12 point font.

MLA asks for double spacing for lines in every page, including the title and the Works Cited page.

Paragraph Indentations
MLA requires new paragraphs to be indented by a single tab key.

Page Numbers
Pages are numbered consecutively starting with the first page and ending with the Works Cited. In all cases, the page number should be in the top right corner, preceded by your last name. Use the word processor's "header" and "page number function" to do this.

For some excellent examples of MLA Style papers, come to the library and look at the MLA Handbook or visit the OWL at Purdue Website!

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Subject Guide

Useful Links

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