Skip to Main Content

Citing Sources Guide

Introduction to MLA

What Is MLA Style?

MLA Style is the official style of the Modern Language Association. It is used for writing and formatting research papers. Some subjects that use MLA Style are English Studies and Literature, Foreign Language and Literature, Literary Criticism, Religious Studies, and Cultural Studies. Check with your instructor to find out which style you should use for your research paper.

Paper Formatting

How to Format Your Paper

MLA Style will guide how your paper should look and how to cite all of the resources you used. When setting up your document, make sure you follow these guidelines:

  • Margins should be set to one inch on all sides.
  • Use a standard, readable font like Times New Roman or Arial, size 12.
  • Type your last name and the page number in the top right header of each page.
  • All text lines should be double-spaced including your heading, quotations, and works cited page.

Make sure your paper is formatted correctly using this MLA Format Checklist (courtesy of Excelsior College).

In-Text Citation

In-Text Citation Basics

Every citation style uses two types of citation: in-text and bibliographic.

In-text citation gives credit to someone else's work, right in your paper when you use it. In MLA style, an in-text citation comes at the end of a quote or paraphrase. You must include the author's last name and the page number. When you are using a direct quote, the citation begins after the ending quotation mark. The citation should be enclosed in parenthesis, and the period that ends the sentence goes after the citation is complete.


"Social medial is harmful to teens" (Smith 135).
"Video games cause dyslexia" (Smith and Wheeler 197).

How to Cite with Missing Information

Sometimes you are missing information that you need to create an in-text citation. Use the examples below to create an in-text citation when you are missing information.

No Author
If you do not have the author's name, you can use a short version of the title in quotation marks.

Example: ("Cats in Literature" 204)

No Page Number
If your source doesn't have page numbers (like on a website), use the paragraph number and abbreviate paragraph to para. (with a period). You will have to count each paragraph.

Example: (Smith and Wheeler para. 7)

For more information about MLA Citation, use our MLA Style Pamphlet:

Bibliographic Citation: Works Cited

Bibliographic Citation: Works Cited

Bibliographic citation is when you list the sources you've used in your paper. On the very last page of your paper, you need to provide a list of all the outside sources you quoted or paraphrased in the text. In MLA Style, this list is called a Works Cited page. 

Just like the rest of your paper, your Works Cited page should be in 12-pt font with 1-inch page margins. Your sources should be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter of the citation (usually the author's last name). Bibliographic citations also use a hanging indent which means all lines except the first should be indented for each individual citation or source. Not sure how to do that? Find directions below. See the Works Cited Example Page to get a better idea of what your page should look like.

How to Cite Your Sources

You will need to gather some information from each of your sources, so it's best to have them in front of you. Remember, one of the reasons for citing is so that your reader can find the sources that you refer to. You need to provide as much information as possible so that they can find your sources easily. For most MLA citations, the following rules apply:

  • List the first author starting with the last name, comma, first name. All subsequent authors will be listed first name last name 
    • Jones, Kimberly and James Johnson
  • The titles of books, journals, magazines, and newspapers are written in italics
    • The Journal of Modern Literature
  • The titles of chapters or articles are written in "quotation marks"
    • "Working with History, Working with Taboo: A Comparative Review of Two Works of Joyce Criticism"

Take a look at our MLA Citation Guide for specific examples.


When citing books, you must include the author(s)'s name(s), the title of the book, the publisher, and the year it was published. Sometimes you will need to include the names of editors or the edition number. 

Gelpi, Albert J. Emily Dickinson: The Mind of the Poet. Harvard University Press, 1965.


When citing articles, you must include the author(s)'s name(s), the title of the article, the title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper, the volume and issue numbers, the date of publication, and the page number(s). 

Barker, Theo. "The World Transport Revolution." History Today, vol. 46 no. 11, Nov. 1996, p. 20.


When citing a website, or a page from a website, you need to provide the author(s)'s name(s), the title of the page you are using, the title of the website, the date the information was published, and the URL or web address of the site (starting with www).

Markel, Howard. "How Elizabeth Blackwell Became the First Female Doctor in the U.S." PBS NewsHour. NewsHour Productions, LLC, 23 Jan. 2014,