Skip to main content

Citation Tools: MLA 8

On this page you will find an overview of the core elements of MLA style, as well as guidelines for formatting your paper (see bottom of page)

MLA style guide


Use this sheet to collect the information needed for your citation.  

Click below to download the template

MLA - Capitzlization Rules

Core Elements of MLA Style

Every entry in your works cited list will contain the core elements in the order in which they are listed below.  

Each element within the citation should also be followed by the punctuation mark shown.  

Elements not relevant to the resource being cited may be omitted.  

  • The pages for each source type in this guide will explain how the elements may differ from one medium to another.

MLA - In text citations

What goes in an in-text citation?

The goal of an in-text citation is to direct your reader to the full citation of your source with minimal disruption to the flow of your text.  In text citations are typically made up of two parts:  

  1. the element that comes first in the full citation in your works cited page (usually the author's name)
  2. the page number

These short references help the reader identify which of your sources the citation comes from as well as the precise location of the quotation within the source.  

If the source does not use page numbers or any other kind of numbering system, you may omit the number from the in-text citation.  Some sources will use paragraph numbers rather than page numbers.  If this is the case, use the paragraph number, preceded by the label par. or pars.  ex:  (Chan, par. 41).

MLA - Quote or paraphrase?

Paraphrasing is an effective way to convey others' ideas in your own voice.  

Give the reader an accurate and comprehensive account of the ideas you have gathered from the source by describing it in your own words, while giving credit to the original creator.  You may reference the author either in your text or in the parenthetical citation, as in the examples below.  

Example 1 - with signal phrase
Author William Zinsser (1994) argues that in order to write well, one must think clearly, just as if one were doing any other logical task.

  • The author is clearly identified in the sentence. The date comes immediately after the author’s name and is in parentheses. You should generally use a signal phrase the first time you mention an author you are citing.

Example 2 - without signal phrase
In order to write well, one must think clearly and work at it, just as if one were doing any other logical task (Zinsser 12).

  • The author is clearly identified in the parenthetical citation. The page number is immediately after the author’s last name. There is no comma between them. The end period is AFTER the citation, never before. This method can be used after the author has been established in your text by a previous signal phrase.

Use a direct quote only when the exact words used by the author are important to your argument.  

Long quotations (running for four lines or more) should be offset from the text, with the parenthetical reference at the end of the quotation.  

Short quotations (running fewer than four lines) should be incorporated into the text with the parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, before the period.  

The rules about signal phrases apply to direct quotations as well - if you include the author's name in your text, you may omit it from the parenthetical citation.  

What is the location?

The location usually applies to where you found the source.  It could be a range of page numbers within a book or article, the URL for a website, or the DOI number for an article in a database.

Location DOES NOT refer to the city in which a source was published.  

MLA - Who is the author?

The author refers to the person or entity that created the source.  
Authors can include individual people writing books and articles, Film directors, government agencies, corporations, and many more.

List the author last name first:  Brown, Brene.  

If the person you are listing as the creator is someone other than an author, such as an editor or translator, include a label that indicates this.  

Example: Nunberg, Geoffrey, editor.

If the source was created by an organization, such as an institution, government agency, corporation, etc. list the name of the organization as the author.  

However, if the authoring organization is also the publisher, do not list it in the author spot.  Begin the entry with the source title and list the organization only in the publisher spot.  

What if there are multiple authors?

When a source has two authors, list them in the order in which their names appear in the work.  Only the first person will be listed last name first.  The second person's name should appear in normal order.  

Example:  Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich

When a source has three or more authors, list only the first person's name (last name, first name), followed by et al (and others).  

Example: Brown, Peter C., et al.  

What if there is no author listed?

Do not list the author as Anonymous, rather simply skip the author element and begin the citation with the source title.  

MLA - What do you mean by container?

MLA - Who are the other contributors?

Who else played a role in creating the work?

Other contributors are people other than the main author who participated in creating the work.  

List these names after the title of the container (if applicable) preceded by a phrase describing their role.  

adapted by
directed by
edited by
illustrated by
introduction by
narrated by
performance by
translated by

Do I need to list the publisher?

Listing the publisher is not necessary for the following types of works:

  • periodicals
  • works published by the author or editor
  • Websites where the name of the site is the same as the name of the publisher
  • Websites such as JSTOR or YouTube, which do not play a role in producing the works they make available

MLA - Paper format