27 MLA Documentation

Documentation

MLA Citation:

Whenever you use another person’s work, you need a method to give the original creators credit. The Modern Language Association (MLA) has created one system for doing so. MLA citation has two primary uses: creating a Works Cited page, which is a list of sources used in a document, and rules for in-text citations, which is how you separate another person’s words from your own and signal to readers the origin of the text.
A Works Cited page is a list of outside sources used in a text. The sources are alphabetized by their authors’ last names. If you have sources without named authors, use the first word of the source’s title (but not a, an, or the). The entries are double spaced, without extra spaces between the entries. Entries also use a hanging indent; you can find the hanging indent tool in the “Paragraph” tab of word. The Works Cited page is the last page, or pages, of your paper, and always starts at the top of a new page. If your text is five pages long, the Works Cited page will start on the top of page six. Instead of entering returns, insert a page-break to ensure that your Works Cited page begins properly. The Works Cited page will be titled “Works Cited” centered at the top of the page.

Hanging Indent Example:

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

See Purdue OWL for citation help:
https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_in_text_citations_the_basics.html

Conventions

MLA has some basic rules about formatting different types of texts in your writing. Follow these rules whether you’re writing about a text in the body of a paper or creating a works cited page. Properly identifying different types of sources is one way you can create a strong student ethos.

Articles

News articles, scholarly articles, magazine articles, stories on web pages, chapters from a text, short stories are all signaled with quotation marks: Raymond Carver wrote the short story “Cathedral.” In “Greece’s Island of Despair,” the author discusses problems faced by refugees. The quotation marks signal to readers that you’re discussing a short work, that’s often published as part of a larger collection (book, newspaper, magazine, journal, or web page).

Books, Magazines, Newspapers

The eighth edition of the MLA handbook suggests thinking of these works as containers, as they typically “contain” articles, chapters, etc. These items are identified with italics. For example, the short story mentioned above can be found in Carver’s collection Will You Please Be Quiet, Please. I found the article about Greece’s refugee problem in The New York Times.

Capitalization

MLA style capitalizes the initial letters of words in a title. Sometimes, the databases won’t do this. Sometimes, you’ll need to do this yourself. For example, the database shows the title of a source as:
“A two-stage flow-based intrusion detection model for next-generation networks”
You would write the title as:
“A Two-Stage Flow-Based Intrusion Detection Model for Next-Generation Networks”
Some words, such as a, an, and the, and conjunctions (like and, but, for), and prepositions (like to, between, on, in) don’t require initial letter capitalization in titles, unless they are the first word of the title. Sometimes the databases will put the author’s name in all capitals. You should capitalize the name normally, so SAPHARA, JASON would become Saphara, Jason.
MLA citations require specific information listed below. One of the purposes of tis information is to acknowledge the work of other authors. Another purpose is to allow other researches to consult the same sources. Thus, the citations require more than the author’s name and the work’s title—they also require publication information.

Components:

MLA 8th edition citations all follow the same citation pattern. There are nine different components that can be included within the citations. They always come in the same order.
  1. Author (Last name, First name)
  2. Source Title
  3. Container Title
  4. Other Contributors
  5. Version
  6. Issue Number
  7. Publisher
  8. Publication Date
  9. Location/Locator

 

 1. Author

The author’s name should be written Last, First. This should look like this:

Smith, John. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

Sometimes you may have sources with multiple authors.
To cite a source with two authors, you determine who the first author is in alphabetical order by their last name. They will be written as Last, First, and then the second author is written First and Last, such as:

Smith, John and Sandy Zinkman. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

Other times, you may have sources with three or more authors. To cite the authors’ names on this type of course, list the first author and then replace the other authors’ names with et al.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

2. Source Title

The title of the source should follow the author’s name. Depending upon the type of source, it should be listed in italics or quotation marks. If it is a stand alone text, or a text that is the biggest available piece, then it should be italicized, like a book, film, album name, or website. If a source is a smaller piece of a bigger text, or can be found within another text, then it should be italicized, such as an article in a journal, the name of a single song, or a chapter in a book.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

Smith, John. The Big Book of Cat Lovers. Penguin, 2008.

3. Title of container

It’s important to understand the difference between a source and a container. A source is one piece of text (article, book, song, website, etc) and a container is a bigger piece that holds multiple sources. You can think of it this way: a source is one chocolate chip cookie and a container is an entire box of chocolate chip cookies.

Instead of using quotation marks around the titles of containers, we will italicize them. These titles will be followed by a comma instead of a period, because the information that follows them describes the container, so we don’t want to end that part of the citation yet.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

You may use a database through the library’s website to find these cookies. Although these cookies are still found in their cookie boxes, they’re actually within a second container too. The second container is the database, which is holding the cookie boxes. Think of it as an entire pallet of cookie boxes. These larger containers should also be italicized and followed by a comma.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

 

 

4. Other Contributors

Sometimes authors are not the only contributors toward a text. Some texts may also have editors, illustrators, and translators. If their contributions are important for your research, or if they help to identify the particular source, then they should also be identified. To do so, you will add their title/explanation of their contribution, and their name, after the title of the work, and follow it with a comma.

Smith, John. The Big Book of Cat Lovers. Illustrated by Jack Wilmington, Penguin, 2008.

5. Version

If a source is listed as an edition or version of a work, this should also be included.

Smith, John. The Big Book of Cat Lovers. 2nd ed., Penguin, 2008.

6. Number

You must include the numbers of any multi-volume book, or journal. These sources may have volume and issue numbers. The numbers must be listed in your citation.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

7. Publisher

The publisher produces or distributes the source to the public.
Smith, John. The Big Book of Cat Lovers. Penguin, 2008.

If there is more than one publisher, and they are all are relevant to your research, list them in your citation, separated by a forward slash (/).
Smith, John. The Big Book of Cat Lovers. Penguin/Macmillan, 2008.

8. Publication Date

The publication date is exactly what it sounds like: the date that the source text was published. There is a trick, though. The source may have been published more than once, on more than one date. This can happen when things are being republished online, or perhaps if you’re working with a television show that aired on CBS (one date) and then Hulu (another date). If the source has more than one date, you can use the date that is most relevant to your research. If you are not sure which one to use, always err on the side of caution and use the original publication date.
Smith, John. The Big Book of Cat Lovers. Penguin, 2008.

9. Location

The text’s location is where you can find it. Try to be as specific as possible so that someone can easily locate the work you are citing. Some different things that you can include to help show the location of the work include page numbers, DOIs, and URLs.
The page numbers, if applicable, should be the page numbers where your source text can be found within its container. You should indicate that these are the page  numbers by putting “pp.” in front of the page range.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

A DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source is locatable, even if the URL changes. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.

Smith, John et al. “I Like Cats.” Journal of Cat Lovers, vol. 47, no. 2. Sept. 2008, pp. 15-32. Academic Search Premier, doi:11.2547/rep.2008.111.1.1

What Do I Need?

Not all of these components will be necessary for all source types. If you’re missing information, for example if a source doesn’t have a listed author, then you leave that information out.

In-Text Citation

A Works cited page is only half of your citation responsibility. You must also signal to readers when you’re using outside material. MLA citation requires you to use parenthetical citations. This may sound intimidating, but it’s just a fancy way of saying “using parentheses.”
The basic formula is to place the author’s last name and the page number of the quote in parentheses at the end of the quotation:
One source even claims, “Cats are great pets” (Smith 16).
Notice that at the end of the quote there is no period. The period follows the citation, as that signals the end of the sentence. The only exception is if you’re quoting a question:
One source asks, “Cats are great pets?” (Smith 16).
Notice that you still place a period after the parentheses. Also note that there is no punctuation between the author’s last name and the page number, nor do you include an abbreviation for page or pages.
For multiple authors follow the same rule as citation:
One source even claims, “Cats are great pets” (Smith and Zinkman 16).
One source even claims, “Cats are great pets” (Smith et al. 16).
Use the last names of two authors and “et al.” for three or more authors. If there is no author use the title, if it’s brief, or an abbreviation of the title for longer titles:
One source even claims, “Cats are great pets” (“I Like Cats” 16).
One source even claims, “Cats are great pets” (“I Like”16).  [If the source was “I Like Cats, but Dogs Are Much Better Pets.”]
If you introduce the author before the quotation, only the page number is necessary:
Smith claims, “Cats are great pets” (16).
If you’re summarizing or paraphrasing, you don’t need to use quotation marks, but you do need the parenthetical citation:
One source notes that cats make great companions and are a popular pet choice (Smith 16).
If you’re unfamiliar with citation systems, this may seem confusing. However, there is a method to these rules. A person reading your paper who is interested in a source can read the in-text citation, find the source in the Works Cited page using the author’s last name, and then using the information in the citation find the source.
A guide to MLA can be found here.
An MLA handout to simplify this can be found here.

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Writing and Rhetoric by Heather Hopkins Bowers, Anthony Ruggiero, and Jason Saphara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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