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MLA Style Guide

The basics of MLA citation and paper formatting as outlined in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.)

What is MLA Style?

The Modern Language Association establishes the MLA style rules for formatting papers and citing research sources.  It publishes these rules, and periodically updates them, in the MLA Handbook.  The ninth edition of the MLA Handbook contains the most recent MLA style rules.

MLA style is the format most often used by subjects in the Humanities including English, art, modern languages, philosophy, religion, and performing arts.  If you are taking a class in one of these subject areas, your professor will most likely require you to use MLA style when writing your papers.

This MLA style how-to guide will highlight and explain the most commonly used rules and guidelines.  If you have a question about how to cite a source that is less frequently used and not included here, please consult the MLA Handbook. 

Why do you need to use MLA Style?

As a student researcher, you are participating in the scholarly conversation about your topic with other researchers. The Modern Language Association establishes the MLA style rules that all those engaged in this scholarly conversation should follow.   By following MLA style for citing your sources and formatting your paper, you are able to:

  • give credit to others whose work you have consulted
  • avoid plagiarism
  • allow your readers to check your sources and find more information on the topic

As a participant in the scholarly conversation about your topic, you should review the sources cited by the authors of articles you find on your topic.  These sources may be helpful for your own research.

When do you need to use MLA Style?

You will need to follow the rules and guidelines of MLA style to:

  • set up and format your paper correctly as you type it
  • include in-text citations throughout your paper
  • create a works cited list at the end of your paper

For more information about how to format your paper, include in-text citations, and create a works cited list, please see the corresponding pages in this guide.

MLA Online Resources

Additional helpful websites about MLA style:

Citation Management Tools

Wolfgram Library offers access to two citation management tools -- RefWorks and Zotero.   These tools can help you gather, manage, store, and share information about your research sources.  They can also help you generate citations and bibliographies.

For more information, check out our how-to guides for these citation management tools: