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MLA Style Guide

This guide is intended to introduce you to the basics of citation formatting as outlined in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook.

9th Ed. Video Tutorial

Acceptable Abbreviations


Book or publication part








for example

et al.

and others (used often when listing authors/contributors)

2nd ed.

second edition




no date

p. (pp.)

page (pages)


volume (as in vol.4)





The Basics

Works Cited List

You must include an alphabetical list of references, titled Works Cited, at the end of your paper (105). Include complete details for each source mentioned in the body of the text. With some important exceptions, MLA 9th edition requires the nine elements listed in the template below, if available. A container can be a print journal, website, database, or any other media.

MLA Citation Breakdown

The example below is the citation from an electronic journal article, meant to highlight the different elements of a basic citation in MLA format. Details regarding the elements of citations for other sources (books, videos, etc.) can be found within the sections below.

an example of an MLA formatted citation from an electronic journal article

Elements of a Citation

The 9 Core Elements of an MLA Citation

1. Author

  • Begin the entry with the author's last name, followed by a comma and the rest of the name.
  • When a source has two authors, include them in the order in which they are presented in the work. For the first author, list their last name first, followed by the first name, then add a comma and and, give the second name in normal order (First then last name).
    • e.g Dorris, Michael, and Luise Erdirick, The Crown of ....
  • For a source with three or more authors, reverse the first of the names as described above and follow it with a comma and et al.
    • e.g Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital Humanities...
  • End the element with a period (unless a period is part of the author's last name already appears at the end).

2. Title of source

  • Depending upon the type of source, it should be listed in italics or quotation marks.
    • Italics: books & websites
    • Quotation marks: A periodical (journal, magazine or newspaper article), piece of music or album.

3. Title of container

A “container” is a larger unit in which the source is "contained."

  • In some cases, you may include a second container. An example of this would be when you're citing an article that was accessed via an online database, you would include the name of the journal [container #1] and the name of the database [container #2].
  • The info within this element should be italicized.
  • This can be a journal/periodical title, website, database or any other type of media.
  • End this element with a comma.

4. Other contributors

  • Here is where you would include necessary information about those who contributed to the work. Only add this element if you feel their participation is important to your research (146).

Some common descriptions for this element are:

adapted by edited by illustrated by
directed by introduction by performed by

5. Version

  • Journal Volume number
  • End this element with a comma.

6. Number

  • If your source is part of a numbered sequence list that information here.
  • End this element with a comma.

7. Publisher, (MLA Handbook, 5.54)

  • Omit business words like Company (Co.), Corporation (Corp.), Incorporated (Inc.) & Limited (Ltd.).
  • In the names of academic presses, replace University Press with UP
  • For instances where the words are separated by other words or appear alone, replace them with U and P.
    e.g.  "U of Chicago P", "MIT P", "Teachers College P".
  • Otherwise write publishers' name in full.
  • End the element with a comma.

8. Publication date

  • End this element with a comma.

9. Location

  • For Print sources: enter the page/paragraph information.
  • For Online sources: enter DOI, if DOI is not available, enter the sources URL.
  • End this element with a period.
What is a DOI?

A DOI (digital object identifier) is an article identification number provides a permanent url for an electronic resource. You can usually find the DOI located on the first page of the electronic journal article, near the copyright notice.

Where can you find a DOI?

You can find the DOI in the search results list or the abstract page for a particular article. 

Please Note: not all articles are assigned a DOI's (Digital Object Identifier), see flow chart below for info.

From the Purdue OWL, see how to cite the DOI.

A Few Optional Elements

The core elements of the entry -- which should generally be included, if they exist -- may be accompanied by optional elements, at the writers discretion. Some of these optional elements can be added to the end of the entry, others it would make more sense to insert it in the middle of the entry, after the core elements they relate to. (208)

Date of Original Publication, 1983,               
City of Publication, Houston,
Date of Access. February 14, 2017.

MLA Citation Examples


For a print journal article with two authors, note the order of first and last names of each author. (111)

Morens, David M., and Jeffery K. Taubenberger. “Understanding Influenza Backward.” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 302, no. 6, 12 Aug. 2009, pp. 679-80.

With journal articles, listing the format (e.g. “Print.”) is optional and MLA recommends doing so only for unexpected media (e.g. “Transcript”) (52).


Articles accessed using an online database should be identified with the database name (Title of Container) and URL (Location). (320)

Ruetzler, Tanya. “Food, Beverage, and Service Quality: Does Culture Impact Satisfaction with University Food Services?” Journal of Culinary Science & Technology, vol. 6, iss. 4, 2008, pp. 308-24. Academic Search Premier.


Because it has a single author and no credited translator or editor, this book needs only the Author, Title, Publisher, and Date.  The city of publication is optional (313).

Singer, Jefferson A. Personality and Psychotherapy: Treating the Whole Person. Guilford Press, 2005.


This entry in an online reference work has no credited author and can begin with the title (327)


"Behaviourism." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 7 Jan. 2009.


This example is the Handbook itself. Because the MLA both published and is the credited author of the book, the author element is skipped. Be sure to consult the Handbook for more comprehensive treatment.

MLA Handbook. 9th ed. Modern Language Association of America, 2021.

Online Resources

Websites often have multiple publishers listed in copyright statement.  List all of them, separated by a slash, in the order they appear on the website. It is not required to include the date accessed (324).

Purdue OWL: Online Writing Lab. The Writing Lab/The OWL at Purdue/Purdue University,