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{MLA Format: A Quick Guide}

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Words of Wisdom

Don't be afraid to write badly, everybody does.

— Frank Conroy

The following information, adapted from The MLA Handout for Writers of Research Papers, 8th edition, demonstrates many of the more common examples of how to cite your sources using MLA style. For additional information, consult the MLA Handout at the reference desks located throughout the Texas A&M University libraries.

In-Text Citations

When you omit the author’s name in the sentence:
Ex. One researcher discovered a direct relationship between the frequency of laughter and the level of anxiety in teaching scenarios (Elizondo 2).
When you mention the author’s name in your sentence:
Ex.  Elizondo states that “Responding to humor that the client has placed in their document shows that you are indeed a person” (154).
 When you cite more than one work by the same author:
Ex. The author initially proposed making jokes within the learning environment to foster a productive atmosphere. (Elizondo, Laughing and Learning 24). However, he eventually settles on a more indirect approach, focusing on observational mirth instead of forced humor (Elizondo, “My Humorous Hubris” 2).
When the work has three or more authors:
Ex. Researchers hold that humor can effectively be used to reduce power distances in writing consulting scenarios (Elizondo et al. 9).

Citations in the “Works Cited” List

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has dropped the use of specific citations for different sources due to the combination of sources so common in modern publications, like a song listened to online, taken from a record album released decades ago. MLA has, instead, created a list of core elements that should be identified and placed in order in a citation. Entries on your “Works Cited” page should be organized alphabetically by author. If no author is available for a source, alphabetize by the title of the source.

  1. Author
  2. Title of source
  3. Title of container
  4. Other contributors
  5. Version
  6. Number
  7. Publisher
  8. Publication Date
  9. Location
1. Author: Begin the citation with the name of the author, if available. When creating your entry, list the authors in the order they appear in the source material. The first author should be written Last name, First name. If you are citing a source with two authors, cite the first author as described, followed by “and” and the second author’s name with the first name first, followed by the last name. If you are citing three or more authors, cite the first author as described, followed by “et al.,” the Latin abbreviation meaning “and others.”
Exs. Dryden, Tyler.                  Seully, Greg and Benjamin Wasikowski.                 Reed, Arturo et al.
2. Title of source: Cite titles exactly as they are given in the source. If the source is part of a larger work (ex. an article within a journal, a short story in an anthology), put the title in quotation marks. If a source is self-contained or independent (ex. a book or film), italicize the title. This part of the citation will be followed by a period.
Ex: Wuthering Heights.        “A Short History of the Microwave.”                       Saving Private Ryan.     
3. Title of container: If the documented source is a part of something larger (ex. a television series, an academic journal), that larger unit is referred to as the container. For example, if your source is an article, the container would be the journal in which it appeared. Containers are italicized and followed by a comma.
Exs. Microwave Monthly,     The Great Anthology of Short Stories,                    Game of Thrones,
4. Other contributors: “Other contributors” includes people that had a hand in the final product but are not the original creator, such as editors or translators. Cite these contributors with an unabbreviated description of their action (ex. edited by, translated by). This part of the citation, if applicable, will be followed by a comma.
Exs.  edited by Tom Lane,           translated by Hunter Pierce,                             performed by George Clooney,
5. Version: Sources are commonly released in multiple forms (ex. reprinted versions of textbooks, extended cuts of films). This part of the citation, if applicable, will be followed by a comma.
Exs: 7th ed.,                                 extended director’s cut,                                         unabridged version,
6. Number: Do not confuse Version with Number. When a source is part of a numbered sequence, like a journal, cite the number. If the source is numbered in a two-tier system (ex. volumes and issues, seasons and episodes), differentiate between the two by type. This part of the citation, if applicable, will be followed by a comma.
Exs. vol. 5, no. 9,                      season 8, episode 1,                                                 no. 147,
7. Publisher: This part of the citation refers to the agent responsible for making the source publicly available (ex. a research agency, university press, film studio). Publishers for websites are often found at the bottom of the page with the copyright information. This part of the citation, if applicable, will be followed by a comma.
Exs. Texas A&M UP,               Twentieth Century Fox,                                             Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,
8. Publication date: Sources can sometimes appear in different media on different dates. Choose the date most relevant to your work. Periodicals are sometimes dated with a season, rather than a specific date. Include this information along with the year. This part of the citation, if applicable, will be followed by a comma.
Exs. 28 Dec. 2011,                     1999,                                                                        Spring 2002,
9. Location: The source’s location is dependent on how the source was published. Locations in print sources are indicated with page numbers. The location for a website is often its URL. Publishers sometimes use digital object identifiers (DOI) as locators for online publications. When available, use DOIs instead of URLs, as DOIs do not change. This will be the last item in the citation and should be followed by a period.
Exs. pp. 88-101.                       www.mla.org/MLA-Style/.                                            doi:10.1353/pmc.2000.0021.

Note: Keep in mind that not every element will appear in every citation. Regardless of which element appears last, MLA citations should always end with a period.

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