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MLA Style (8th Edition) Citation Guide: Introduction

Who should use MLA Style?

MLA style is used to cite sources within English, international languages, theater, cultural studies, and other humanities. 

What is MLA Style?

MLA style was created by the Modern Language Association of America. It is a set of rules for publications, including research papers.

In MLA style, you must cite sources that you have paraphrased, quoted or otherwise used to write your research paper. Cite your sources in two places:

  1. In the body of your paper where you add a brief in-text citation.
  2. In the Works Cited list at the end of your paper where you give more complete information for the source.

MLA Core Elements

When deciding how to cite your source, start by consulting the list of core elements. These are the general pieces of information that MLA suggests including in each Works Cited entry. In your citation, the elements should be listed in the following order:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

Each element should be followed by the punctuation mark shown here. Earlier editions of the handbook included the place of publication and required different punctuation (such as journal editions in parentheses and colons after issue numbers). In the current version, punctuation is simpler (only commas and periods separate the elements), and information about the source is kept to the basics.

Note: According to p. 42 of the MLA Handbook, publisher information may be omitted for:

  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • works published by an author or editor
  • web sites whose title is the same as the name of the publisher
  • a web site not involved in producing the work it makes (e.g. user-generated content sites like YouTube)

Commonly Used Terms

Access Date: The date you first look at a source. The access date is added to the end of citations for all websites except library databases.

Citation: Details about one cited source.

Citing: The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

In-Text Citation: A brief note at the point where information is used from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Works Cited List.

Paraphrasing: Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism: Taking, using, and passing off as your own, the ideas or words of another.

Quoting: The copying of words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Works Cited List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.

MLA Style Guide

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