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Citing Sources -- MLA, 9th ed.


Previous editions of the MLA Handbook presented a prescriptive list of citations for different publication formats. With the 9th edition of the MLA Handbook, the focus is shifted to the principles of MLA style and how they can be flexibly applied to various formats in a changing publication environment. This brief synopsis of MLA citation formats will describe the core elements of citations according to MLA.  The links on the left will give examples of common citation formats.

Core Elements -- For each of the citations in your list of works cited, use the following elements in the order in which they appear below, including the punctuation mark shown. Omit those elements that are irrelevant to the work cited.

  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. -- Last name first, followed by a comma, and then the rest of the name. In the case of two authors, follow the first author's name with a comma, then the second author's name in normal order followed by a period. In the case of three or more authors, follow the first author's name with a comma, and et al.

  • One author: Diamond, Jared M. Guns, Germs, and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton, 1997.
  • Two authors: Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich. The Crown of Columbus. HarperCollins, 1999.
  • Three or more authors: Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital_Humanities. MIT P, 2012.

2. Title of Source. -- The title is in italics (see examples above).

3. Title of Container, -- When a work being cited is part of a larger whole, that larger whole is considered to be a "container". A container can be a collection of essays, stories, or poems, while the work cited would be an essay, story, or poem included in the "container". Other examples of a container would be a periodical, which contains individual articles, or a television series, which contains individual episodes. In the case of a container, the title of the individual work being cited is followed by a period and in quotation marks, while the title of the container is italicized and followed by a comma.

  • Baron, Naomi S. "Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media." PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193-200.

Sometimes, a container can be nested in another container, such as when an online journal is stored on a platform such as JSTOR, or when a book containing a collection of stories can be read online on Google Books. For each nested container, add all of the core elements from "Title of Container" through "Location," as relevant, to the end of the citation.

  • Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Masque of the Red Death." The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by James A. Harrison, vol. 4, Thomas Y. Crowell, 1902, pp. 250-58. HathiTrust Digital Library,;view=1up;seq=266.

4. Other Contributors, -- Besides the author, there may be other persons credited who are important for identifying a work. Examples would appear in a citation as "edited by," "illustrated by," "translated by," etc.

  • Klima, Ivan. My Crazy Century. Translated by Craig Cravens, Grove P, 2013.

5. Version, -- When a work is published in more than one form, it is important to identify the form by using a version entry. Most common are different versions of books called "editions." Entries for editions might appear as "unabridged version," "Expanded ed.," "7th ed.," etc.

  • Newcomb, Horace, editor. Television: The Critical View. 7th ed., Oxford UP, 2007.

6. Number, -- A work too long to be published in a single volume typically has each of its multiple volumes numbered. Common examples would be a multi-volume book, and journal issues. If one volume of a multi-volume book set is consulted, indicate which volume. Journal issues usually include both a volume number and issue number.

  • Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes. 2nd ed., vol. 2, Oxford UP, 2002.
  • Baron, Naomi S. "Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media." PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193-200.

7. Publisher, -- The publisher is the organization that is responsible for making a work available to the public. In a book, this information is typically found on the title page, or on the reverse of the title page.

  • Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. Penguin Press, 2008.

8. Publication Date, -- Publication dates for books are typically found on the title page, or the reverse of the title page. If more than one date is listed, use the most recent. For periodicals, publication dates appear on the cover, or title page. Publication schedules vary for periodicals and can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.

  • Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man.Vintage, Books, 1995.
  • Baron, Naomi S. "Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media." PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193-200.

9. Location. -- If a printed work is part of a larger work, or "container," use a page number (p.) or range of page numbers (pp.) to identify its location. 

  • Baron, Naomi S. "Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media." PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193-200.

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