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MLA Citation Style 9th Edition

This guide will help you cite sources in MLA Citation Style 9th Edition.

Guidelines for Building a Citation

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 

Each entry in your Works Cited should contain the relevant "core elements" for that source.  In order for the system to remain flexible, it is less about choosing the right citation based on the format (e.g. book, website) and more about creating a citation based on the information elements available for the source. According to MLA, the core elements are:

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

MLA also mentions several optional elements, including original date of publication and date of access (5.105-5.119). 

Sample Works Cited Entry for a Book

Once you have identified the relevant core elements for your source, you format them together. Your entry will look different depending on the type of source that you are citing and the core elements that are present.

1. Author (5.3-5.22)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.)  
      

The author of a work could be a single person, multiple people, or an organization or group. 


Single Author (5.6)

Cite the author’s name with the surname first, followed by the rest of the name as it appears in the source.  If the author is an organization or group, list that name in the author field. 

Examples:

Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford UP, 2011.

United Nations. Consequences of Rapid Population Growth in Developing Countries. Taylor and Francis, 1991.


Two or More Authors (5.7-5.8)

To cite a source with two authors, give their names in the same order as listed in the source. Reverse only the name of the first author, add a comma, and give the other name in normal form. Place a period after the last name (5.7).

To cite a source with three or more authors, name only the first author followed by et al. (5.8).

Examples:

Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital_Humanities. MIT P, 2012.

Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich. The Crown of Columbus. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.


Editors

In a reference to an edited book, insert the editor's name in place of the author's name, followed by a comma and the word "editor" (without the quotation marks; 5.3).

Example:
Wilko, Samantha, editor. The Test Case. Imaginary Press, 2020.

Two or More Works by the Same Author(s) (5.126-5.129)

If the Works Cited list includes two or more entries by the same author(s), give the author(s) name(s) in the first entry only. In subsequent entries, use three hyphens (or 3 dashes) in place of the name(s), followed by a period and the title. Arrange the works in alphabetical order by title.

Examples:

Borroff, Marie. Language and the Poet: Verbal Artistry in Frost, Stevens, and Moore. U of Chicago P, 1979.

---. "Sound Symbolism as Drama in the Poetry of Robert Frost." PMLA, vol. 107, no. 1, Jan. 1992, pp. 131-44. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/462806.


No Author?

If there is no author, begin the entry with the title.


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2. Title of Source (5.23-5.30)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.)  
     

The title element is for the name of the work. Capitalize the first, the last, and all principal words in a title and subtitle.

When to italicize

Italicize the title of larger, self-contained works such as books and periodicals (2.106).

Example:
Jacobs, Alan. The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction. Oxford UP, 2011.

When to use quotation marks

Use quotation marks for the titles of works contained within larger works, such as an article within a periodical or a chapter within a book (2.106).

Example:
Goldman, Anne. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88.

No title?

In cases where the work you are citing doesn't have a title, provide a brief description of the work instead (5.23). 


Additional guidance on styling titles

Check out sections 2.106-2.125 of the MLA Handbook.


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3. Title of Container (5.31-5.37)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 
     

When a source is part of a larger work, MLA refers to the larger work as the source's "container." A container could be a book that is a collection of shorter works, a journal or magazine, a TV series, or a website. Italicize the title of the container and follow it with a comma. 

Works in containers

In the example below, The Future of the Book is the container of the chapter/essay "Toward Metareading."

Example:
Bazin, Patrick. "Toward Metareading." The Future of the Book, edited by Geoffrey Nunberg, U of California P, 1996, pp. 153-68.

More than one container

Sources can have more than one container.  For instance, a journal article may be found within a database, or a TV series may be viewed on a platform like Hulu or Netflix. MLA recommends documenting all of the containers relevant to your source.

In the first example below, "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante" is an article within the journal The Georgia Review.  The Georgia Review is found within the larger container JSTOR, which is a database. 

Examples:

Goldman, Anne. "Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante." The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69-88. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41403188.

"Under the Gun." Pretty Little Liars, season 4, episode 6, ABC Family, 16 July 2013. Hulu, www.hulu.com/watch/511318.


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4. Other Contributors (5.38-5.47)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.)  

People other than the author may have contributed to the creation of a source. Include the names of any such people after a description of their role. Some common contributor phrases include:

  • edited by
  • adapted by
  • translated by
  • directed by
  • uploaded by
Example:
Chartier, Roger. The Order of Books: Readers, Authors, and Libraries in Europe between the Fourteenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane, Stanford UP, 1994.

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5. Version (5.48-5.50)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 

For an edition other than the first, identify the edition of your source by number (e.g. 2nd ed.), by name (e.g. Rev. ed., updated ed., etc.), or by year (e.g. 2008 ed.) - whichever the source indicates.

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

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6. Number (5.51-5.53)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 

For books that are part of a multi-volume set, include the volume number. For journals, include both the volume and issue number, if available. For a TV show this could be the episode and/or season.

Examples:

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

Rampersad, Arnold. The Life of Langston Hughes. 2nd ed., vol. 2, Oxford UP, 2002.


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7. Publisher (5.54-5.67)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 
    

For books, list the publisher’s name as it appears on the title page or copyright page. 

For websites, check the copyright notice at the bottom of the home page or an "About" page.

You do not need to include a publisher for magazines, journals, and newspapers.


If the publisher is the same as the author, you can omit the publisher element (5.54).


MLA also lets you shorten publisher names!  For example, when citing a university press, you can use the abbreviation "UP." So instead of writing out "Oxford University Press," you could use "Oxford UP" in your citation.

For terms that you can omit from a publisher name and common allowed abbreviations, check sections 5.64-5.65 of the handbook.


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8. Publication Date (5.68-5.83)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 
 

List the publication date as fully as you find it in the source. If there is more than one publication date, list the date of the version you are looking at or the edition you have used (5.68).

Examples:
spring 2008 1995 25 Apr. 2013

 

For more information on finding a publication date when it is not readily apparent on a website, check out this guidance from the MLA Style Center.


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9. Location (5.84-5.99)

Numbers in parentheses refer to specific sections in the MLA Handbook (9th ed.) 
      

For print sources, use a page number or page range to identify the location of a source within its container. The abbreviation "p." indicates a single page, whereas "pp." is used for a page range. More information on styling page ranges can be found in the MLA Handbook in section 2.139.

For online works, use the DOI (preferred), permalink, or URL (5.84). The DOI should be prefaced with https://doi.org/ if the DOI does not already include this portion (5.93). When providing a URL, the link should be live (clickable); you can usually omit the "https://" protocol, unless omitting the protocol breaks the link (5.95).

Examples:

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

Chan, Evans. "Postmodernism and Hong Kong Cinema," Postmodern Culture, vol. 10, no. 3, May 2000. Project Muse, https://doi.org/10.1353/pmc.2000.0021.


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