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MLA Citation Style 9th Edition

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

What Needs to be Cited?

When do I need to cite?

If you use information from another source, that source must be cited. This includes:

  • Direct quotations
  • Paraphrased information
  • Summarized ideas

When don't I need to cite?

You don't need to cite information that is considered "common knowledge." Common knowledge includes facts that are known by a lot of people and can be found in many sources. For example, you do not need to cite:

  • Canada's Confederation was in 1867.
  • Edmonton is the capital of Alberta.
  • Water freezes at 0° Celsius.

What is considered "common knowledge" can change based on a person's culture, academic discipline, or peer group.

To decide whether information is "common knowledge," consider:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What can you assume they already know?
  • Will you be asked where you found the information?

Not sure?

When in doubt, cite the source! Citation adds credibility to your writing and highlights the accuracy of your information.

Three Ways to Use Other People's Ideas

You’ve done your research, collected your arguments, and are ready to start writing your assignment.  How do you add this information to your assignment?  There are three ways.

You can:

  1. Summarize the work of others;
  2. Paraphrase their thoughts and words, or;
  3. Quote what they have said.


Using the works of others, you can put their main ideas or findings into your own words and expressions. This is a great approach for when you need to synthesize big ideas or multiple points of a broader concept. 


You can use this approach to reword a concept or passage from a work into your own words. This approach helps ensure your writing has a proper flow.


You can directly quote an author’s passage by placing it in quotations. You should use this approach when the author has expressed the idea in a way that would lose its impact if you rephrased it. The words in your quotation must directly match the original source.

Any time you use a source—whether you summarize, paraphrase, or use a quotation—the author's ideas must be properly attributed.

Narrative & Parenthetical Citations

There are two ways that in-text citations can fit within your sentence: narrative and parenthetical.


The names of the authors are included in the sentence. The page number appears in parentheses immediate after the paraphrased or quoted information.

Example: Paraphrased
Ratcliffe asserts the superiority of Messi as a professional athlete (5).


Example: Quotation
Ratcliffe argues that "Messi is the best pro soccer player currently active" (5).


The names of the authors are not included in the sentence, but their findings are. Both the author names and the page number appear in the parenthesis.

When a parenthetical citation is at the end of a sentence, put a period after the closing parentheses.

Example: Paraphrased
Messi is a superior professional athlete (Ratcliffe 5).


Example: Quotation
Messi was found to be "the best pro soccer player currently active" (Ratcliffe 5).

Paraphrasing (4.5-4.8)

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

When you put information into your own words by summarizing or paraphrasing, you must still cite the original author or researcher as well as the page or paragraph number(s).

Within the research paper, quotations will have more impact when used judiciously (Gibaldi 109).

Direct Quotations (4.9-4.11)

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

When you incorporate a direct quotation into a sentence, you must cite the source and ensure the quote is recorded exactly. Fit quotations within your sentences, making sure the sentences are grammatically correct.

Gibaldi indicates, “Quotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (109).
Remember that “[q]uotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (Gibaldi 109).


Block Quotations (6.35, 6.38, 6.40-6.42)

If the quotation will run to more than 4 lines in your paper, use a block format in which the quotation is indented 1/2 an inch from the left margin, with no quotation marks.

Example (MLA Handbook 254):
In Moll Flanders, Defoe follows the picaresque tradition by using a pseudoautobiographical narration:

My true name is so well known in the records, or registers, at Newgate and in the Old Bailey, and there are some things of
such consequence still depending there relating to my particular conduct, that it is not to be expected I should set my name or the account of my family to this work . . . (1)


Altering Direct Quotations (6.54-6.67)

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

If you need to leave out part of a quotation to make it fit grammatically or because it contains irrelevant/unnecessary information, insert ellipses (. . .) to mark the omission (6.58-6.61). Ensure that by omitting information you are not fundamentally altering the intent of the quote.

Claims have been made that "fruit cake is an underrated dessert . . . that many people enjoy" (Ratcliffe 151).


If you must add clarifying words or statements or alter existing words within a quotation for reasons of grammar or clarity, one option is to use square brackets (6.65-6.67). 


Shaw admitted, "Nothing can extinguish my interest in Shakespear [sic]."

Milton's Satan speaks of his "study [pursuit] of revenge."


Sometimes you may need to capitalize or lowercase the first letter of the first word of a quotation. You should capitalize the first letter of a quotation if you precede the quote with a verb of saying (e.g. writes, says, states, exclaims); you should lowercase the first letter of a quotation if the quote is integrated into your sentence. For more information, please see sections 6.54-6.57.


Gibaldi indicates, “Quotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (109).

Remember that “[q]uotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (Gibaldi 109).

No Page Numbers (6.20, 6.26)

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

If a source doesn't have page numbers, then you can include a different type of label if one is provided.

Common part labels include:

  • paragraphs - use par. or pars.
  • sections - use sec. or secs.
  • chapters - use ch. or chs.
  • lines - use line or lines

If page, paragraph, line, or other part numbers are not readily available, this information can be left out of the in-text citation (6.26). For example, you would not need to count the paragraphs on a website if the paragraphs are unnumbered.

If you are citing an audio or video recording, you can use a timestamp (hour, minutes, seconds) where available. 


(Pangee, pars. 12-18)

("Browser" 00:01:30-40)

Two or More Works by the Same Author(s) (6.8)

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

If you are citing more than one work by the same author in the body of your work, you will need to include the title of the work (or a shortened version of the title) as part of your citation. This helps your reader to know which work you are referring to.

(Hawkins, Irreplaceable 76).


Sometimes you may need to cite two different authors with the same surname. In a narrative citation, you should include the first name of each author; in a parenthetical citation, you should add the author's first initial. For more information, please see section 6.7.

Example: Citing works by Jaimie Baron and Naomi Baron
Narrative: Naomi Baron argues that writing is the "other half" of literacy (194).
Parenthetical: Reading is "just one half of literacy. The other half is writing" (N. Baron 194).


Sometimes you may need to shorten the title of a work to include in your prose. For more information, please see section 6.10.

The full title So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish can be shortened to So Long.

Poetry (6.22, 6.36-6.38, 6.42, 6.61)

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

Citing Poetry

If a poem is published in an edition with numbered lines, you may use those instead of page numbers to indicate the original location of your quote. If you are citing more than one line of poetry, insert the / symbol between the lines of poetry.

Cullen concludes that "[o]f all the things that happened there / That's all that I remember" (lines 11-12).


Citing More than Three Lines of Poetry

Begin the quotation on a new line and indent each of the lines 1/2 an inch from the left margin.

In "High Noon," by Andy Wainwright, the speaker concludes:

       today my entire generation
       is a poet
       it travels in packs
       & word is spreading
       I am alone (lines 7-11)


Note that if the original work uses unconventional spacing in its layout, you will want to reproduce that spacing in your paper (6.38).

Plays (6.22-6.23, 6.40)

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

Plays Written in Verse (6.22)

When citing well-known verse plays, you can typically omit page numbers if other identifying divisions are provided (e.g. act, scene, canto, book, part, and line).

Though initially described as "too full o' th' milk of human kindness" (1.5.17), Macbeth quickly descends into horrific slaughter.
In this example, the citation is for act 1, scene 5, line 17 of Macbeth.


Plays Written in Prose (6.23)

When citing a play written in prose, use the page number first, followed by a semicolon and then other useful information like an act (e.g. Miller 9; act 1).

Citing a Conversation between Two or More Characters (6.40)

Start the quote on a new line, indented 1/2 an inch from the left margin. Write the name of the first speaker in capital letters, followed by a period and the speaker's line(s). Do the same for the next speaker(s) as necessary.

If the quote you are using for one of the speakers continues onto another line, it is indented an additional amount.

        OTHELLO. I will deny thee nothing!
              Whereon I do beseech thee grant me this,
              To leave me but a little to myself.
        DESDEMONA. Shall I deny you? No. Farewell, my lord. (3.3.83-85)


When You Have Not Seen the Original Source (Indirect Sources) (6.77)

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

Sometimes an author writes about work that someone else has done, but you are unable to track down the original source. In this case, because you did not read the original source, you will include only the source you did consult in the Works Cited list. The abbreviation “qtd. in” as part of the in-text citation indicates you have not read the original source.

Example: Do not include Fong (1987) in Works Cited; do include Bertram.
Fong’s 1987 study found that older students’ memory can be as good as that of young people, but this depends on how memory is tested (qtd. in Bertram 124).