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MLA Citation Quick Guide: Dissecting a Citation

A simple introduction to citing sources following the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed.

Author

Single Author

Provide the author's name in reversed order (Surname, Given Names or Initials).  Give the full name as provided on the publication; do not shorten or abbreviate the name.  Reversed order facilitates an alphabetical listing in the Works Cited section of the paper.

Example: Dickens, Charles.

Multiple Authors

Provide the first author's name in reversed order and all subsequent authors in direct order, preceding each name with a comma and the final name with 'and'.

Example: Mathews, Lesley A., Stephanie M. Cabarcas, and Elaine M. Hurt.

Title

Transcribe the title of the publication or article as given on the item.  Include any final punctuation that is part of the title.  Title and Subtitle are separated by a colon.

Use standard 'title capitalization.'  Capitalize the first word and last word of the title and all other words except:

  • articles
  • prepositions
  • coordinating conjunctions
  • 'to' used in an infinitive

Publication Title

The title of the entire publication (book, journal, web site, etc.) is given in italics.  Take the title from the title page of the publication. 

Example:  Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions.

Article Title

The title of a part of a publication (e.g., an article in a book or journal, a page in a website) is enclosed in double quotes.  Retain italicization of any titles within the article title.  Replace any quotation marks with single quotes.

Example:  "Southern Hesters: Hawthorne's Influence on Kate Chopin, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams."

Publication Information

Place

Provide the first-named city of publication.  If no place is given in the publication, use "N.p." (no place of publication given).

Publisher

Provide the name of the publisher.  Abbreviate university presses with "UP."  If no publisher is given, use "n.p." (no publisher).  If the title page includes more than one publisher, list it with its city following a semicolon.

Date

Provide the date of publication from the title page.  If no date of publication is given, use the latest copyright date.  If no date can be found, use "n.d."

Example:  Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2002.

Serial Numbering

Volume

Provide the volume number.  If the serial uses only sequential issue numbers without a volume number, omit the volumn.

Issue

If the serial numbers issues within each volume, provide the issue number following a period.

Date

For most journals, give the year of publication in parentheses.  For monthlies, give the month and year (abbreviate months longer that 4 characters).  For newspapers give the full date in day month year format.

Example:  27.3 (1987)

Pagination

Provide the entire range of page numbers for the article. 

  • For an article in a journal or other serial, place the pagination after the journal's numbering and date separated by a colon.
  • For an article in a book, place the pagination after the date of publication, separated by a period.

Example: 1-33.

When the pagination is not consecutive as is common in magazines and newspapers, give the first page number followed by a plus sign.

Example: 52+.

Medium of Publication

Print sources

Example: Print.

Online sources

For web-based articles and books accessed through library databases, provide the name of the database in italics.  For all web-based sources, identify the medium as "Web." and provide the date the resource was accessed .

Example: Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

URLs

It is now optional to include URLs for web-based resources.  Add a URL if it would be necessary for the reader to locate the web site or if your instructor requests it.  Enclose the URL in angle brackets.

Example: <http://www.educause.edu/ero/article/discovering-impact-library-use-and-student-performance>