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Citation Guide

A guide to create citations for bibliographies and works cited in research papers.

Basic MLA Rules

For an overview of the changes for MLA 8, see this page from Purdue OWL: MLA Eighth Edition: What's New and Different.

Core Elements of an MLA Citation

As outlined in the 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook, there are nine core elements of an MLA citation:

The core elements of any entry in the works-cited list are given below in the order in which they should appear. An element should be omitted from the entry if it's not relevant to the work being documented. Each element is followed by the punctuation mark shown unless it is the final element, which should end with a period.

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


Some sources will have more than one container, and these should be included in your citation. For example, a journal article accessed in a database has the primary container of the journal in which is was published, and the secondary container of the database in which it was accessed. Similarly, a television episode accessed on Hulu carries the television series as the primary container, and Hulu as the secondary container.

For further explanation of core elements and containers, and examples of how they work, see Works Cited: A Quick Guide, from the MLA Style Center.

Additional basic rules for MLA citations:
  • Italicize titles of self-contained works (books, periodicals, films, television series, etc)
  • Place quotation marks around the titles of sources that are part of a larger work (journal articles, an essay or poem in a collection, television episodes, etc.)
  • All citations should be double spaced
  • Indent after the first line of each entry
  • Entries are not numbered
  • Alphabetize by the first word of the entry
  • If an element is not present, omit it
  • If no author is listed, begin with title
  • Capitalize titles of books and articles according to convention, no matter how they appear in a database or catalog
  • Editions of books are noted after the title in the following format: 2nd ed. First editions are not listed as such. If no edition is listed, omit the edition section
  • Dates are in Day Month Year format (e.g. 12 Dec. 1992) with all months abbreviated to three letters followed by a period (Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.) except May, June, and July, which are left as is
  • Page numbers in MLA are sometimes shortened. If the page numbers are three or more digits, shorten the second number to two digits when possible. Examples: 8-9; 44-49; 112-23; 492-506; 1253-66.
  • All citations end with a period.
  • Italics must be used with the title of the database.

Online MLA Help

Online sites specifically for MLA.