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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is commonly used in Liberal Arts and Humanities classes. MLA provides rules for the general format of a paper, in-text citations within the body of a paper, and the Works Cited list at the end. It is important to note that in most cases every reference should have an in-text citation. Inversely, every in-text citation should correspond to a reference in the Works Cited list.

MLA style provides the following formatting rules for writing assignments:

  • Double-spaced throughout, even the Works Cited page
  • 1″ margins on all sides
  • 12-point sized font
  • Use a legible font. MLA suggests Times New Roman
  • In the upper-left of the first page of the paper:
    • Your name
    • Your professor’s name
    • The course code (ENG-101, SOC-225, etc.)
    • The date
  • After the information described above, center your title. Capitalize the title like a sentence
    • Do not underline, bold, or put the title in quotation marks
  • Start the paper after the title
    • Do not start at the top of the following page
  • The header:
    • Top-right corner of every page
      • Last Name and page number.

In-text citations are found within sentences and paragraphs of assignments to make clear the information being quoted or paraphrased comes from a specific source on the Works Cited page. IMPORTANT: An in-text citation is necessary whether the information is directly quoted from a source or paraphrased.

In-text citations require two pieces of information: author name and page number. Regardless of whether you have paraphrased or are quoting directly from, include the page number. This differs from another popular citation style, APA. Below are examples of how to format in-text citations.

Works by a Single Author

Placing the author and page number at the end of a sentence

admitting you need help is the first step (Considine 325).

When the author is mentioned in a sentence

Considine says the first step is admitting that you need help (325).

Works by Multiple Authors

Placing the 2 authors and page number at the end of sentence

The results of the study were clear (Clarke and Vaid 196).

When the 2 authors are mentioned in a sentence

When writing both author’s names in a sentence, be sure to use “and” not the ampersand (&) between each name.

As Clarke and Vaid demonstrated (196).

For a work with more than 3 authors

Results of the study were unclear (Schwartz et al. 419).

Works by Associations, Organizations, Corporations, Government Agencies, etc.

In-text citation

When the author of a source is an association, organization, corporation, or government agency, use the name of the organization followed by the page number. If the name of the organization is long, it is appropriate to use abbreviations (gov’t for government, nat’l for national).

(World Health Organization 98).

Works with No Author

Using the title in place of author name

If the title is long use the first few words. If it is short use the entire title. For short sources like journal articles put it in quotation marks. For long sources such as a play, book, or entire web site, put the title in italics.

Children who watch more than 12 hours of television a week have an increased risk of becoming obese (“Television watching habits” 4).

Citing Indirect Sources

Sometimes a source is cited in another source. For example, a scholarly journal article mentions the results of a study from a different article. In this case, the journal article is citing a different source that you would like to use.

Providing an in-text citation for a source cited in a source on your reference page

In the example below, Johnson is the name of the author of the article you are reading. You will have a reference for Johnson’s article on your reference page. Williams is the author of the source that Johnson is citing. Because Williams’ information is found inside Johnson’s article, you only will have a reference for Johnson’s article.

Williams argued… (qtd. in Johnson 4).

The Works Cited page should be formatted using the following rules:

  • “Works Cited” is written at the top-center of the page
    • Do not italicize, bold, or put this in quotation marks
  • Start at the top of the following page after the paper ends
  • Alphabetize citations by last name or title if there is no author
  • Citations are formatted using a hanging indentation. This means the first line is flush left and every line thereafter is tabbed in 0.5″. This begins anew for each citation.
  • List page numbers efficiently. If a journal article appears on pages 145 through 153, list the page numbers in the Works Cited page as 145-53.

Below are reference examples for sources you will commonly use. When creating a citation pay attention to the details. What needs to be italicized? How should things be capitalized? When and where do you need a period? All of this important to creating a properly formatted citation.

Journal, Magazine, and Newspaper Articles

If an issue number isn’t seen, don’t assume there’s not one. A Google search of the article title can help verify information needed for the citation.

An article in a scholarly journal with volume numbers but no issue numbers

Cheuk, Brandon. “Delivering Business Value Through Information Literacy in the Workplace”. Libri, vol. 15, 2008, pp. 137-43.

An article in a scholarly journal with volume and issue numbers

Washington, Edgar. “An Overview of Cyberbullying in Higher Education”. Adult Learning, vol. 26, no. 1, 2015, pp. 21-27.

A magazine article

Falco, Marcus. “Detective Work in Ancient Rome”. Time, 15 Jun. 2010, pp. 33-36.

A newspaper article

Schirano, Matthew. “Vidal Vows to Crack Down on Crime”. The Democrat and Chronicle, 19 Jun. 2012, p. 1A.


Be sure to clarify whether someone is an author or editor. The differentiation may be unclear when looking at the cover of a book. Again, a Google search can confirm information or locate missing elements. For example, the Amazon page where a book is sold will provide most of the information needed to create a citation.

One author, no editor

Duncan, Tim. Winning On and Off the Basketball Court. Russell Sage Foundation, 2014.

Multiple authors, no editor

James, LeBron, and Kyrie Irving. The Challenge of Teamwork. Cavaliers Foundation, 2015.

A work in an anthology or collection

Vidal, Gore. “Writing for Godot.” The Secret Diaries edited by Ted Williams, Penguin, 1999, pp. 33-56.

An edition other than the first

Jackson, Phil. Getting the Most Out of Your Employees. 3rd ed., University of Chicago Press, 2002.

Encyclopedia or Dictionary Entry

When using multiple entries from an encyclopedia or dictionary, provide one citation for the entire book. This means the same in-text citation is used for each entry in the assignment. The citation looks the same as a regular book. If only a single entry from the encyclopedia or dictionary is used, then provide a citation for that specific entry.

A specific entry in an encyclopedia or dictionary

Carter, Vincent. “Thermodynamics.” The Concise Physics Encyclopedia. Dover, 2004, pp. 12-19.


If multiple pages from a single website are used, create one citation for the website’s homepage. Do not create separate citations for each page. If a single page from a website is used, create a citation for that specific page. MLA requires the inclusion of a URL or web address to help readers locate sources. Do not include ‘https://’ when citing URLs. Instead, start with the ‘www’. When looking at the following references note that two dates are commonly listed. The first date is for when the webpage and/or information was published. The second date is when you accessed the webpage.

Website with an author

Smith, Tom. Copy Cataloging for the Digital Era. 28 Feb. 2010, Accessed 15 May 2015.

Website with organization as author

United States Department of Health and Human Services. Medicaid Drug Price Comparisons: Average Manufacturer Price to Published Prices. 24 Apr. 2015, Accessed 10 Jul. 2015.