MLA Referencing Style Guide

When preparing an assignment or research paper, it is vital that you acknowledge the resources you have used, as failure to do so constitutes plagiarism. Also, readers may need to be able to retrieve the source information.

Your sources must be cited in the text of your assignment or research paper (in-text citations) where you have referred to information obtained from a particular source, and the list of references at the end of your assignment or research paper.

MLA Examples

Official Style Guides / Info

Steps for Using MLA

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. MLA has developed a standardised Author/Page referencing style known as Parenthetical Citation.

Acknowledge Citations

A research paper without the acknowledgement of sources will be considered as plagiarised. Whether paraphrasing, summarising or quoting directly from a work, you must credit the source.

Documenting References

There are 2 parts to documenting references in the MLA Style:

  1. In-text Citations including Signal Phrases and Parenthetical Citations, and
  2. Works Cited List

In-text Citations

A combination of signal phrases and parenthetical references are used within the text of the paper to acknowledge the use of an author's material.  These direct the reader to the full citation list.

Works Cited Page

The full citation list, called the Works Cited is placed at the end of your paper. The Works Cited lists every reference source used in your essay for a reader to locate and retrieve. Complete information about a cited work must appear in the Works Cited list.

Step 1: Formatting In-text Citations

In-text citations are the same for both print and online sources. Author's last name and page numbers must appear in the text of your work. The page numbers are always placed in parentheses. The author's name can appear either in a signal phrase within your text or in parentheses with the page number at the end of the sentence.

Author in a signal phrase - Example

Christine Haughney reports that shortly after Japan made it illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, "accidents dropped by 75 percent" (8).C

Author named in parentheses - Example

Most states do not keep adequate records on the number of times cell phones are a factor in accidents. (Sundeen 2).

Author Unknown - Example

  • Use the title where the author is unknown.
  • Take information from the title page.
  • Use the complete title in a signal phrase or use a short form of the title in parentheses.
  • Titles of books are underlined or italicised.
  • "Titles" of articles are put in quotation marks.
  • Titles of web sites are underlined or italicised.

Forty cities passed legislation regulating the use of mobile phones ("Lawmakers" 2).

In- text citations: source within a source - Example

When quoted words appear in a source written by someone else, begin the citation with "qtd. in."

According to Retting, "As the efficiency of the office creeps into the automobile, it is becoming increasingly attractive as a work space" (qtd. in Kilgannon 23).


  • Omit pagination if a work lacks page numbers.
  • Web sites printouts are usually paginated but different printers may provide different page breaks so MLA treats these as unpaginated.
  • Web sites in PDF format are paginated so supply a page number in your in-text citation.

NOTE: If a Web source uses paragraph or section numbers, give the abbreviation "par." or "sec." in the parentheses: (Smith, par. 4).

Long Quotations - Example

  • A long quotation of 4 or more lines should be indented ten spaces on the left.
  • No quotation marks are placed around a long quote.
  • The parenthetical citation should go after the full stop.
David becomes identified and defined by James Steerforth:

There was an old door in this playground, on which the boys had a custom of carving their names. In my dread of the end of the vacation and their coming back, I could not read a boy's name, without inquiring in what tone and with what emphasis he would read, "Take care of him. He bites." There was one boy - a certain J. Steerforth, who I conceived, would read it in a rather strong voice, and afterwards pull my hair. (Dickens 68)

For Steerforth, naming becomes an act of possession, as well as exploitation.

Handling Parenthetical Citations

Sometimes more information is necessary. Examples:

More than one author with the same last name: (W. Wordsworth 23); (D. Wordsworth 224)
More than one work by the same author: (Joyce, Portrait 121); (Joyce, Ulysses 556)
Different volumes of a multivolume work: (1: 336); (2: 554)
Citing indirect sources: (Johnson qtd. in Boswell 2:450)

Step 2: Listing References In the Works Cited Lists

Basic Elements of a MLA Citation

Author's last name, author's first name.
"Title of Article / Document
Edition (if applicable)
Place of publication: NO PLACE = N.p.
Date of publication. NO DATE = n.d.
Title of Complete Work.
Name of editor.
Volume number of journal or multi-part work.
Name of publisher, NO PUBLISHER = n.p.
Pagination - NO PAGINATION = N. pag.

Author's Name

Give last name first followed by a comma, then first name, initials and a full stop.

White, Robert.
Dryden, Graham L., and John Vos.
Robbins, Ian D., Berg, Ray, and Ivan Shaw.

With 4 or more authors, name all 4 authors or the 1st author followed by et al.

Snow, Jim., et al. English Grammar. London: Longman, 1988

Corporate author is placed at the beginning of an entry.

Bank of New Zealand. Help for the Exporter. Wellington: Bank of New Zealand, 1981

Editor's Name

An entry for an editor is similar to that for an author except that the name is followed by a comma and the abbreviation "ed." for "editor" or "eds." for "editors".

Ho, Ken, ed. A Global Anthology of Literature. New York: Wiley, 2000

Publication Information

Books: include editions, place of publication, name of publisher, date (year)

Journals: include journal title, volume & issue numbers, (year) of publication, a colon: the inclusive page numbers and a fullstop.

Online resources: include date assigned in the source, date accessed, date of original print journal (if applicable) and <URL>.

Publication Date

Books and Journals: need a Publication Year.

Example - Book:

Drabble, M. Gates of Ivory. New York: Viking, 1992

Example - Journal:

Violanti, M. "Fatal Collisions." Accident and Analysis Journal 30 (1998) : 519-24

Magazines & Newspapers need Day, Month, Year.

Example - Magazine:

Cox, Joe. "Dizzy Days." Time 5 Oct. 1998: 40-45

Types of Sources

Book: an entire work (novel, play, long poem, biography, etc.), published separately.

Article: an article from a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Web Page: personal home page, online journal article, or other Internet resource.

Selection: a work published in an encyclopedia or collection.

Basic format for a book

Author Title and Publication Information

Arrange the information into 3 units, each followed by a full stop and a space except the last

  1. Author's name
  2. Title and subtitle, underlined (or italicised)
  3. Edition if a second or later edition; and the place of publication, the publisher, and the date.

Book: Citation Information

The title, the author & the publisher can be found on the book's title page. The place of publication, the publication or copyright year can be found on the reverse of the title page.

Journal article: Citation Information

Arrange the information into 3 units. The first 2 are followed by a full stop and one space:

  1. Author's name
  2. "Title" of article
  3. Journal title, volume.issue numbers (separated by a full stop), year (2000): (in parentheses followed by a colon and a space) and the page numbers.

Wood, Michael. "Fiction and the Century." Kenyon Review 22.3 (2000): 50-64

Magazine: Citation Information

Arrange as for a journal article but include the month and date.


McCrae, M. "Central Africa's Gorillas." National Geographic February, 2000: 84-97

Article in a daily newspaper

Arrange as for a magazine article but include the day and month and date.


Murphy, Sean P. "Status of Tribes Draw Fire." Boston Globe 27 Mar. 2001: A2.

Basic Format for an Encyclopedia

Arrange the information into 3 units, all separated by a space. The first 2 are followed by a full stop and one space:

  1. Author of the article.
  2. "Article title".
  3. Publication Information: Title of the Encyclopedia the edition (abbreviated) followed by a full stop then the Date published.

Step 3: Referencing Online Resources

Online Resources

Journal articles retrieved from proprietary databases, e.g. ProQuest, that require user authentication for access to the articles.


Fitzgerald, Jill. "Bilingual/ESL Programs in Literacy" Reading Research Quarterly 35.4 (2000). ABI/INFORM. ProQuest. Univ. of Waikato Lib., 24 Feb. 2003 <>

Formal documents, e.g., a journal article, government document, or book, retrieved directly from the World Wide Web.


Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. Ed. Henry Churchyard. 1996. 13 Sep. 2003 <>

Common web pages that are not online journal articles, government documents, or books and that have URLs by which they can be can be freely and directly accessed.


More, D. David's Townhouse. 1997. 13 Feb. 2002 <>

Step 4: Formatting a Works Cited List at the End of Your Paper

Begin the list of Works Cited on a new page continuing the page numbers of the text. This alphabetised list gives publication information for each of the sources cited, enabling readers to retrieve and use the sources. The citations must be correct and complete.