The information here comes from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition). It is always best to consult the Handbook first for any MLA question. If you are using MLA style for a class assignment, it is also a good idea to consult your professor, advisor, librarian, or other campus resources, such as the Writing Center at 256-216-6670, for help with using MLA style.
General Format for a Paper
The general format for papers written in MLA style is covered in chapter four of the MLA Handbook (pages 115-122). Your paper should be typed, double-spaced on standard-sized white paper (8.5 X 11 inches) with margins of 1 inch on all sides. The pages of your manuscript should be numbered consecutively, beginning with the first page, as part of the manuscript header in the upper right corner of each page. Your references should begin on a separate page from the text of the paper with the title
Works Cited centered at the top of the page.
Citing Sources in Your Text
The question of what must be cited (or documented) in your paper is discussed in chapter 2 of the MLA Handbook, and how you cite sources in the text is covered in chapter 6. When using MLA format, the author’s last name and the page number(s) for the information used are given in the text. This points the reader to a complete reference to the source, which appears in the Works Cited list at the end of the paper. MLA uses the author-page method of in-text citation. If you are referring to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to show the author’s name in your in-text citation. If you are using an exact quote, or are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you must include the author and the page number for the reference. Examples:
- Reference to a complete work:
- An important study of medieval village commerce (Townsend) indicates that …
- Townsend’s study of medieval village trade shows that …
- Documenting an exact quote:
- Medieval Europe was a place of “traveling merchants, monetary exchange, towns if not cities, and active markets” (Townsend 10).
- According to Townsend, medieval Europe was a place of “traveling merchants, monetary exchange, towns if not cities, and active markets” (10).
- Documenting paraphrased material:
- Medieval Europe had an active trade structure that involved merchants traveling between towns and cities (Townsend 10).
If you are using more than one source by the same author, include a shortened version of the title in the reference.
- (Tolkien, Hobbit 153)
- (Tolkien, Two Towers 97)
If no author is given, such as when you are citing an anonymous work or a web page that lists no author, use an abbreviated version of the title in quotation marks to substitute for the name of the author. Be sure to begin the shortened title with the same words by which the source is listed in the Works Cited list.
- Tolkien’s use of magic in his stories of Middle-Earth reflect his views of “good” magic as a creative force and “bad” magic as a force used for deception or domination (“Magic in Middle-Earth”).
Quotations 3.7.2 (page 94)
To indicate quotations of fewer than four lines in your paper, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page citation in the text, and include a complete reference in the reference list. Example:
- She stated, “Students often have difficulty using MLA style,” (Jones 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.
Place quotations longer than four lines in your paper in a free-standing block and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented one inch or ten spaces from the left margin. Type the entire quotation, double-spaced, with the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation one-quarter inch or three spaces from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.
Works Cited List
Formatting the Works Cited list is covered in chapter five of the MLA Handbook (pages 123-212). The Works Cited list includes full references to all the information sources you use in your paper and provides the information necessary for a reader to locate any of these sources. It should appear at the end of your paper.
- The list of works cited should be alphabetized by authors’ last names. If two or more authors have the same last name, consider the first name as well.
- Authors’ names are inverted (last name first). Include the complete name as shown on the title page.
- If the work has more than one author, give their names in the order listed on the title page. Invert the first author’s name and list the other authors in normal form. (*For works with more than three authors see pages 155-6.)
- If you have more than one work by a particular author, give the name of the author in the first item only. Use three hyphens in place of the author’s name in each successive work. Alphabetize entries by title.
- If no author is given for a particular source, begin the entry with the title. Do not use Anonymous! Alphabetize the work in the list by the title.
- All lines after the first line of each entry in your works cited list should be indented one-half inch from the left margin. This is called hanging indentation.
- Underline or italicize titles of books, plays, albums, films, journals, and magazines.
- Put titles of chapters or articles in quotation marks.
- Capitalize the first word, last word, and all principal words in the title, including nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives. Do not capitalize articles, prepositions, or conjunctions.
The MLA Handbook provides extensive examples covering a wide variety of sources in chapter five.
Basic Forms for Sources in Print
1. A book (e.g., book, report, brochure, or audiovisual media):
Author’s name. Title of Book. Location: Publisher, Year.
NOTE: For “Location,” you should always list the city, but you should also include the state if the city is unfamiliar or if the city could be confused with one in another state or country.
2. A chapter in a book or an item from an anthology:
Author’s name. “Title of Chapter or Item.” Title of Anthology. Ed. Name of editor. Location: Publisher, Date. Pages of chapter or item.
3. An article in a scholarly periodical:
Author’s name. “Title of the Article.” Title of Periodical volume number(date): pages.
4. An article in a magazine:
Author’s name. “Title of the Article.” Title of Periodical exact date: pages.
Denny, Ned. “Bare Beauty.” New Statesman 3 February 2003: 42-44.
Basic Forms for Live or Recorded Performances
1. A performance
Title of Performance. By Author. Director. Performers. Location, date of performance.
2. A film or video recording
Title of Film. Director. Medium. Distributor, year of release.
Note: Other important information, such as the writer, producer, leading performers, etc., may be included in addition to the director between the title and the medium. The medium may be film, videocassette, DVD, etc.
Basic Forms for Electronic (Internet) Sources
The basic approach for referencing electronic sources is to provide as much information as necessary to make it possible for the reader to locate the source. If you are citing a source that appears both in print and electronically, such as an article retrieved from one of the Library’s databases, include both the information about the print publication and the electronic publication.
1. Electronic copy of a scholarly journal article retrieved from a subscription database
*NOTE: If desired, you can put the URL for the homepage of the database at the end of your citation. (see pages 192-193)
2. Article in an Internet periodical:
*NOTE: If desired, you can put the URL for the homepage of the database at the end of your citation. (see page 182)
3. Web site or Internet document:
Author’s name. Title of Web site. Name of sponsoring agency. Date. Date retrieved <URL>.
NOTE: If you are using one document from a collection, enclose the document title in quotation marks and italicize or underline the name of the collection. If no date is available for the document, use n.d. in place of the date. (pages 184-5)
4. E-mail communication
Writer’s name. “Title of Message.” E-mail to recipient’s name. Date of message.
If you need more information on preparing your paper, referencing sources, or preparing the list of works cited, check the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, or contact the ASU Library Reference Desk at 256-216-6661 or e-mail . You can also contact the ASU Writing Center at 256-216-6670 or e-mail .