mla documentation style
"when in doubt, document it."
The documentation of sources in a research paper is necessary for crediting
quotations, paraphrases, statistics, and original ideas from other sources.
Writers cite their sources when using uncommon information or information
not easily obtained i n standard reference materials. By acknowledging
sources in parenthetical notes and a bibliography, a writer establishes
an identity as a fair and reliable author, gives authority to the paper
when drawing conclusions, and provides information about the subject not
otherwise available to the reader. This handout describes the documentation
system, developed by the Modem Language Association (MLA), which should
work for most papers written in the humanities and fine arts.
For social sciences, try APA
The MLA uses parenthetical citations for identifying sources. Page references
are included in parentheses within the text as shown in this sentence (412),
with the author's name and/or title added when necessary. The full description
of your sources is found at the end of the paper under "Works
1) Standard identification:
The stories in Lady Chatterly's Lover originated
in the Himalayas in the 1880s (Drexler 360).
2) Identification of one of several
works by the same author:
A citation requires only the author's last name and
the page number. Full bibliography information is given in the "Works
Cited." In many instances, you will want to introduce the material with
a passage including the author's name so that only the page number be
included in the citation. For example:
According to Drexler, the stories in Lady Chatterly's Lover
originated in the Himalayas in the 1880s (360).
Fairy tales remain the same over centuries (Phifer,
Tall Tales 310-314).
3) Identification of one of several
works if the author has been identified in the text:
Sanchini says, "The most consistent way to gather data
is to do it at the same time and the same place, week after week ("Biologically
4) Identification of a reference by
two or three authors:
Language has a shape as well as a sound in Utopian
fictionon (Hadow and Haupt 386).
5) Identification of a book with an
Duke Ellington once rode the Boston ferry with his
eyes closed (Over the River 42).
6) Identification of a multivolume work:
During the 1920s, when drinks and company were mixed,
there were many changes to social groups (Kyn 2:987).
7) Citation from a play:
A short time later Lear loses the final symbol of his
former power, the soldiers who make up his train:
GONERIL. Hear me, my lord. What need you five-and-twenty,
ten or five,
To follow in a house where twice so many
Have a command to tend you? REGAN. What need one?
GONERIL. 0, reason not the need! (2.4.254-58)
Note: Numbers are used to represent act, scene, and
8) Citation from a poem:
Reflecting on this incident in Baltimore, Cullen concludes,
"Of all things that happened there / That's all that I remember " (11-12).
9) Identification of electronic sources
and sources without page numbers:
Note: When quoting two or three lines from a poem,
use a slash to denote a line change, with a space on either side of
Elizabeth Bishop's "In the Waiting Room is rich in
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines. (6-10)
Note:A quotation of four or more lines should be indented
as a block quote, without quotation marks.
Peter Wickham states that there are often no problems
with keeping live animals uncaged ("Fun Critters').
Note: When an online source is used, there are often
no page numbers to be quoted; the full bibliographic information is
given in "Works Cited."
Citations from books:
1) Standard reference to a book:
Moye, Tom. On Caffeine. New York: Ratlab Publishing, 1999.
2) Work with several authors:
Note: For titles of books, magazines, journals, or movies, either
underline titles or use an italics font.
Feller, Steve and Mario Affatigato. Physics in Cedar Rapids and Beyond.
Pittsburgh: Proton, 1996.
3) Edited or translated works:
Note: If the text is written by one to three authors, all names should
be written. If there are four or more authors, the first author should
be written followed by "et al."
A Little Religion. Ed. Elizabeth Galbraith. London: Oxford University
5) One or more volumes in a multivolume work:
Verlaine, Paul. Life in the French Countryside. Trans. Carla
Zecher. New York: Brittany Publishing, 1989.
Wu, Mickey. Microbrewing and macroeconomics. Vol. 3 of The Essence
of Business. Ed. Pamela Carstens. San Francisco: Sunshine Press, 1993.
Citations from periodicals and newspapers:
1) Unsigned article from weekly publication:
"Pablo Neruda." Life. 4 July 1984: 56.
2) Article from a monthly magazine:
Thompson, Peter. "Art in the Meadow." The Artful Pose. Feb. 1991:
3) Article in a journal with volume number and continuous
Serrot, Steve. "Censorship and Sumo Wrestling." Newfoundland Today.
135 (1986): 247-56.
4) Articles in a collection or a chapter in a book:
Wiegert, Amy. "I Survived." In How to Win Friends through Intimidation.
Ed. Amanda P. Moore. London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1997.
5) Article in a daily newspaper:
Shatner, William. "Tredding Trodden Trails." Chicago Tribune. 22
6) Anonymous article from a daily newspaper:
"Peace, Love, Dope and Altered Consciousness." Cedar Rapids Gazette.
31 Dec. 1988: sec. 1: 2.
1) Review of a book or film:
Flanagan, William. Rev. of Anthology of Down Home Cooking, by Joanne
Pusack. Smithsonian. Mar. 1994: 125-31.
2) Personal interview:
Wendy Dunn, President of American Psychological Society, New York, NY.
Personal interview. 1 Jan. 1993.
3) Television program:
Jennings, Peter, narr. "Who needs hypothetical questions?" Just Rhetoric.
MTV, New York, NY., Ch. 27, April 1969.
4) Electronic sources:
- Redborg, Kurt. E-mail to Ducks Unlimited. 17 May 1973.
- Online databases:
- Cross, Gavin. "Statistics in poetry." New York Times Online. America
Online. 31 Aug. 1994.
- World Wide Web:
- Lennon, John. "Now Imagine That." Seances Today. http://article.merit.edu.believeit.html
(31 Oct 1996).
*Material for this handout was adapted from the Handbook for Writers
of Research Papers (4th ed., 1995, edited by Joseph Gibaldi) and Rules
for Writers by Diane Hacker (3rd ed., 1996).