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


Parenthetical Citations:

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 Cited."


1) Standard identification:

    The stories in Lady Chatterly's Lover originated in the Himalayas in the 1880s (Drexler 360).

    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).

2) Identification of one of several works by the same author:
    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 Speaking," 200).

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 unknown author:
    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 lines.

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).

    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 the slash.

    Elizabeth Bishop's "In the Waiting Room is rich in evocative detail:

      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.

9) Identification of electronic sources and sources without page numbers:
    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."

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Works Cited:

Citations from books:

1) Standard reference to a book:

    Moye, Tom. On Caffeine. New York: Ratlab Publishing, 1999.

    Note: For titles of books, magazines, journals, or movies, either underline titles or use an italics font.

2) Work with several authors:
    Feller, Steve and Mario Affatigato. Physics in Cedar Rapids and Beyond. Pittsburgh: Proton, 1996.

    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."

3) Edited or translated works:
    A Little Religion. Ed. Elizabeth Galbraith. London: Oxford University Press, 1997.

    Verlaine, Paul. Life in the French Countryside. Trans. Carla Zecher. New York: Brittany Publishing, 1989.

4) Encyclopedia:
    "Galileo." Encyclopedia Britannica. 1995.

    Note: Volume and page numbers are not necessary because entries are arranged alphabetically.

5) One or more volumes in a multivolume work:
    Wu, Mickey. Microbrewing and macroeconomics. Vol. 3 of The Essence of Business. Ed. Pamela Carstens. San Francisco: Sunshine Press, 1993.

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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: 14.

3) Article in a journal with volume number and continuous pagination:

    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 June 1992:A11.

6) Anonymous article from a daily newspaper:
    "Peace, Love, Dope and Altered Consciousness." Cedar Rapids Gazette. 31 Dec. 1988: sec. 1: 2.

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Other sources:

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:
  • E-mail:
    • 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).

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*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).


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