MLA Citation

Why Do They Care?

Modern Language Association (MLA) is the standard to which all liberal arts and humanities-based research are held. It is the 2+2=4 of the literary world.

Imagine it this way…

Two nuclear scientists are standing in a uranium refining center discussing the rate at which the radioactive material needs to be cooled. Scientist One went to a strict mathematical institution, such as MIT. Her teachers were very specific about how, and where, each number was written and placed within an equation.

Scientist Two received her degree from Math Genius: An Institution of Higher Learning. Scientist Two, while just as smart as Scientist One, was never graded on the presentation of her work, only on the completion of the assignments. Scientist Two didn’t really care where the exponents went, so she placed her numbers wherever she pleased.

What do you think would happen next?

Scientist Two’s decision of placing her numbers wherever she pleased resulted in incorrect answers to scientific questions.  This happened because she did not follow the established rules in her field.

The situation presented is true in all academic settings.  Not following the proper rules of presentation can lead to misunderstandings and incorrect interpretations of the work being done.


Other Resources:

After looking through this very basic information, you might still have some questions. Here are on places to look for help: (you can simply Google purdue OWL)

If you are planning on earning a degree in the Humanities, it is worth your while to invest in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. You can find this book online or at the Dixie State Bookstore.


The key to MLA Style is the layout in which the paper is presented. When writing in MLA keep these requirements in mind.

Front Page:

* Header is placed in the upper left hand and includes (in this order) your name,

instructor’s name, class, and date the assignment is due.

* Title is centered. It is not italicized or underlined BUT if you are referring to another work within the title you will use quotation marks or italics.


Jane Doe

Professor Holland

English 1010

13 January 2013


* 1 in. margins on all sides

* Running header, on every page, with your last name and page number ½ inch

into the top right hand  margin.

Example: Smith 1

* Times New Roman in 12pt double spaced

* All sources used within the text must be cited immediately following use

* Paragraph indentations are ½ inch.

* Underlining is not used within the paper

*There are two main uses for italics:

1. For titles of longer works such as books or movies (all other works are


Example: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

                        “The Gettysburg Address”

2. When using a non-Anglicized foreign word within an English language text.

Example: The Brazilian martial art Capoiera has grown in popularity.


Works Cited Page:

            * Centered page-title of Works Cited

* Cited sources are in alphabetical order

* Titles or degrees are not listed (Dr., Saint, Ph.D., D.D.S)

* First line of each citation is standard margin. All subsequent lines are indented

½ inch (one tab), this is referred to as a hanging indent

* Common abbreviations to use:

n.p.      No place of publication given

n.p.      No publisher given

n.d.      No date of publication given

n. pag. No pagination given

            *Every entry must have a stated medium of publication i.e. Film, CD, Book, Web.

When to cite:

The basic rule to go by is this: If the idea started in your mind, it’s yours.  However, if the idea started somewhere else it’s theirs and you must (not can) cite it. There are a myriad of different resources that can be used for a paper, with just as many ways to cite. Below are a few commonly used citations. You can find these and more forms of citation at

Basic Format:

Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year of

Publication. Medium of Publication.


Anthology, Reference or Collection:

Lastname, First name. “Title of Essay or Poem etc.” Title of Collection. Ed. Editor’s

Name(s). City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Page range of entry. Medium of




Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number. Name of

institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available). Medium of publication. Date of access.

Remember to use n.p. if no publisher name is available and n.d. if no publishing date is given (Purdue Owl).


Article in an Online Scholarly Journal:

For articles with no page number instead of page range replace with–> n. page.

Author(s) name. “Name of Article.” Title of Publication Volume number.Issue number (Year of Publication): page range. Website. Date accessed.


In-text citations are the citations within the paper that tell the reader where the borrowed information comes from. They are typically subtle so as not to distract from the flow of the paper. They also serve to help guide the reader to more information on the subject discussed. All in-text citations must be followed by a complete reference on the Works Cited page. This form of citation follows the Author-Page Style which means the author’s name must appear within the sentence itself (called a signal phrase) or within the parenthetical citation (see below).

In-Text Print Source with Known Author:

Single Author:

“When you refer to, comment on, paraphrase, or quote another author’s material, you have to indicate that you have done so” (Raimes 155).

Multiple Author’s:

“For a work by two or three authors, name all the authors, either in a signal phrase or in parenthesis” (Bullock, Wienberg 98).

For sources with more than three authors provide the first author’s last name followed by et al.

Multiple Works by the Same Author:

            If you cite more than one work by a particular author, include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from the others. Put short titles of books in italics and short titles of articles in quotation marks (Purdue OWL).


“I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy

Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall” (“Clancy”).


“And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,

While the others stood and watched in very fear” (“Snowy River”).

Non-Print or Internet Sources:

            Internet citations can be tricky. The key to remember is that your in-text citation must directly reference your Works Cited page. This means that within the body of your paper you need to include text for the first item that will appear on your Works Cited entry (

Other basic rules to follow: Find the author first, if there is no author, use the article name, website name or film name. Page numbers are not needed or can be replaced with n.p. Do not include URLs within the text unless used as a signal phrase. You can use partial URLs such as 


A paraphrase is…

  • your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form.
  • one legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a source.
  • a more detailed restatement than a summary, which focuses concisely on a single main idea.

Students may have a tendency to overuse direct quotes when writing their papers.  Paraphrasing can help with this issue by allowing students to reflect a thought or idea without having a paper that is full of direct quotes from other authors.

(Purdue Owl)

Basic Rules of Paraphrasing:

  • Thoroughly read the entry that you would like to paraphrase so that you understand it with confidence.
  • Rewrite the entry in your own words.
  • Make sure not to simply move or exchange a few words in the entry and claim it as a paraphrase. That is not a paraphrase, it is plagiarism.
  • Your paraphrase must be your clear interpretation and explanation of what the author you are paraphrasing has written.  It cannot be a long quote with a few words mixed around.
  • If you borrow an exact phrase in the entry put it in quotes within the paraphrase.
  • Cite the source that you borrowed from.
  • Cite your paraphrase as you would a borrowed quote, but without the quotation marks. (For information on how to cite quotes see pages 3-5 of this handout)



Jane Doe

Professor Washington

English 1010

13 January 2013

MLA Sample Page

            No matter what documentation style an author uses, it is important to respectfully indicate the sources that the author borrows from when writing.  “When you refer to, comment on, paraphrase, or quote, another author’s material, you have to indicate that you have done so” (Raimes 155).  Every documentation style has its own specific set of requirements in regard to citation and layout.  This page is an example of the Modern Language Association (MLA).

Within each MLA essay the reader can expect to find a header placed in the upper left-hand corner of the page.  This header is only on the first page.  There is a specific order in which the necessary information must be presented. This order is described here: the first and last name of the author (you), the next line is the first and last name of the course instructor, the third line is the course that you are submitting the paper to, and the final line is designated for the date (day month year).  Be advised, the header is not to be confused with the running header.  The running header is placed on the top right-hand side of every page and contains the authors name (you) and the page number (Purdue Owl).

Titles are important to the continuity of any essay.  In MLA format, the title is placed above the body of the essay in the center of the page.  The title is not underlined or italicized.  Please notice that there are no spaces between the title and the first line of the essay.  Essays should be double spaced, written in Times New Roman font, and a 12 point font size.  Also, essays should contain one-inch margins on all sides.  There should be a running header on each page consisting of the author’s last name and the page number.  In closing, the final page of the essay should be the Works Cited reference page.  The Works Cited page refers the reader to the information borrowed within the essay.

Copyright (C)2012. Compiled by Charity Winsor-Farmer and Josh Uipi. Some information retrieved from the Purdue OWL website. All rights reserved.This document may be distributed as long as it is done entirely with all attributions to organizations and authors. Commercial distribution is strictly prohibited. Portions of this document may be copyrighted by other organizations.