MLA

MLA is a parenthetical reference style, which means that in-text references are given within parentheses at the end of the sentence. Footnotes (or endnotes) are not used for referencing, but can be used for additional information.

The MLA (Modern Language Association) was formed in the United States in 1883 as a professional association for scholars within the fields of literature and language. The first MLA style sheet was published in 1951 and the first edition of the MLA style guidelines in 1977.

For further reading: Origin of MLA style (click to expand/contract)

The first MLA stylesheet from 1951 was based on the agreed preferences of a number of journals within the fields of language and literature. Read more about this here:

MLA style sheet. (1951). South Atlantic Modern Language Association, 16, 20. [Acess via LibHub]


N.B. New edition 2009

In 2009, the seventh edition of The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers was published. The most important changes from the previous edition concern the Works Cited list; according to the new MLA guidelines, the medium through which the source was accessed (Print or Web) should be stated in the reference (for examples, see below).

The AWELU section on MLA referencing contains the following items:

In-text references

In-text references supply information on the source within the text. Full information about the source is then provided in the Works Cited list.

In MLA, in-text references provide the last name of the author and page number of the cited text. There are two ways of doing this; either the author's name is given in the sentence and the page reference within parentheses after the quotation or other kind of citation, or the whole reference is given in the parenthetical reference. The first option, where the name of the author cited is given in the sentence, gives more prominence to the cited author.

Showalter has shown that...(38)

Anorexia nervosa was first identified as an illness in 1873 (Showalter 127).

Quotations are referenced like this:

In 1873, anorexia nervosa was first identified as "a new clinical syndrome among adolescent girls" (Showalter 127).

If the writer refers to several works by the same author, the title (or a short version of the title) is provided in the parenthetical reference:

While the larger arc of the narrative thus traces a pattern Robert Nelson has seen as consistent within Silko's body of work, namely, "contact, departure, and recovery" ("Laguna" 15)

(Regier, 2005, p. 147)

Example: In-text citation (click to expand/contract)

The example below comes from an article about references to so-called Ghost Dances in modern Native American fiction.

There are three parenthetical references below. The first two provide the author names and page numbers to the sources quoted, whereas the third reference consists only of the page reference since the name of the author quoted is given in the sentence.

Example:

As a text translating a narrative time and space characterized by many kinds of travel, Gardens in the Dunes puts into motion increasingly hybrid sequences of transnational plots, narrative forms, and admixtures of environmental and archeological objects. The resulting narrative syncretism enacts a narrative politics that could be described variously as "post-nationalist" (Rowe 78) or as ideologically "hybrid" (Bhabha 1). Their narrative politics share a call for discourses not fully defined by any singular national identity. Bhabha keys hybridity to the service of "transnational and translational sense[s] of imagined communities" (1).

(Regier, 2005, p. 136)


Works Cited list

In MLA style, the list of references is called "Works Cited". Examples of various kinds of bibliographic posts are given below.

In the Works Cited list, the entries are listed in alphabetical order.

Hanging indentation (which means that the second and subsequent lines of the entry are indented) is often used in Works Cited lists.

Book

The MLA format for book entries in the Work Cited list looks like this:

Author's Last Name, First Name(s). Book Title. Place of Publication:
     Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Access.

Note that

  • the book title is italicised
  • "Place of publication" is the city, not the country. For US publications, city + abbreviated name of state is often used
  • "Publisher" is the name of the publishing company
  • "Year of publication" is the publication year of the edition that you have used
  • "Medium of Access" is either "Print" (for books, etc. that have been read in print format) or "Name of the provider. Web. Date of access"

Example: Book by one author (click to expand/contract)

Keen, Suzanne. Narrative Form. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan,
     2003. Print.

Murray, Rowena. How to Write a Thesis. Maidenhead: Open
     University Press, 2006. Google Book Search. Web. 14 January
     2010.


Book by two or more authors

If there are two or more authors, the names are listed in the following way. Note that only the first writer's name is written in reverse order.

First Author's Last Name, First Author's First Name(s), and Second
     Author's First and Second Name(s).

Example: Book by two or more authors (click to expand/contract)

Gallagher, Catherine, and Stephen Greenblatt.  Practicing New
     Historicism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Print.


Journal article

The MLA format for scholarly journal article entries in the Work Cited list looks like this:

Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Title of article." Journal Title.
     Volume.Issue (Year of Publication): Inclusive Page Numbers.
     Medium of Access.

Note that

  • the title of the article is written within quotation marks
  • the title of the journal is italicised
  • the volume and issue numbers are stated in the LibHub search result (see example below) and on the article itself
  • inclusive page numbers cover the whole article, not only the part of the article that you refer to
Regarding medium of access:

Today, scholarly journals are often accessed electronically. Lund University users can access scholarly articles through LibHub. In the LibHub search results, all the information needed to create the Works Cited entry is given, including the database that provides the article.

If the article is accessed electronically (through LibHub, for instance), the name of the provider should be written in italics, followed by "Web". If the article is read in print, "Print" is given as medium of access.

Example: Journal article (click to expand/contract)

Newton, Judith Lowder. "Pride and Prejudice: Power, Fantasy,
     and Subversion in Jane Austen." Feminist Studies. 4.1 (1978):
     27-42. JSTOR. Web. 14 January 2010.


Newspaper or magazine article

The MLA format for newspaper or magazine articles looks like this:

Print material

Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Title of article." Newspaper /            
     Magazine Title
. Month. Date Year: Inclusive Page Numbers. Print.

Example: Print material (click to expand/contract)

"News from the Moon." Cornhill Magazine. Aug. 1873: 173-186.
     Print.


Online material: No page numbers

Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Title of article." Newspaper /
     Magazine Title
. Provider/Website, Month. Date Year. Web. Date of
     Access.

Example: Online material: No page numbers (click to expand/contract)

Usborne, Simon. "Kool for Kats: How Meerkats Conquered the
     World." Independent. Independent, Oct. 15 2009. Web. 10 March
     2010.


Online material: Page numbers

Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Title of article." Newspaper /
     Magazine Title
. Month. Date Year: Inclusive Page Numbers.
     Provider
. Web. Date of Access.

Example: Online material: Page numbers (click to expand/contract)

"News from the Moon." Cornhill Magazine. Aug. 1873: 173-186.
     Internet Archive
. Web. 10 March 2010.


Note that

  • if there is no author, start with the title of the article
  • title of newspaper should be given without the definite article
  • no url is needed 

Chapter in edited book

If a book consists of several articles by different writers, an editor has compiled and prepared the articles for publication.

References are often made only to one of the articles in the anthology, in which case that article is listed under the name of the author of the article.

Example: Chapter in edited book (click to expand/contract)

Wagner, Linda. "Toni Morrison: Master of Narrative." Contemporary
     American Women Writers: Narrative Strategies. Ed Catherine
     Rainwater and William J. Scheick. Lexington, KY: University
     Press of Kentucky, 1985. 191-205. Print.


Note that

  • Ed (for "edited by") is added before the name of the editor(s)
  • The page numbers of the article (book chapter) are provided

If the whole book is referred to, it will be listed under the editor's name. In that case, the abbreviation ed (or eds) will be added after the name(s) of the editor(s).

Example: Edited book (click to expand/contract)

Prenshaw, Peggy Whitman, ed. Women Writers of the Contemporary
     South
. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1984. Print.

Rainwater, Catherine and William J. Scheick, eds. Contemporary
     American Women Writers: Narrative Strategies
. Lexington, KY:
     University Press of Kentucky, 1985. Print.


Webpage

The format for Internet entries in the Works Cited list looks like this:

Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Title of the work". Title of the overall
     web site
. Version. Publisher. Date of publication. Medium of
     access. Date of access.

Note that

  • if there is no author, start with the title of the page
  • not all web pages offer information on version and publisher; but if stated, it should be included
  • an url is not needed, unless the page is likely to change. The MLA manual suggests that if a web address is included in the Works Cited, it should be provided within angle brackets (< >).

Example: Web page (click to expand/contract)

Landow, George P., "Victorian Women, Evangelical Religion, Criticism of It and
     Them". The Victorian Web. 17 May 2006. Web. 22 January, 2010.


Letters, reviews, etc.

If a single letter (or review, etc.) that has been published in a collection of letters (or of reviews, etc.) is used, it should be treated as a text in an anthology.

If several letters (or reviews, etc.) from the same collection are used, however, the MLA Handbook recommends that writers provide an entry for the entire work - that is, the collection of letters (reviews, etc.) and then write brief cross-reference entries in the Works Cited list.

Example: Letters, reviews, etc. (click to expand/contract)

If one letter has been used, the reference could look like this:

Yeats, W. B. "To George Bernard Shaw." [Early] October 1901. The
     Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats: 1901-1904
. Ed. John Kelly and
     Ronald Schuchard. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. 117.
     Print.

Using the example above, the Works Cited entry of the collection of letters would look like this:

Kelly, John, and Ronald Schuchard, eds. The Collected Letters of W. B.
     Yeats: 1901-1904
. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. 117.
     Print.

Cross-references entries for individual letters may look like this:

Yeats, W. B. "To George Bernard Shaw." [Early] October 1901. Kelly
     and Schuchard 117. Print.


Further MLA-specific formatting

Capitalisation of titles

In MLA, titles of articles, books, journals, etc. are capitalised, in running text as well as in the Works Cited list.

Example: Capitalisation of titles (click to expand/contract)

In-text citation:

In Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, Tolin, Frost and Steketee argue that...

Entry in Works Cited list:

Tolin, David F., Randy O Frost and Gail Steketee. Buried in Treasures:
     Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding
. New York:
     Oxford University Press, 2007.


For more information about capitalisation in English, for instance about the use of capital letters in so-called proper nouns (names of people, places, institutions, etc.), see the AWELU page on

The use of (sic)

In MLA, (sic) is written without italics and within brackets (i.e. parentheses). For general information about [sic], see

MLA style online resources

Unfortunately, the Modern Language Association only offers an FAQ section free of charge; for those who buy the The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed.), a licence for their web resource is included in the purchase price.