MLA is a parenthetical reference style, which means that in-text references are provided 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.
In 2016, the eighth edition of The MLA Handbook was published. Compared to the previous edition, the most important changes concern the Works Cited list; for instance, no longer is the medium through which the source was accessed (Print or Web) to be stated.
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 provided within parentheses. The first option, where the name of the author cited forms part of 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 in the same way:
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 thereof) is provided in the parenthetical reference. In the example above, the parenthetical reference would then look like this: (Showalter, The Female Malady 127) - the full title of the work referred to being The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980.
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.
The MLA format for book entries in the Work Cited list looks like this:
Author's Last Name, First Name(s). Book Title. Publisher, Year of Publication.
Keen, Suzanne. Narrative Form. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.
- book titles are italicised and all words apart from articles, prepositions and conjunctions start with a capital letter
- "Publisher" is the name of the publishing company. For books published after 1900, no place of publication is provided. However, for books published prior to 1900, the format ...Place of publication, Publisher... is used.
- "Year of publication" is the publication year of the edition that is used. If edition used is not the first one, the date of that first edition can be inserted after the book title. In the field of Literature, this is common to indicate the original date of publication of e.g. a novel.
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).
Gallagher, Catherine, and Stephen Greenblatt. Practicing New Historicism. University of Chicago Press, 2000.
The MLA format for scholarly journal article entries in the Work Cited list looks like this:
Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Article Title." Journal Title, Volume, Issue, Year of Publication, Inclusive Page Numbers.
Newton, Judith Lowder. "Pride and Prejudice: Power, Fantasy, and Subversion in Jane Austen." Feminist Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, 1978, pp. 27-42.
- the title of the article is written within quotation marks
- the title of the journal is italicised
- inclusive page numbers cover the whole article, not only the part of the article referred to. In the Works Cited, the inclusive page number(s) are preceeded by p. (pp.)
Newspaper or magazine article
The MLA format for newspaper (or magazine) articles looks like this. Note that the bibliographic entry will look slightly different depending on which items are relevant / available.
Author's Last Name, First Name(s). "Article Title". Newspaper title, Day Month Year, inclusive page numbers.
Booth, Stephanie. "How We Got Our Daughter to Speak after 8 Years of Silence". Good Housekeeping, December 2015, pp. 107-108.
King, Richard. "With Silent Friends". The Tatler, 10 March 1915, p. 316.
Davis, Nicola. "Dogs understand both words and intonation of human speech". The Guardian, 30 August 2016, www.theguardian.com/science/2016/aug/30/dogs-understand-both-words-and-intonation-of-human-speech. Accessed 4 September 2019.
- If the author is unknown, the entry starts with the title of the article
- Article titles are written within quotation marks
- Newspaper (or magazine) titles are italicised
- All titles words (except preposition, articles, and conjunctions) start with a capital letter
- Dates are usually written in the Day Month Year format. If a monthly publication, only month and year are provided
- Inclusive page number(s) are preceded by p. for single page and pp.for multi-page articles
- If the publication has been accessed online, the date of access is stated (preceded by "Accessed") and the url is provided without https://
Chapter in edited book
If a book consists of several articles by different writers, an editor has compiled and prepared the articles for publication. If references are made to a particular chapter in the edited volume, the entry in the Works Cited should be listed under the name of the author of that chapter.
The format for chapter in an edited volume is:
Author's Last name, First name. "Chapter Title." Book Title, edited by Editor's Name(s), Publisher, Year, Inclusive page numbers.
Wagner, Linda. "Toni Morrison: Master of Narrative." Contemporary American Women Writers: Narrative Strategies, edited by Catherine Rainwater and William J. Scheick, University Press of Kentucky, 1985, pp. 191-205.
MLA style online resources
The Modern Language Association offers an FAQ section on their website and some information on how to use the reference style
The following university resources offer comprehensive MLA guidance: