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MLA Citation Guide: Welcome

This guide shows you how to cite using MLA.

What is MLA?

MLA style was created by the Modern Language Association of America. It is a set of rules for publications, including research papers.

There are two parts to MLA: In-text citations and the Works Cited list.

In MLA, you must "cite" sources that you have paraphrased, quoted or otherwise used to write your research paper. Cite your sources in two places:

  1. In the body of your paper where you add a brief in-text citation.
  2. In the Works Cited list at the end of your paper where you give more complete information for the source.

MLA Core Principles

MLA follows these 3 principles: 

  1. Cite simple traits shared by most works
  2. There is often more than one correct way to cite a source
  3. Make your citations useful to readers 

Core Elements of an MLA Citation

MLA provides 9 core elements to complete any works cited entry. It is your job to try to fill in these core elements with the information you have about a source. If any element is missing or not applicable, you can skip that element.

The 9 Core Elements

(1) Author.
(2) “Title of source.”
(3) Title of Container,
(4) Other contributors,
(5) Version, 
(6) Number, 
(7) Publisher,
(8) Publication date,
(9) Location.


For sources that are part of a larger work, you include core element (2) “Title of source.”
‚Äč        ( e.g. journal articles from a journal, essays or chapters from a book, webpages from a website)

For sources that are self-contained, you skip core element (2).
        (e.g. books, websites, or journals)

Other contributors includes people such as editors, translators, or directors.


Example 1. A source found within a larger work (a journal article)

Guillen, Jorge. "Does Financial Openness Matter in the Relationship Between Financial Development and Income Distribution in Latin America?" Emerging Markets Finance & Trade, vol. 52, no. 5, 2016, pp. 1145-1155. Business Source Complete, doi:10.1080/1540496X.2015.1046337.

(1) Guillen, Jorge.
(2) "Does Financial Openness Matter in the Relationship Between Financial Development and Income Distribution in Latin America?"
(3) Emerging Markets Finance & Trade,
(6) vol. 52, no.5,
(8) 2016,
(9) pp. 1145-1155. 

Example 2. A self-contained source (a book)

Kirsh, Steven J. Children, Adolescents, and Media Violence: A Critical Look at the Research. 2nd ed., Sage, 2006. 

(1) Kirsh, Steven J.
(3) Children, Adolescents, and Media Violence: A Critical Look at the Research. 
(5) 2nd ed.,
(7) Sage,
(8) 2006. 

Note on Publisher Information: 

According to p. 42 of the MLA Handbook, you don’t need to include publisher information for:

  • periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • works published by an author or editor
  • web sites whose title is the same as the name of the publisher
  • a web site not involved in producing the work it makes (e.g. user-generated content sites like YouTube)

Commonly Used Terms

Access Date: The date you first look at a source. Add the access date to the end of citations for all websites except library databases.

Citation: The details about one source you are citing.

Citing: The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

In-Text Citation: A brief note in your paper or essay at the point where you use information from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Works Cited List.

Paraphrasing: Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism: Taking the ideas or words of another person and using them as your own.

Quoting: Copying words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Works Cited List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.

Do You Need Citation Help?

Stop by the library and speak with a Librarian, or make an appointment at the Writing Center:

Seneca College Libraries

This guide is used/adapted with the permission of Seneca College Libraries. For information please contact