12.3 MLA Citation: Works Cited Entries

Emilie Zickel and John Brentar

The Modern Language Association (MLA) system of documentation governs how writers format academic papers and cite the sources that they use. This system of formatting and citation is used most by academic disciplines in the arts and humanities.


Citations according to MLA consist of two elements:

  1. in-text citations (also called parenthetical citations); and
  2. a bibliography called a Work Cited (or Works Cited, if multiple sources are cited) list.

Writers use in-text citations to acknowledge that they have used ideas from external sources to help develop their essays. Those in-text citations refer to the full bibliographic references. Whenever you use sources, whether in direct quotation or in paraphrase, you must use in-text citations. Writers very often combine in-text citations with attributive signal phrases to make clear to the reader exactly what material has come from what source. Every in-text citation you make will be keyed to an entry in your Works Cited list, at which you supply your reader with the full bibliographic information for your sources.

Works Cited Entries

  • Every source that you quote, paraphrase, or summarize in an essay must be included in your Works Cited list
  • Your Works Cited list should always be on its own new page, after the end of the text of the essay
  • At the start of your list, at the top margin of the page, include a heading containing the words Work (or Works) Cited, centered, without bolding, italics, quotation marks, or all-caps
  • Works Cited entries are in the same font and double spacing as the rest of the paper
  • Unlike the text of the essay, works cited entries do not begin with an indentation. Rather, they use hanging (also known as reverse) indentation, in which the first line of an entry is not indented, but all successive lines are indented, by .5″.
  • Sources need to be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter in each entry.
    • If you have a source with no author, then that source will be alphabetized according to the first letter of its title
    • The entries will not be numbered or presented as a series of bulleted points.

General Order of Content in a Works Cited Entry

MLA specifies that certain elements appear in a certain order in a works cited entry. Each element will be followed by a specific piece of punctuation. When you cite sources, never take the information from the cover of the source; rather, always refer to title pages. Here are each of the elements and additional information about them:

Author Name(s)
  • Author names must be given exactly as they appear in the source, including middle initials and generational suffixes such as Jr. or III.
  • If there is one author, give the full name, inverted so that the last name precedes the first. Place a comma after the last name.
    • Example: Jones, Robert.
  • If there are two authors, give both names; place the word “and” before the second author’s name, which will not be inverted.
    • Example: Smith, Susanna, and John R. Johnson.
    • The order of the authors matters: cite them in the order in which the source names them.
  • If there are three or more authors, list only the first, followed by the abbreviation “et al.” which is short for the Latin et alii (meaning “and others”).
    • Example: Williamson, Robin, et al.
  • If there is no author, begin the entry with the title of the source.
Title of Source
  • MLA has specific rules for capitalizing titles. The first and last works of a title or subtitle are always capitalized. Capitalize all words falling in the middle of the title, except for these:
    • The articles (a, an, the)
    • Prepositions (to, at, in, for, below, beyond, beneath, etc.)
    • Coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)
  • If the source is a book, italicize its title: Great Expectations.
  • If the source is an article, place its title within quotation marks: “Four Kinds of Thinking.” (Note that the period goes inside the end quotation mark.)
  • Containers are larger works within which smaller works are published. Here are examples of different containers:
    • Books
      • Books contain chapters. If different chapters have been written by different authors, the chapter is your source, and its container is the book.
      • A specialized kind of book is an anthology, which is a collection of articles (usually previously published elsewhere), written by different authors. In this case, the article in an anthology is your source, and the book is the container.
    • Periodical publications (newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals)
      • An article in a periodical is the source; the periodical itself is the container.
      • If the name of a newspaper or magazine begins with the word “the,” omit it. Thus, write New York Times, rather than The New York Times.
    • Websites
      • An individual page at a website is a source; the website itself is a container.
    • Similarly, television shows contain episodes, and albums contain songs.
  • Containers are always italicized, and there will be a comma following the name of the container, except when you are citing a book whose entire contents have been written by the same author(s). In this case, the source is the book.
Other Contributors
  • These can be translators or, in the case of an anthology, editors/compilers. For a translator, place the translator names(s) after the words “translated by; for editors/compilers, place the name(s) after the words “edited by” or compiled by.” Do not invert any of these names.
  • Place a comma after other contributors.
  • A book may appear in different editions. If a book is published in a numbered edition subsequent to the first, write it as an ordinal number, followed by the abbreviation “ed.”: 2nd ed.
  • Other kinds of editions may be “abridged,” “expanded,” etc. Place that word before the abbreviation “ed.”
  • Place a comma after the version (yes, in this case there will be a comma following a period).
  • Books may be published in multiple volumes. To cite a multivolume work, place its number after the abbreviation “vol.”
  • Scholarly journals are usually published according to volume and issue number. To cite these, place the volume number after the abbreviation “vol.” and the issue number after the abbreviation “no.”
  • Do not cite volume and issue numbers for newspapers and magazines, even if your source gives them.
  • For books, give the name of the publisher, which will be listed on the title page.
    • Do not include descriptive words such as “company,” “corporation,” or “limited” or abbreviations of them.
    • If a book has been published by a university press, shorten those words to the abbreviation UP, such as Ohio State UP. Abbreviate them even if they are separate: U Chicago P stands for the University of Chicago Press.
  • For periodicals, do not list a publisher, even when it is given.
  • For websites, list the entity responsible for the site. To find a website’s publisher, scroll to the bottom of the page and note the copyright holder.
    • Note, if the website is an online periodical, omit the publisher name.
Date of Publication
  • For a book, give the year as listed on its copyright page (the reverse side of the title page). If you are citing a whole book (that is, not an anthology), place a period after the date, unless you are citing optional information, in which case you will place a comma after the date.
  • For an article in a periodical, give as much of the date as you are given, in date-month-year format
    • Abbreviate the names of all months, except for May, June, and July. All abbreviations of month names are three letters (e.g., Dec.), with the exception of September, which is Sept.
    • For a bimonthly publication, place a hyphen, not a slash, between the months. Example: July-Aug.
    • Place a comma after the date.
  • For an online document, again give as much of the date as you are given. Often, that will be an exact date of posting or of last update. If there is no specific date of publication given, scroll to the bottom of the page for the copyright date and use that.
    • Place a comma after the date.
  • Page numbers
    • If you are citing part of a book (for instance, an article in an anthology), give the inclusive page numbers (that is, the page the source starts on and the page it ends on), preceded by the abbreviation “pp.”
    • If you are citing an article in a periodical, again cite the inclusive page numbers, preceded by the abbreviation “pp.” If the source appears on only one page, precede the number with “p.”
    • When the end page number is in the same hundreds as the beginning page number, omit the hundreds digit in the end page number. Do not write pp. 243-247. Instead, write pp. 243-47. The same goes for thousands: pp. 1147-83. Do not omit the hundreds digit when the page numbers are in separate hundreds or are both below one hundred. Thus, do not write pp. 84-07 for a work beginning on page 84 and ending on page 107.
    • Often, newspapers have lettered sections and numbered pages within those sections. Place the section letter first, followed by the page number. Example: B1.
    • Often, magazine and newspaper articles are published on non-consecutive pages. For instance, an article may start on page 47, run to page 49, and then jump to page 104. In such cases, print only the beginning page number, followed by a plus sign: pp. 47+.
  • When citing an online source, give the entire Uniform Resource Locator (URL, also known as the web address) exactly as it appears in the navigation bar of your browser, except omit the http:// or https:// that precedes the URL.
  • If your word processing software changes the URL to a hyperlink, right click on it and remove the hyperlink.
  • Place a period after the URL.

MLA also allows you to cite further optional information. If you have accessed a periodical article from a research database, such as Academic Search Complete, the Electronic Journal Center, or Lexis Nexis, you can also cite the following information.

  • The name of the database, italicized and followed by a comma.
    • Note: EBSCOhost is not a database itself; rather, it is the compiler of several different databases. Do not cite EBSCOhost; look for the name of the specific database, which will be in the banner of the page.
  • The Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which is a unique, permanent identifier.
    • Example: doi:10.1016/j.aap.2008.08.011
    • Place a comma after the DOI.
  • The date you accessed the source, again in date-month-year format, and followed by a period.

Practice with Ordering the Elements of an MLA-Formatted Works Cited Page

Attribution: MLA Citation: Works Cited Entries by John Brentar and Emilie Zickel. From A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing by John Brentar, Charlotte Morgan, and Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted. Creative Commons license




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12.3 MLA Citation: Works Cited Entries Copyright © 2022 by Emilie Zickel and John Brentar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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