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Citation Guides

Guides on everything related to citing sources: MLA and APA style, citing websites, and avoiding plagiarism.

MLA Style Basics

Principles of citing, MLA Style:
  1. When citing any work, no matter what type or format, use a series of “core elements”.
  2. Omit any core elements not relevant to the work.
  3. In MLA style, "containers” describe how your source was published or made available to readers.
Core Elements, in order of placement in citation:

Note each element ends in a comma or a period:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of Source.
  3. Title of Container,
  4. Other Contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.
  10. Optional elements.
About Containers:

Most sources are part of a larger work. In MLA these larger works are called “containers.”

Examples:

  • A webpage (source) is part of a website (container)
  • An article (source) is part of a magazine (container)
  • A short story (source) is part of a book (container)

A few types of works are self-contained, and so are not part of a larger work, but are themselves a large work. Examples:

  • A book
  • A film
  • A work of art seen in person

Use core elements 3 through 9 to give details about the container. Repeat these same elements (3 through 9) for works that have 2 containers. Example:

  • An article (the source) is published in a journal (1st container) which is available in an online database (2nd container). 

1: Author

The author is the first core element of any citation.
  • Author name(s) always end with a period. 
  • If source has more than one author, list the authors or editors for each citation in the order given on the publication. 
If source has one author:
  • Last/Family name, First name Middle name. 

Examples: 

Rushkoff, Douglas.

Kalish, Mildred Armstrong.

If source has two authors:
  • Last, First Middle, and First Middle Last. 

Example:

Kauffman, James M., and Harold J. Burbach.

If source has three or more authors:
  • Give only first listed author, Last, First Middle, then “et al.” to indicate multiple authors.

Example:

Wolfteich, Claire E., et al.

If source has editors but no authors:
  • Format names as you would for authors, comma, then the word "editor" or "editors", then a period.

Example:

Smith, John, and Margaret Jolly, editors.

If source has a corporate author:
  • Give organization name as it appears in work, but omit any beginning A, An, or The.

Example:

Modern Language Association.

If source has a government author:
  • Name of country, comma, Department followed by a period.

Example:

United States, National Institutes of Health.

If source gives no author:
  • Skip the author and begin citation with title of source (see Element 2: Title of source).

2: Title of source

The title of the source will either have quotation marks for shorter works within a larger work (for example: a short story, an article, or a web page), or italics for self-contained works (for example: a movie or a book).
Capitalize first, last, and principal words:

Example of a shorter work: (The period goes before the closing quotation mark)

“A Perfect Day for Bananafish.”

Example of a longer work: (The text is in italics and ends with a period)

The Godfather.

Include any subtitle after a colon:

Example:

ScreenAgers: Lessons in Chaos from Digital Kids.

If no title is given, write a generic description, using sentence capitalization and no quotation marks. End with a period:

Photograph of sunset at Rocky Mountain National Park. 

3: Title of container

The container is the larger source that contains the work you are citing.
  • For example: a book that contains a short story or essay; a journal that contains an article, or a web site that contains a web page.
  • Use italics and follow with a comma.
  • First, last, and principal words capitalized.

Examples:

Journal of Education,

Webster’s New World College Dictionary,

4: Other contributors

Use the "other contributors" element to include any additional names important to your research or to identification of the work.
  • Most often used for a translator or editor of a book, or for names of people involved in making or performing in a film or series. 
  • Write name: First Middle Last, and precede with a descriptive phrase or noun. Common phrases include:
    • adapted by
    • directed by
    • edited by
    • illustrated by
    • introduction by
    • narrated by
    • performance by
    • translated by
  • Use sentence capitalization. This means if the previous element ended with a comma, the first word isn't capitalized. See example.

Examples:

Translated by Jay Rubin, 

performances by James Stewart and Donna Reed,

5: Version

Use the Version element to indicate an edition or version.
  • Abbreviate edition (ed.) and revised (rev.).
  • Use sentence capitalization. This means if the previous element ended in a comma, the first word isn't capitalized. See example.

Examples:

Updated ed.,

5th ed.,

unabridged version,

6: Number

Use the "number" element when the source is part of a numbered sequence, such as a journal article or a television series
episode.
  • Abbreviate volume (vol.) and issue/number (no.)
  • Use sentence capitalization. Do not capitalize the first word after a comma.

Examples:

vol. 42, no. 5,

season 2, episode 10,

7: Publisher

Use the "publisher" element mostly for books, websites, and films.
  • Do not use in journal article citations
  • Abbreviate “University Press” to UP
  • Omit any initial article (A, An, or The) and business abbreviations (like Co. or Inc.)
  • For websites, find the publisher name at the bottom of the page after the ©.
  • Publisher name not needed if it's the same as the website title.
  • For films, use the name of the distributor.

Examples:

U of Chicago P,

RKO,

University of Iowa Museum of Art, 

8: Publication date

Every citation will include a publication date, unless no date is given in the source.
  • Format for dates is: day month year.
  • Abbreviate months longer than four letters to first 3 letters.
  • If more than one date is given, use the date most relevant or most recent.
  • If no publication date is given, omit the date.
  • For websites, add the access date under “Optional elements” (see description below).

Examples:

27 Aug. 1971,

June 1995, 

9: Location

Use location element for any information that helps the reader locate the source. This includes:
  • The URL of a website or online article, without the http:// and including a period at the end.

Example:

www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2018/data-on-display/education-pays.htm.

  • The doi of a journal article (use instead of URL).

Example:

doi:10.1002/pits.20246.

  • The page numbers of an article, preceded by p. for a single page, or pp. for multiple pages.

Examples:

pp. 65-8.

p. 102. 

  • The museum, if an artwork was viewed in person.

Example:

The Art Institute of Chicago.

10: Optional elements

Use any of these optional elements, but only if they are important to your use of the source. 
  • Date of access for online work with content that changes often, or that doesn’t have a published date.
  • Precede the date with the word "Accessed".

Example: 

Accessed 7 June 2016.

  • Use for unexpected formats. Include a word that describes the format.

Examples:

Lecture.

Address.

Transcript.

 

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