MLA Style Guide

Need to follow MLA style for your PhD or Master’s thesis? It happens to be the style I used to teach to students. (Get ready for commas. Lots of commas.)

 

Here’s a one-page guide covering the main bases. Or get in touch about dissertation editing support.

Book | Translation | Article | Chapter | News | Website | Thesis

 

Not your style? Switch to Chicago or APA.

MLA style – overview

 

Academic styles don’t stand still. These style guides are not meant to be exhaustive; they’re here to ease the pain. Always check in with the publishers to see what’s changed and how it affects your referencing.

 

MLA stands for Modern Language Association (of America), so it’s no surprise that it’s the academic style of choice for many dissertations in the arts and humanities.

 

The MLA Style Center has a wealth of resources, including interactive styling templates, sample papers and webinar recordings.

MLA style – citation formats

 

As a general rule, MLA style loves in-text citation, following the author-date format. 

 

Mention the author’s name in the lead-up to a quotation, and you need only cite the relevant page number. No author mention? Include his/her last name in the parentheses before the page number, with no other punctuation.

 

MLA also recommends that footnotes and endnotes are limited to notes that are either bibliographic – pointing the reader to other useful source materials – or (briefly) explanatory. If you do use notes in this way, make sure your superscript numbers sit after any punctuation, not before (with the exception of em dashes). A separate Notes end-page is then recommended.

 

MLA style uses Works Cited as the name for its bibliography or reference list.

It’s always worth checking to see if your university has access to the online MLA Handbook. It’ll save valuable time when you come across a citation that doesn’t fit easily into one of the main categories.

MLA style – format templates and sample citations

 

Below you’ll find templates for citations in MLA style. Plug your source into the formula, remove the pipes ( | ) and you’ll have the citation in MLA style. (The MLA Style Center has their own interactive citation tool, too.)

 

Jump to a format: Book | Translation | Article | Chapter | News | Website | Thesis

Citing a book in MLA style

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | TITLE IN ITALICS | . | PUBLISHER | , | YEAR | .

 

Wolfe, Tom. The Bonfire of the Vanities. Macmillan, 1987.

 

Note the lack of publisher location in MLA. It’s only needed if the book was published before 1900, in which case it replaces the publisher.

 

Two authors? Reverse the first author’s name only and keep the first-last name convention for the second, with ‘, and’ between. 

 

Works Cited: Wolfe, Tom, and Hunter S. Thompson [...]

 

For three or more authors, reverse the first then add ‘, et al.’

Citing a work in translation in MLA style

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | TITLE IN ITALICS | . | Translated by TRANSLATOR NAME | , | PUBLISHER | , | YEAR | .

 

Carrier, Roch. La Guerre, Yes Sir. Translated by Sheila Fischman, Anansi, 1970. 

 

Is your point specific to the translation? In MLA you can rewrite your citation accordingly:


Fischman, Sheila, translator. La Guerre, Yes Sir. By Roch Carrier, Anansi, 1970.


 

Citing a journal article in MLA style

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | “ARTICLE TITLE.” | JOURNAL TITLE IN ITALICS | , | vol. JOURNAL VOLUME | , | no. JOURNAL ISSUE | , | YEAR | , | pp. ARTICLE PAGE RANGE | . | DOI | .

 

Masters, Joshua J. “Race and the Infernal City in Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities.” Journal of Narrative Theory, vol. 29, no. 2, 1999, pp. 208-27. doi:10.1353/jnt.2011.0015.

 

In MLA style, page ranges are always shortened, e.g. 208-27 not 208-227.

 

Multiple authors? 

2 – list both in Works Cited, reversing the first author’s names only and using ‘, and’ as the separator.

3 or more – list the first author’s Last Name, First Name, then add ‘, et al.’

Citing a chapter or essay in an edited book in MLA style

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | “TITLE.” | COLLECTION TITLE IN ITALICS, edited by EDITOR NAME | , | PUBLISHER | , | YEAR | , | pp. PAGE RANGE | .

 

Baumann, Paul. “An Icy Dip in the Real World.” The Critical Response to Tom Wolfe, edited by Doug Shomette, Greenwood Press, 1992, pp. 195-98.

 

In literature and cultural studies, MLA treats an individual author’s works (e.g. poems or short stories) slightly differently, with no editor referenced: 

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | “TITLE.” | COLLECTION TITLE IN ITALICS | , | PUBLISHER | , | YEAR | , | p/p. PAGE RANGE | .

 

Singer, Burns. “Where My Event is Bright.” Collected Poems, Carcanet, 2001, pp. 3-4.

 

Works found in anthologies, by contrast, follow the usual ‘edited by’ convention:


Roethke, Theodore. “The Waking.” The Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry, edited by Jay Parini, Thomson Wadsworth, 2006, p. 841.


 

Citing a publication in MLA style (newspaper, magazine, blog)

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | “ARTICLE TITLE.” | PUBLICATION TITLE IN ITALICS | , | DATE | ABBREV. MONTH | . | YEAR | , | p/p. PAGE RANGE OR PERMALINK | .

 

(If it’s an online publication, also include the date you last accessed the page.)

 

Bracewell, Michael. “The Man in the White Suit.” Frieze, 2 Jan. 2001, https://www.frieze.com/article/man-white-suit. Accessed 1 January 2020.

 

And remember, in MLA there is no ‘The’ before publication titles (e.g. New York Times, not The New York Times).


 

Citing a website in MLA style

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

“PAGE TITLE.” | WEBSITE IN ITALICS | , | DATE | ABBREV. MONTH | . | YEAR | . | PERMALINK | . | Accessed DATE | MONTH | YEAR | .

 

“The Psychedelic Journeys of Tom Wolfe.” Culture Trip, 20 Dec. 2016. https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/articles/the-psychedelic-journeys-of-tom-wolfe/. Accessed 1 January 2020.

 

(If an author is named, at the start of the citation add in last name, first name.)


 

Citing another thesis or dissertation in MLA style

 

Works Cited (with hanging indent)

 

AUTHOR LAST NAME | , | AUTHOR FIRST NAME | . | THESIS TITLE IN ITALICS | . | YEAR | . | UNIVERSITY, PhD dissertation | .


Wolfe, Tom. The League of American Writers: Communist Organizational Activity Among American Writers, 1929-1942. 1956. Yale University, PhD dissertation.

Need another citation format? Consult the MLA Handbook for full clarification.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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