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ServiceScape Incorporated
2007

Quick Reference Guide to MLA


MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. MLA style specifies guidelines for formatting papers and for referencing sources through parenthetical citation and Works Cited pages. The rules and guidelines for MLA style are set forth in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (6th edition) and the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2nd edition).

This article will discuss the most commonly referenced MLA rules and serve as a quick reference guide for students.

1. General Guidelines for Formatting Your Paper

Double-space the text of your paper, and use a legible font like Times New Roman or Courier with a font size of 10-12 pt. Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor). Set the margins of your document to 1 inch on all sides. Indent the first line of a paragraph one half-inch (five spaces or press tab once) from the left margin.

2. The Basics of In-Text Citation

MLA, like most formatting styles, uses parenthetical citations to give credit to the work of others. To properly cite to a source, immediately following a quotation from a source or a paraphrase of a source’s ideas, place the author's name followed by a space and the page from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken. For example:

Social support is the assistance individuals receive through their interpersonal relationships (Cobb 10).

The author’s name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:

Cobb states that social support is the assistance individuals receive through their interpersonal relationships (10).

Unknown Author
When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work in place of the author’s name. Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work, or italicize or underline it if it's a longer work.

Multiple Citations
To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations by a semi-colon. For example:

Social support is the assistance individuals receive through their interpersonal relationships (Cobb 10; Williams 25).

Multiple Works by the Same Author
If the author's name is not mentioned in the sentence, you would format your citation with the author's name followed by a comma, followed by a shortened title of the work, followed, when appropriate, by page numbers. If the author’s name is mentioned in the sentence, it can be omitted from the citation.

Citing to Indirect Sources
Sometimes you may have to use an indirect source. An indirect source is a source cited in another source. For such indirect quotations, use “qtd. in” to indicate the source you actually consulted.

3. Dealing with Quotations

Short Quotations
To indicate short quotations (fewer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, simply enclose the quotation within double quotation marks.

Long Quotations
Longer quotations of more than four typed lines should be placed in a free-standing block of text, omitting quotation marks, but maintaining double-spacing. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented one inch from the left margin. Only indent the first line of the quotation by a half inch if you are citing multiple paragraphs. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Quotes within Quotes
One of the most difficult types of quotes to punctuate is a quote within a quote. Sometimes, you may want to use quoted dialogue or a quote that includes a word that is already set off by quotation marks. To mark a quotation within the text you want to quote in your own paper, enclose them in single quotation marks (‘. . .’):

Original text: He went to see the film “Casablanca.”
Quoted text: Because “he went to see the film ‘Casablanca,’” he was late for the audition.

4. Basic Format of the Works Cited Page

All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the sources cited in your main text. Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. Label the page Works Cited (do not underline the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page. Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries.

Use italics or underlining for titles of larger works (books, magazines) and quotation marks for titles of shorter works (poems, articles).
Entries are listed by author name (for entire edited collections, listed by editor names). Author names are written last name first; middle names or middle initials follow the first name. Example: Kinsella, Sophie. If the book has no author, you can list and alphabetize by the title of the book.

5. Works Cited: Books

Books with One Author
Basic Format: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.
Example: Kinsella, Sophie. Shopaholic & Baby. New York: Bantam Press, 2007.

Book with More Than One Author
First author name is written last name first; subsequent author names are written first name, last name. If there are more than three authors, you may list only the first author followed by the phrase et al. in place of the other authors' names, or you may list all the authors in the order in which their names appear on the title page.

6. Works Cited: Periodicals

Article in a Magazine
Basic Format: Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical Day Month Year: pages.
Example: Smith, James. “The Iraq War.” Time 20 Nov. 2000: 70-71.

Article in a Newspaper
Cite a newspaper article as you would a magazine article. If there is more than one edition available for that date (as in an early and late edition of a newspaper), identify the edition following the date (e.g., 17 May 1987, late ed.). Where a newspaper title does not indicate the location of publication, add the city of publication between square brackets, e.g. Daily Telegraph [London].
Example: Cave, Andrew. “Microsoft and Sun Settle Java Battle.” Daily Telegraph [London] 25 Jan. 2001: 36.

Article in a Scholarly Journal:
Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages.
Example: Nielsen, Laura Beth. “Subtle, Pervasive, Harmful: Racist and Sexist Remarks in Public as Hate Speech.” Journal of Social Issues 58.2 (2002): 265.

7. Works Cited: Internet Sources

The following are the basic components of an Internet citation:
1) Author.
2) “Title of Article, Web page or site” in quotation marks.
3) Title of Magazine, Journal, Newspaper, Newsletter, Book, Encyclopedia, or Project, underlined.
4) Editor of Project.
5) Indicate type of material, e.g. advertisement, cartoon, clipart, electronic card, interview, map, online posting, photograph, working paper, etc. if not obvious.
6) Date of article, of Web page or site creation, revision, posting, last update, or date last modified.
7) Group, association, name of forum, sponsor responsible for Web page or Web site.
8) Access date (the date you accessed the Web page or site).
9) Complete Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or network address in angle brackets.

You may not be able to find all of the above; it is ok to skip any information that you cannot find anywhere on the Web page or in the Web site. Generally, a minimum of three items are required for an Internet citation: Title, Access Date and URL.

Example: “How to Make Eggs.” eHow.com. 10 May 2006 .
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