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Citation Assistance Resource Guide: MLA-8 Citation Style

MLA Citation Style

With the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook, the Modern Language Association adopted a slightly different way of considering sources used in research.  Rather than looking at the specific format of a source, such as print, digital, film, and so on, sources are viewed as "containers" of information.  Whether they are print, web-based or videos, these sources, or containers, usually have the following common elements:

  • Author. (creator of the work)
  • Title of source.
  • Title of container (for example a book, journal, or video),
  • Other contributors,
  • Version,
  • Number,
  • Publisher,
  • Publication date,
  • and Location. (This is page numbers, a video timestamp, etc.)

The punctuation for each of these elements is shown above.  The placement of punctuation will be important when creating your Works Cited page.  For information on setting the margins, spacing, page numbers, etc. for your paper, refer to the Set-up for an MLA paper document prepared by writing staff at the Learning Support Center.

The MLA Works Cited list

As you are researching, you should be gathering the information from the sources that you will be using in your paper. This information is used to create your Works Cited list and includes the elements that we mentioned in the Overview, i.e.  author, title, etc.   Try to collect as much information as possible for each source.  Remember that the goal is to guide your reader to the information that you refer to in your paper by providing them with sufficient information to find the source.   You may want to use the MLA container template as a guide to determine what information is needed.  Refer to the MLA-Sample Works Cited page to determine the capitalization, punctuation and other examples of how the entries should be styled.  The Works Cited list should be double-spaced and you should use hanging indents for each entry.  A hanging indent creates an entry in which the second and subsequent lines are indented ½ inch from the left margin as is illustrated in the MLA-Sample Works Cited page entries.

Creating MLA in-text citations

When you use information in a research paper that you have found in another source, it is important to let the reader know where you found the original information.  Parenthetical documentation or in-text citation is the way to accomplish this.  The in-text citation is a place marker that you put in your paper to let people know that the information you are providing came from another source.  The purpose of the in-text citation is to give information about where you acquired the information you are citing without interrupting the flow of your paper.  Basically, an in-text citation…

  • is enclosed in parentheses,
  • includes the author name or title word(s) if there is no author, and
  • a page number or other identifying location information, if available.

Example:  (Brown 367) or (Diagnostic 382)

Refer to the MLA-Sample in-text citations document for examples of how to cite various sources.

Signal phrases

Using signal phrases is a good way to enhance the readability of your paper.  A signal phrase usually begins a sentence and names the author or title of the source to provide context for the information to follow.  “As Thomas Brown has noted…” is an example of a signal phrase.  When using signal phrases, only the page number is included within the parentheses of the in-text citation since the author or title of the work has already been identified.


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