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Citation Assistance Resource Guide: MLA-9 Citation Style

MLA 9 is Here!

MLA 9 is the most recent version of the Modern Language Association Citation Style. Adopted in April 2021, this newest edition of MLA does not have very many differences from previous editions. However, the new MLA 9 Handbook has been updated and improved for ease of use.

The only new change to make note of in MLA 9 is a new styling of DOI numbers in a citation. All DOI numbers will start with: followed by the DOI number. 

New to the MLA 9 Handbook are sections on:
  • Properly using inclusive language
  • Recognizing and avoiding plagiarism
  • Annotated Bibliographies
  • Formatting a Research Paper
  • Lots and lots of example citations!

The Handbook offers excellent guidance on creating your citations and in-text citations, including offering more and a greater variety of example citations to help writers understand how to properly cite sources.
This guide will show you some of the most important steps to creating an MLA citation, as well as provide access to other useful resources and video tutorials.

**If you would like to use the MLA 9 Handbook, there are copies available at the HCC Library for in-library use.**

Containers | Works Cited Page | In-Text Citations

MLA Citation Style


MLA creates its citations by using a basic template of core elements. These elements are common to most sources and can be used as a whole or in parts. For example, most sources will have a title and an author, but not every source will have a volume number or contributor. These core elements include:

  • Author
  • Title
  • Title of Container
  • Contributor
  • Version
  • Number
  • Publisher
  • Publication Date
  • Location

These elements can be combined in different "Containers" within a citation to help describe the different levels of a source. In addition to the descriptive information for the specific article (Title and Author), MLA citations can use up to two containers to describe where the article is sourced from. A citation will include one container when a source is contained in one work, such as when you read a print article found in a journal. The container will be used to describe the journal where the article came from. A citation will include two containers when a source is contained in one work that is also found in another. For example, an article that is found in a journal, and the journal was accessed through a database. A container must be used to describe both the journal as well as the database. 

For more detailed information about the MLA Core Elements, make sure to take a look at the MLA 9 Handbook. The Handbook provides step-by-step guidance on what each element is, where you can find it in a source, and how to use it in a citation. There are also a plethora of examples to show you how the elements would look in a citation! 

Copies of the MLA-9 Handbook are available for use in the HCC Library.


The Works Cited Page

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 Page. The Works Cited Page is the final page of your research paper, and will include a list of all the different sources you have referenced in your assignment. Its goal is to guide readers of your paper to the original sources of information, so each citation in the Works Cited Page should include enough information to make this possible. This might include: Title, Author, Publication Information, Database Name, a DOI Number or URL, etc. 

For help creating your citations, refer to the MLA-9 Sample Works Cited Page. This resource can be especially helpful in making sure all the formatting in your citations is correct, such as punctuation, making sure the correct information is in italics or quotation marks, etc. 

Some basic formatting tips to remember:

  • Your Works Cited Page will be listed in alphabetical order based on the author's last names. If some sources do not have any authors listed, they will be alphabetized in the list according to the first word of their title. 
  • Remember to double space your citations. This makes them easier to read. 
  • Every citation will include a hanging indent. This is when every line in a single citation except the first line are indented in a further 1/2 inch from the left margin. If you are using Microsoft Word, you can create a hanging indent by using the command CTRL + T. 


Authors' Names in Citations

Citing a work with one author

List the author's name starting with the surname followed by the first name and middle initial. 

Baron, Naomi S. "Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media." PMLA, vol. 1238, Jan. 2013, pp. 193-200

Citing a work with two authors

List the names of the authors as they appear in the work. The first author's name will appear with the surname first, followed by the first name and middle initial. The second author's name will appear as first name followed by last name. 

Dorris, Michael, and Louise Erdrich. The Crown of Columbus. HarperCollins Publishers, 1999

Citing a work with three or more authors

With three or more authors, only list the first author's name, followed by the abbreviation 'et al.'. 

Charon, Rita, et al. The Principles of Narrative Medicine. Oxford UP, 2017. 

Supplemental Elements

Sometimes you will cite a source that requires more information added to the citation than the Core Elements. In previous editions of MLA, these were referred to as "Optional Elements." In MLA-9, they are re-named Supplemental Elements because while they are additional, they are sometimes necessary for a citation. Supplemental Elements help to clarify information in a citation that may be necessary for accessing the original source. Some examples include adding in contributors to the author section such as a translator or interviewer, including an access date for an online work that doesn't have a publication date, or including a format type for electronic resources.

Depending on the type of Supplemental Element you are adding to the citation, they can appear in the citation in different places. Most common is including the Supplemental Element at the end of the citation if it pertains to the entire citation, or including the element after the Title of the source if it does not pertain to the entire citation, such as the Contributor which may only be specific to the source and not the database where the source came from. 

Examples of citations with Supplemental Elements included (Supplemental Element is in bold text here to show where it is placed):

Fagih, Ahmed Ibrahim al-. The Singing of the Stars. Translated by Leila El Khalidi and Christopher Tingley. Short Arabic Plays: An Anthology, edited by Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Interlink Books, 2003, pp. 140-57.

"Orhan Pamuk: Un écrivain turc à succès." Orhan Pamuk Site, Ileti┼čim Publishing, Accessed 25 Oct. 2015. 

Rushkoff, Douglas. "Team Human: Find the Others." 92nd Street Y, New York City, 21 May 2019. Lecture.


In-Text Citations

Whenever you use information for an assignment that you found from another source, you must cite this information to show where it is coming from. There are two different ways that you will cite this information. The first is in the full citations that appear at the end of your assignment and provide all the information necessary to track down the original information, and the second is through in-text citations. These are short, snippets of information that direct readers to the full citation in the Works Cited list. In-text citations appear throughout your research paper or assignment, and are used whenever you are using information from a source. Whether you are directly quoting a source or rephrasing it into your own words, it will always require an in-text citation.

There are two different ways to create in-text citations: Parenthetical citations, and citations in prose. Parenthetical citations are the most common, and they appear directly next to the text where the information is being cited. These citations will include the author's name or the title (if there is no author) followed by a page number where the information came from. For example:

Literature's aesthetic and social roles have been debated in the West at least since Plato. The global landscape in which so much literary production takes place, however, has revealed just how diminished--if not "wretched" (Gao 15)--the individual creator has become. 

If there is no page number listed for a citation, still include the author's name in the parenthetical citation. For works with multiple authors, you will follow the same guidelines listed above for including multiple author's names in the citation. 

Others note that doctors have not yet adequately explained the effects climate change will have on human health (Lemery and Auerbach 4-5). 

The authors argue that the truth value of statements--their premises and conclusions--is one factor that affects how people are persuaded by arguments (Nickerson et al. 135). 

Citations in prose are when you incorporate the citation information into the actual text of your assignment. This is often helpful in improving the overall flow of the text, which can be interrupted quite a bit when there are lots of parenthetical citations. When using this style of in-text citation, you are still providing all the information necessary for an in-text citation, but most or all is part of the text. Any information that isn't directly a part of the sentence should still appear in parentheses at the end of the sentence. For example:

According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society, the "speed of warming is more than ten times that at the end of  an ice age, the fastest known natural sustained change on a global scale" (9).

Others, like Jay Lemery and Paul Auerbach, note that doctors have not yet adequately explained the effects climate change will have on human health (4-5). Lemery and Auerbach's book focuses on the human, not the environmental, risks.  


For more help with creating in-text citations, check out the online resources available from this Libguide, or stop by the library to talk with a librarian or use the MLA Handbook. 

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