MLA Citations

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This presentation covers how to create MLA citations, both in-text and in the Works Cited list. 

The Modern Language Association developed MLA citation style to help you document your sources in a research paper or other project. By employing MLA citation style, you will give proper credit to authors whose ideas or words you are using in your own work.

In a research paper, you will use two types of MLA citation. In-text citations are brief and will appear among the sentences you write in your paper. Reference citations are longer and will appear at the end of your paper, in your List of Works Cited.

Let’s say you have written this sentence in your paper:

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man shows a deep reading of themes found in the classical literature of Homer as well as the tradition of American literature in Melville, Twain, and Faulkner (Parrish 639).

The sentence expresses an idea, rephrased in your own words, that you read in an article. To show where you found your idea, you add the name of the author, Parrish, and the page number. Now anyone who reads your paper will know that you found this idea in an article by Parrish. In the back of your paper, in the List of Works Cited, there will be a corresponding citation beginning with the name of the author, Parrish, comma, Timothy (spelled out, not abbreviated).

Here is another example of a sentence in your paper where you use a direct quotation from the article by Parrish. In the text of your paper, you need to credit Parrish each time you quote, paraphrase, or summarize material from his article, but in the list of Works Cited you will list Parrish only once. You may have more than one in-text citation for the article by Parrish, but you need to credit that article only once in the Works Cited list.

"We still have a long way to go before American society lives up to the extraordinary vision of it bequeathed to us by Ralph Waldo Ellison. To our collective national misfortune, no one else in American literature is quite like him" (Parrish 664).

This one is a direct quotation. You are using the exact words from the article you have read, and so you have placed this sentence inside quotation marks. You can also use an in-text citation to show where you found this. This quotation appears on page 664 of the article. This in-text citation will correspond with a Works Cited citation at the end of your paper, for Parrish, Timothy.

The in-text citation for Parrish clearly leads to the corresponding citation in the Works Cited list at the end of your paper.

Parrish, Timothy. “Ralph Ellison, Finished and Unfinished: Aesthetic Achievement and Political Legacies.” Contemporary Literature, vol. 48, no. 4, 2007, pp. 639-664. Project Muse,

  • The reference citation begins with the author’s name, spelled out. Last name, comma, first name.
  • Next, the title of the article, in quotation marks.
  • The journal in which the article was published, in italics.
  • The volume and issue, followed by the year, then the page range of the article, with appropriate abbreviations.
  • The name of the database where you found it, in italics.
  • The permalink for the article, without http:// (if a DOI is available, give that instead).

Please note that a citation as it appears in a library research database may not yet be in MLA format. However, the database citation contains the elements that you need for your MLA reference citation, such as the author name, the article title, and so on. But in the database these elements are not formatted according to MLA citation style. You need to rearrange the elements and format them according to MLA rules.

You have to rearrange and edit the information so that when you put it in your List of Works Cited, the citation will be in MLA style.

Please contact a UMGC librarian if you need help with MLA Citations, or for your research needs. We are available a number of ways including instant messaging, e-mail, phone, and walk-in visits. Thank you for viewing this presentation.