Blog article cover MLA Format Citation: Rules, Examples, and Best Practices

MLA Format Citation: Rules, Examples, and Best Practices

Researchers and students at institutions of higher learning very often publish their research papers and essays, which must be formatted accordingly.
The format developed by the Modern Language Association over sixty years ago is generally accepted. It is a set of standards for manuscript formatting that emphasizes the value of the information presented and avoids unfounded accusations of plagiarism.

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An Overview of MLA Format Citation Purpose and Importance

MLA format is helpful for teachers and students, writers and publicists who want to enhance their credibility. To use this style, several strict rules must be followed concerning the type of paper and the particular structure of the narrative.

Beforehand, you should familiarize yourself with essential concepts and examples of citations to avoid possible formatting errors. Below, we will consider the main rules you should adhere to on a mandatory basis. Following them will allow you to format your essay correctly, with sources of information, footers, and other structural elements.

MLA Format Citation Rules and Core Components

Several years ago, the ninth edition of a reference guide was published, providing updated standards for documents and citations. This guide will help format small texts and major scholarly papers.

Essays in MLA format can use several ways to integrate content from different resources:

  • direct quotation. The author’s name in parentheses must be included at the end of the fragment. The page number should also be referenced, if possible;
  • paraphrasing. If a modified formulation of a sentence or paragraph is used, the author’s last name should be mentioned, and all page numbers from his work should be listed in parentheses, separated by commas;
  • signal phrase. The reader should first be led to the quotation using an introductory sentence. It should be sure to identify the author of the statement. And immediately after the quotation, the section or page number of the source should be published.

Special mention should be made of the MLA citation rule for large portions of text with more than four lines. The main requirements are listed in the following table:

Topic 1Topic 2
An introductory phrase that ends with a colon is always used before the quotation.The quoted text is visually separated from the rest of the content by indents. The top and bottom margins are one inch.
The citation in essay does not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the text.The source’s name, the author’s surname, and other qualifying information are placed inside parentheses after the quotation.

Rules of MLA format involve using standard components arranged in a certain order. Next, let’s look at the main structural elements:

  1. Author. This block is required, with the first and last names separated by commas. If the source of the information is a website or corporate publication, the name of the resource or company should be specified. One of the following sections will show a few detailed examples of using the main varieties of this component.
  2. Source name. When formatting is used, slanted writing, so-called italics, if a phrase from a major scholarly work is cited, the section number should be given. If the source is a statement of a singer or artist speaking on stage or in a feature film, the name must be taken in quotation marks.
  3. Container Title. A prime example is an article in a magazine. If you need to refer to the text from such a publication, you can specify from which period the phrase is taken. Such a component is highlighted in bold and slanted writing immediately after the article’s title. Below we will consider illustrative examples of the use of such a format.
  4. Editors and translators. An optional part of citation in essay. But if a book translated into another language is used, the author’s phrases do not always match the original. The translator’s first and last name should be given to avoid misinterpretation and possible embarrassment. The same applies to the editing of primary materials.
  5. A version of the publication. Some books may be republished several times, supplemented with current information. So that readers can find the desired source more quickly, the publication number should be given. This is one of the most essential MLA rules for citations. It is essential for magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals with many issues.
  6. Publisher. It depends on the type of source. You can cite the director, producer, and studio if it’s a movie or TV series. If the phrase is taken from a popular song, then in addition to the performer and author of the text, the name of the music label can also be included. Also, publishers are often government organizations. In such cases, they should be formatted using a standard font and listed separately by commas.
  7. Date of publication. It is indicated after the author’s name and the source’s title. If available, the exact date should be used. Otherwise, an approximate or simple year, mentioning a decade, the first or second half of the century, will do. You can omit this data if there is no information about when the book was written. No additional abbreviations or clarifications should be used.
  8. Location. According to this MLA format rule, you should provide a link to the web page from which the information for the quote is taken. It is also relevant if you want to refer to the words of an artist who performed in a particular theater in a particular city.

It is worth noting that not all of the listed components are mandatory when citing. But their use provides the following advantages:

  • a high index of informativeness. Readers will not have to spend a lot of time searching for an actual source when needed;
  • the credibility of the publication. By referring to third-party resources, the author shows his competence, designation, and interest in the topic;
  • support for generally accepted standards. Using the rules outlined in the MLA citation guide underscores the desire to do better and move up the career ladder.

This section has covered theoretical information that may not seem clear to everyone. But examples are available in one of the following parts of this overview to help you better understand the subject.

In-Text Citations in MLA Format

The placement of citations in academic publications, theses, and dissertations is critical. It is a confirmation of the facts and arguments presented in the text. The Bibliographic format MLA has been improved and used in the citation for over seventy years. This set of standards specifies the layout of the appropriate blocks within the essay and allows for proper formatting of the page listing the materials used.

MLA Format Citation photo 1

The following are some essential guidelines to follow for citations that follow MLA formatting rules:

  • if the primary source has only one author, the author’s last name is given after the quotation, and the page number is placed after the comma. For example, (Dawson, 567);
  • if there is more than one author, all of them must be cited. The exact order must be followed as in the source. For example, (Stevenson and Hopkins, 456). In a situation where there are more than three surnames, an abbreviated formatted version may be used (Jacobs et al. 175);
  • in some cases, the author’s name is unknown. Then the book’s title or article should be mentioned, enclosing it in quotation marks. For example, (“A very useful publication” 145);
  • it is permissible to use a page range if necessary. The formatting, however, will differ from the methods previously discussed (Draxler pp. 45-47);
  • if a particular organization creates the source, its name is necessarily listed as the author (Statute of the Interplanetary Dolphin Rights Organization 178);
  • how cite in MLA format if the information is taken from a web resource? A direct link to the page, the author’s name, and the title of the publication in parentheses after the citation must be provided;
  • if it is necessary to cite someone who refers to a third source, the indirect approach is used. In this case, the author’s surname is indicated at the end of the line, before which an additional prefix construction is placed. For example, (qtd. in Jacobson 56).

Proper formatting by MLA format guideline ensures that readers will not be confused by the topic and will be able to find the right source confirming the research results. This will increase the credibility and authority of the publication’s author in the scholarly community’s eyes.

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Examples of MLA Format Citations

To better understand the topic, we suggest familiarizing yourself with the different options for correctly formatting quotations according to MLA format. It is worth noting that this approach is most common in the humanities. It is often used to create essays, theses on literature, and art history.

The following table will review the current examples of MLA works cited page, corresponding to the recommendations of the ninth edition of the manual. Note that in the third column, the parentheses at the beginning and end of the component block are omitted for convenience.

Type of sourcePossible OptionsType of source
Type of sourceOne authorHopkins, John. Island of Freedom. Enlightenment, 1997.
Two authorsJenkins, Stephen and Mary Wable. Raising a Happy Cat. Publishers, 2015.
Three or more authorsGrubber, Craig, et al. Flying Penguin. Sunderland, 2022.
Electronic bookDrake, Jeremy. Singing in the Gooseberry. Libertadores, 1968.
Magazine or newspaperPrint editionKim, Dong-Wook. “Learning to Create Beautiful Websites.” Smart People Magazine, Issue 9, 1996, pp. 16-23
Online ResourceJohnson, Morris. “The Right Perception of the Modern World.” Science and Life, vol. 12, 2009, pp. 45-52, https://journal-science-and-life/post-123
WebsiteSpecific pageKelso, Riley. “Where do legs come from?”, Apples Inc., July 22, 2015,
Entire, Beef Inc., March 20 2023,
VideoFilmStephen Almighty. Directed by Mark Kruel. Featuring Steve Gates, Bill Jobs, and Monica Evans. Parapicures, 1999. 
The Series“When the Sky Falls.” Lost, created by Jack Stryker, performance by Katy Dawson, season 2, episode 10, Kitten Sisters, 2014.
Streaming videoIT Technik. “How to delete a social media account.” YouTube, January 21, 2020,
InterviewPersonal communicationPaxton, Dakota. Dangerous connections on the Internet. January 16, 2016. Personal or telephone interview.
Published onlinePaxton, Dakota. Dangerous connections on the Internet. Best Interviewer Youtube Channel, January 16, 2016,

Here is another practical MLA citation example in essay. If you need to cite a publication on a popular social network, you can use the following template:

Lawrence Lewandowski. Why birds fly away to warmer climes. Twitter, 09 May 2023, 9:13 a.m.,

Instead of the author’s name, you can include the account’s name. After that, add a brief overview of the publication or the title, if there is one.

By the way, if there is no information about the author, only the book’s title or article should be given. Sometimes sites list an anonymous user as the author. In this case, ” Anonymous ” is recommended when citing. But it is not obligatory.

Note that MLA title rules vary depending on the type of source. In some cases, they are placed inside quotation marks and slanted. But it is better to refer to the official guide, which lists all the current design standards, for clarification.

Once again, citation in the text emphasizes respect for the author of the original content and avoids plagiarism, which is the most critical aspect of academic writing.

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Best Practices for Citing MLA

Different citation options may be used depending on the publication topic, the institution, and other criteria. Although MLA format citation rules are strict, it is sometimes allowed to violate them. You should check with your supervisor what requirements you must adhere to when formatting your research paper. They may differ from the generally accepted rules on how to cite an article in an essay MLA.

Next, let’s take a look at the best writing practices used by reputable members of the academic community:

  • carefully study the MLA Handbook. Detailed instructions are available for formatting not only citations but also the text as a whole;
  • citations should be done as the research work progresses. This process should not be delayed so as not to get confused when citing the correct sources;
  • provide as much available information as possible. Include the author, the title of the book, the article on the website, page numbers, and other data that may be helpful to readers;
  • use special online tools that automatically generate text with the correct sources in MLA format. This will save a lot of time and avoid possible mistakes. But do not forget to check the version of the standard used by such services to get correct results;
  • use signal expressions. They smoothly lead the reader to the quoted phrase and should necessarily include a mention of the author. For example, In his new book, Adam Johnson states that “all celestial bodies move along a certain trajectory and are gradually approaching a black hole” (125);
  • don’t forget to cite digital sources. The list at the end of the research paper should contain links to web pages of information sites, streaming services, and electronic libraries if such content is mentioned in the text;
  • adhere to a unified style. If a specific type of design was initially chosen by MLA rules for numbers, it should be observed throughout the work. Mixing different styles can indicate either inattention or a lack of professionalism.

Also, don’t forget about the page with the works cited list. They should be arranged in alphabetical order, taking into account the surname of the author. If this information is not available, the title of the publication should be used. At the same time, articles are not considered in the formation of the list. “The King of Liars” is considered to begin with a “K,” not a “T.”

If a number is used in the title of a book or article, it should be written in words. For example, “Five Ways to Survive the Forest” should be written as “Five Ways.”

There are many MLA examples of annotated bibliography on the official website the format, which will help you better understand the topic. Not only is the content significant but having indents of a given size also improves the visual perception of the information.

Follow these simple guidelines, and your MLA citations will meet high academic standards. Correctly citing sources not only increases the credibility of your work but is also an acknowledgment of the intellectual significance of other authors.