Documenting Sources

In the Modern Language Association (MLA) system of documentation, writers acknowledge sources by keying brief in-text citations in the text to an alphabetical list of works cited that appears at the end of the paper.

In-Text Citations

In-text citations refer to sources on the Works Cited list and identify a specific location in the source, usually in a parenthetical reference.

Placement and Punctuation

  • To avoid interrupting the flow of your writing, place the parenthetical reference at the end of a sentence. The parenthetical reference precedes the punctuation mark that concludes the sentence containing the borrowed material.

    The writer’s confidence “that he knows something true and can position his reader to see it” underlies the classic style (Thomas and Turner 3).

  • For block quotations, type a space after the concluding punctuation mark of the quotation and insert the parenthetical reference. If the parenthetical reference will not fit on the last line, set it on a new line flush with the right margin.

    In classic style, prose becomes a window on its subject:

    In the classic attitude, writing serves to present something else: its subject. The subject is conceived as of a “thing” distinct from the writing, something that exists in the world and is independent of any presentation. Clarity is the central virtue of classic prose because the writer’s defining task is to present something he has previously perceived.
    (Thomas and Turner 32)


  • Provide the author’s last name and the page number in your parenthetical reference:

    The Spartans subordinated the needs of the “individual and the family to the needs of the state” (Kagen 4).

  • If the author’s name appears in your sentence, you need not repeat it in your parenthetical reference:

    Kagen explains that the Spartans subordinated the needs of the “individual and the family to the needs of the state” (4).

  • For sources listed by title, use a shortened version of the title, one that includes its first word (excluding A, An, or The) so readers can quickly find it on the alphabetical list of works cited, for example:

    (Old 264) for The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2012

Works Cited Page

Works Cited pages maintain the same MLA formatting for typography, margins, spacing, and page numbering as the rest of your document. (see Document Format)

Placement and Pagination

  • Begin the list of works cited on a new page following the body of the paper.
  • Continue the page numbers from the text (for example, if your paper ends on page 9, the works-cited list begins on page 10).


  • Center the title, Works Cited, an inch from the top of the first works-cited page.
  • Do not apply any special formatting to the title — no underlining, bold-face, italics, ALL-CAPS, larger font size, different typeface, or any other distinctive formatting.


  • Provide a works-cited entry for every source you mention in the paper.
  • Arrange the entries alphabetically by the author’s last name.
  • For two or more works by the same author, give the name in the first entry only. Thereafter, in place of the name, type three em dashes [ ——— ], followed by a period and the title.
  • For anonymous works, alphabetize by title, ignoring A, An, or The.

Hanging Indents

  • Begin each entry flush with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines ½ inch from the left margin.

Works Cited Template

The MLA Handbook uses a single, simple template for citing all sources. Using this template, you can identify relevant information about a source and produce an accurate works-cited entry for it.

Author. Booth, Stephen.
Title. “The Shakespearean Actor as Kamikaze Pilot.”
Title of Container, Shakespeare Quarterly,
Other contributors,
Number, vol. 36, no. 5,
Publication date, 1985,
Location. pp. 553–70.
     Title of Container 2, JSTOR,
     Other contributors,
     Publication date,
     Location. doi:10.2307/2869769.

Here’s how the entry would appear on the Works Cited page:

Booth, Stephen. “The Shakespearean Actor as Kamikaze Pilot.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 36, no. 5, 1985, pp. 553–70. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/2869769.

Place periods after the Author, Title, and Container elements. Use commas to separate items within a Container. Omit irrelevant or redundant information.

Your goal is clarity and ease of reference. Ask yourself, “Will my readers know what source I’m using and could they locate it easily?”

Sample Works Cited Entries

The following samples show how to apply the basic citation template to few common types of sources. For more detailed information on how to cite sources, consult MLA Handbook, 8th edition or a good writing handbook (like The Bedford Handbook).

A Book

Author’s Name. Book Title. Publisher, copyright date.

McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare: An Introduction with Documents. 2nd ed., Bedford/St Martin’s, 2001.

———. Shakespeare’s Late Style. Cambridge UP, 2006.

A Work in an Anthology

Author’s Name. “Work Title.” Anthology Title, Editor, edition, Publisher, copyright date, inclusive page numbers.

Carroll, Noël. “Art and the Moral Realm.” The Blackwell Guide to Aesthetics, edited by Peter Kivy, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, pp. 126–51.

Donne, John. “Sappho to Philaenis.” Norton Anthology of English Literature, edited by Stephen Greenblatt, et al., 9th ed., Vol. 1., W. W. Norton, 2012, pp. 1397–99.

An Article

Journal Article:

Author’s Name. “Article Title.” Journal Title, volume, number, date of publication, inclusive page numbers.

Berliner, Todd. “The Pleasures of Disappointment: Sequels and The Godfather, Part II.” Journal of Film and Video, vol. 53, no. 2/3, Summer/Fall, 2001, pp. 107–23.

Newspaper Article:

Author’s Name. “Article Title.” Newspaper Title, date of publication, section, page numbers.

Helprin, Mark. “A Great Idea Lives Forever: Shouldn’t Its Copyright?” New York Times, 20 May 2007, section 4, pp. 12+.

Database Article:

Author’s Name. “Article Title.” Journal Title, volume, number, date of publication, inclusive page numbers. Database, location.

Lopez, Jeremy. “Time and Talk in Richard III I.iv.” Studies in English Literature, vol. 45, no. 2, Spring, 2005, pp. 299–314. Project Muse, doi:10.1353/sel.2005.0020.

MLA recommends using a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) in lieu of a Web address (URL) if possible for database articles. You can look up DOIs at

A Web Page

Author’s Name. “Web Page Title.” Site Name, Publisher, date of publication or last update, location.

Bordwell, David. “Anatomy of the Action Picture.” David Bordwell’s Website on Cinema, January 2007,

Simonson, Mark. “The Scourge of Arial.” Mark Simonson Studio, February 2001,

MLA currently recommends including Web addresses (URLs) in citations of online sources but acknowledges that some teachers and editors may prefer that you omit them. If you do include URLs, omit their http:// and https:// prefixes.


Download: Sample Works Cited Page.pdf
This PDF shows how a properly formatted Works Cited page.

Download: Sample Works Cited Page.doc
This MS Word Works Cited list can serve as a template for your own.

Page Last Updated: 3 September 2016