Chapter 12: Documentation Styles: MLA and APA

12.3 MLA Citation: Works Cited Entries

John Brentar and Emilie Zickel

The Modern Language Association (MLA) system of documentation governs how writers format academic papers and cite the sources that they use. This system of formatting and citation is used most by academic disciplines in the arts and humanities.

Citations

Citations according to MLA consist of two elements:

  1. in-text citations (also called parenthetical citations); and
  2. a bibliography called a Work Cited (or Works Cited, if multiple sources are cited) list.

Writers use in-text citations to acknowledge that they have used ideas from external sources to help develop their essays. Those in-text citations refer to the full bibliographic references. Whenever you use sources, whether in direct quotation or in paraphrase, you must use in-text citations. Writers very often combine in-text citations with attributive signal phrases to make clear to the reader exactly what material has come from what source. Every in-text citation you make will be keyed to an entry in your Works Cited list, at which you supply your reader with the full bibliographic information for your sources.

Works Cited Entries

  • Every source that you quote, paraphrase, or summarize in an essay must be included in your Works Cited list
  • Your Works Cited list should always be on its own new page, after the end of the text of the essay
  • At the start of your list, at the top margin of the page, include a heading containing the words Work (or Works) Cited, centered, without bolding, italics, quotations marks, or all-caps
  • Works Cited entries are in the same font and double spacing as the rest of the paper
  • Unlike the text of the essay, works cited entries do not begin with an indentation. Rather, they use hanging (also known as reverse) indentation, in which the first line of an entry is not indented, but all successive lines are indented, by .5”.
  • Sources need to be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter in each entry.
    • If you have a source with no author, then that source will be alphabetized according to the first letter of its title
    • The entries will not be numbered or presented as a series of bulleted points.

General order of content in a Works Cited Entry

MLA specifies that certain elements appear in a certain order in a work cited entry. Each element will be followed by a specific piece of punctuation. When you cite sources, never take the information from the cover of the source; rather, always refer to title pages. Here are each of the elements and additional information about them:

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