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How to Cite Your Sources

MLA HandbookThe MLA Handbook is now available online through the Library to help you cite every source!

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Guidance from your CAL 103 librarians on how to cite your sources using MLA 9.

Your Works Cited page includes every item you have cited in text and provides as much bibliographic information as you're able to find so your readers can locate the sources themselves.


Page Format

  • Title: Works Cited
  • Page title is center-justified on the page, entries are left-justified with a hanging indent (second and subsequent lines indented) of a half-inch.
  • Entries listed alphabetically by author, or title of source if no author name.

Reference Format

The core elements of a journal/periodical article citation: Author. “Title.” Journal Title, vol. n, no. n, [year], pp. n-n. [Location].
 
Common Questions
  • Is an access date required?
    • If you're citing an online source, note that including the date you accessed the website is encouraged only when there's no publication date and you can't guarantee the website will still be there in the future. (See Supplemental Elements.)
  • When do you cite Canvas?
    • A platform such as Canvas is only the container if the item has been published through it: a Library database publishes the full text of an article, but Canvas is only the means through which you might read it. However, a lecture posted to Canvas would be considered published through Canvas and you'd then include the platform as the "container" in your citation. (See Journal/Source Title.)
  • How do I cite a PDF?
    • PDFs are not considered a separate source type in MLA as instead they're the medium through which you're reading the source itself, such as a book chapter or journal article. In general, the Location field will direct your reader to the primary version of the document through URL or DOI. But if there are multiple versions of the document, include "PDF download" at the end of your citation in the Supplemental Element field to tell your reader which version you are citing.

More info about...

Author | Document Title | Journal/Source Title (Container) | Contributor | Version | Number | Publisher | Publication Date | Location | Supplemental Elements

Find more about these topics at the MLA Handbook sections linked throughout.

 

AUTHOR

More info: MLA Handbook 5.3-22

  • PEOPLE
    • 1 author: Surname, First.
      • Smith, Max.
    • 2 authors: Surname, First, and First Surname. List in order given on the document.
      • Smith, Max, and Sam Jones.
    • 3+ authors: Surname, First, et al. (which is Latin for "and others")
      • Smith, Max, et al.
    • Names that start with surname: Keep as is, with a comma between surname and first unless otherwise specified.
      • Matsuo, Bashō.
    • No surname: if not in Firstname Surname order, keep as is.
      • Ngũgĩ wa Thiongʼo.
    • Online handles: add in square brackets after author name, unless author name and handle are similar.
  • ORGANIZATIONS
    • Do not include articles (a/an/the), do not reverse names.
      • Beatles.
    • Corporate author (that is, a document attributed to a company or organization rather than a single person): spell out full name of organization
      • U.S. Department of Education.

DOCUMENT TITLE

More info: MLA Handbook 5.23-30

  • Full title in quotations, in Title Case - every major word capitalized, with period within quotes
    • “Tapping the Youth Vote.”
  • No title? Write a “concise but informative description of the work” (MLA Handbook)
  • Subtitle? Sometimes not obvious, so check the copyright page if available.

JOURNAL/SOURCE TITLE (which MLA calls the Container of the document)

More info: MLA Handbook 5.31-37

  • Full title in italics, in Title Case - every major word capitalized, followed by period
    • Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
  • Container details:
    • 1 container: article read in print journal, tv show aired on tv, short story read in an anthology
    • 2 containers: journal article in database, tv show on platform, chapter in edited anthology read on a website
    • Works considered self-contained: book read in print, manuscript read in person, movie watched in a theater
    • What is not a container - things that didn’t publish the thing you’re reading. That is to say, Canvas is not a container of a link to article but it IS the container for a lecture video published in the course shell.

CONTRIBUTOR if applicable

More info: MLA Handbook 5.38-47

  • Translators, editors

VERSION if applicable

More info: MLA Handbook 5.48-50

  • Edition, if an e-book

NUMBER if part of a sequence

More info: MLA Handbook 5.51-53

  • JOURNAL ARTICLE: volume and issue numbers written abbreviated, followed by commas
    • vol. 12, no. 1,
  • MEDIA: season, episode
    • season 3, episode 4,

PUBLISHER

More info: MLA Handbook 5.54-67

  • Publisher
  • Website platform
  • Publisher name not necessary if:
    • It's ongoing - you don't need to list a publisher for a journal because it's an ongoing periodical
    • The website and publisher names are the same
    • It's a platform others use to put their stuff up (such as YouTube)

PUBLICATION DATE

More info: MLA Handbook 5.68-83

  • Day Month Year, with abbreviated month where applicable: Jan., Feb., Mar., Apr., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., Dec.
    • May 2021.
    • Oct. 2020.
    • 4 Aug. 2022.

LOCATION if applicable

More info: MLA Handbook 5.84-99

  • Sources that are PART OF A LARGER CONTAINER (article from a journal issue, chapter in a book):
    • Fixed in print or in a PDF: include the page range as "pp. n-n.", ending in a period.
      • pp. 20-21.
  • ONLINE WORKS: DOI, permalink, URL (in order of preference). DOI = "digital object identifier" and is a unique hyperlink given to a scholarly journal article upon publication.
    • DOI: 10.1126/sciimmunol.abo3420
    • But if you can't find the DOI or one doesn't exist, use the article permalink: https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciimmunol.abo3420
  • BOOKS:
    • Print books you cite in full (rather than a specific chapter) do not need a page number location:
      • MLA Handbook. 9th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2021.
    • E-books you read through a database or platform will use the database or platform and URL as the location.

SUPPLEMENTAL ELEMENTS if applicable

More info: MLA Handbook 5.105-119

  • After SOURCE:
    • Contributor, original publication date, section of a work
  • After CONTAINER:
    • Date of access for online item but only if there's no given publication date or if the website/item might disappear
    • More details about the document type (publication status, whether it's a thesis or dissertation, etc.)
    • PDF: "[I]f you view a file type, such as a PDF, other than the one presented as the default version of the work on a page where other versions of the work are available, include PDF download, supplementary material, or a similar description in the supplemental element." (MLA Handbook, 5.112)

https://d1oemxqau9vshd.cloudfront.net/app/themes/re-style-center/assets/img/hb9-template-of-core-elements.gifMLA formats each work cited using a set of core elements that are included in the citation if applicable and punctuated appropriately.

Find more details about the core elements in the MLA Handbook Plus or use the fill-in template below.

Works Cited examples

These are some commonly used source types and how they're formatted. Remember that your Works Cited references will require a hanging indent (second and subsequent lines indented) of a half-inch.

 

Source type: Book | E-book | Scholarly article | Newspaper article | Magazine article

 


Newspaper article from the website; one author

Astor, Maggie. “What’s on the Minds of 12 Young Voters.” The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/19/us/politics/young-voters.html.

 

E-book from a database; one author

Cahill, Cathleen D. Recasting the Vote : How Women of Color Transformed the Suffrage Movement. E-book. The University of North Carolina Press, 2020. EBSCOhost, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=2432685&site=ehost-live.
 

Newspaper article from a database; one author

Gross, Neil. “Does College Make You Vote?” Chronicle of Higher Education, vol. 59, 24 Nov. 2012, p. B2. EBSCOhost, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=83623976&site=ehost-live.
 

Scholarly article from a database; multiple authors

Larson, Lincoln R., et al. “The Future of Wildlife Conservation Funding: What Options Do U.S. College Students Support?” Conservation Science & Practice, vol. 3, no. 10, Oct. 2021, pp. 1–12. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.505.
 

Magazine article from a database; one author

Padilla, Dynahlee. “Tapping the Youth Vote.” Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, vol. 37, no. 18, Oct. 2020, pp. 20–21. EBSCOhost, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=146573844&site=ehost-live.
 

Print book; two authors

Shea, Daniel M., and John Clifford Green. Fountain of Youth: Strategies and Tactics for Mobilizing America's Young Voters. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.
 

Scholarly article from a database; two authors

Spagnuolo, Natalie, and Fady Shanouda. “Who Counts and Who Is Counted? Conversations around Voting, Access, and Divisions in the Disability Community.” Disability & Society, vol. 32, no. 5, June 2017, pp. 701–19. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.1080/09687599.2017.1324765.
 

Magazine article from a database; one author

Wolfe, Rob. “America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting.” Washington Monthly, vol. 54, no. 9/10, Sept. 2022, pp. 60–63. EBSCOhost, https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=158554880&site=ehost-live.

Works Cited examples

These are some commonly used source types and how they're formatted. Remember that your Works Cited references will require a hanging indent (second and subsequent lines indented) of a half-inch.

If you're citing an online source, note that including the date you accessed the website is encouraged only when there's no publication date and you can't guarantee the website will still be there in the future.

 
Section of a website

“New Jersey.” Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/New_Jersey. Accessed 18 Oct. 2022.
 

Entire website

Ballotpedia, https://ballotpedia.org/Main_Page. Accessed 18 Oct. 2022.
 

Government info from a government website

“Electoral College History.” National Archives, 18 Nov. 2019, https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/history.
 

Newspaper article from the newspaper website

Astor, Maggie. “What’s on the Minds of 12 Young Voters.” The New York Times, 19 Oct. 2022. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/19/us/politics/young-voters.html.

In-text citations are a brief parenthetical reference within the text of your paper that includes the author name and page number so your reader knows where to find the source of your information.

The author name points your reader to the source citation on the works cited list, and the page number shows where in the source you found the quotation or text you used.

More info on in-text citations: MLA Handbook 6.31-77


Example article used throughout:
Niemi, Richard G., and Michael J. Hanmer. “Voter Turnout Among College Students: New Data and a Rethinking of Traditional Theories.” Social Science Quarterly, vol. 91, no. 2, June 2010, pp. 301–23. EBSCOhost, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2010.00694.x.


Quoting or paraphrasing the source

Parentheses are placed within the sentence punctuation and include author's last name and the page number where the relevant text is found.

Example:

  • Quote: Traditional theories about voter turnout do not always fit well with the unique characteristics of college students" (Niemi and Hanmer 303).
  • Paraphrase: The voting habits of college students sometimes conflict with more general ideas about voters (Niemi and Hanmer 303).

Articles with more than 3+ authors are referred to in the parenthetical with the first author surname and et al.: (Larson et al. 2).


Attributing the author in text

Parentheses are placed within the sentence punctuation and include only the page number as the author is mentioned in text through use of a signal phrase.

In the case of 3+ authors, "you may list all the names or provide the name of the first collaborator followed by 'and others' or 'and colleagues.'" (MLA Handbook Plus 6.5)

Example:

In 2010, Niemi and Hanmer noted that college students are not studied as often as older voters (303).


Long quotations (more than 4 lines of prose or 3+ lines of verse)

Indent quotation half an inch from left margin. If the author name is used in text, put just the page number in parentheses following sentence punctuation. If the author name is not used in text, include in parentheses following sentence punctuation.

Example:

Niemi and Hanmer observe that

[w]ith the age of college students almost invariant and the meaning and measurement of their education and mobility questionable, several key variables used in models of voter turnout may well not account for varying rates of turnout among college students. Though there is considerable variation among students in hours worked, most student jobs do not mirror the careers they will ultimately obtain, so labor force participation may also be of limited explanatory power. (304)


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