MLA Citation Style refers to a set of rules and conventions established by the Modern Language Association for crediting sources used in a research paper usually in the fields of social studies and liberal arts.
MLA Citations are done by using what is known as parenthetical citation. In this method, relevant source information is placed in parentheses after a certain quote or paraphrase. The required source information in parenthetical citations depends upon two things: upon the source medium and upon the source’s entry on the Works Cited page.
MLA Citations use a two-part parenthetical documentation system for citing reference works: In-Text Citations and the Works Cited List. In-Text Citations are used to point to an alphabetical Works Cited list which appears at the end of your paper. Together, they credit all the sources used in your paper and at the same time help all your readers access and retrieve any of these cited source materials.
For familiar historical documents, such as the United States Constitution, corresponding entry in the Works Cited list is no longer needed.
Common knowledge, familiar proverbs and well-known quotations no longer need to be cited. Just be reminded that citing sources is a choice based on readers. If you’re writing for experts, like scholarly journals, they may have different expectations of what constitutes common knowledge.
Source citations should be placed in the text of your paper to briefly identify sources for readers and at the same time allow them to locate these mentioned works in your Works Cited List.
MLA Citations follow the author-page method of in-text citation. Meaning, the author’s last name as well as the page number/s from which the quotations or paraphrase was taken appears in the text. It also follows that a complete reference appears on a separate Works Cited list.
When making in-text citations, author names may appear either within the sentence itself or enclosed in parentheses placed after the quotation or paraphrase. Page number/s appear in the parentheses though, and not within the text of your sentence.
Furthermore, MLA Citations within the text should follow these pointers:
- Give only the needed information such as the author’s last name and the page reference of the quotation or paraphrase.
- MLA citations in the form of parenthetical references should complement and not repeat the information given in the text. If you have already mentioned the author’s name in your sentence, do not include this anymore in the parenthetical reference.
- Place the parenthetical reference as close as possible to the material being documented and where pause in the sentence naturally occurs. Usually they are placed at the end of a sentence.
- Parenthetical references should precede the punctuation mark that ends the sentence, phrase, or clause that contains the cited work.
- Online sources are cited just like how printed sources are cited in the text. If the online source lacks fixed page numbers or section numbering, omit numbers from the parenthetical reference. Otherwise, cite the relevant numbers.
Works Cited List
All works cited in the text of your paper should appear at the end of the paper through your Works Cited list. The Works Cited list provides all the information needed by readers to identify and at the same time retrieve all sources cited in your paper.
Your Works Cited list should follow these pointers:
- Entries should be arranged alphabetically by the authors’ last names. If there are sources cited with no authors, use the title of the sources.
- Capitalize the first letter of the first word as well as all other principal words in the titles and subtitles of works cited. Do not capitalize prepositions, articles, coordinating conjunctions as well as the word “to” in infinitives.
- Shorten the publisher’s name by omitting articles, business abbreviations (such as Co. and Inc.) and descriptive words (such as Press and Publisher).
- If there are multiple publishers listed, include all of them placing a semicolon (;) between each.
- When more than one city is listed for the same publisher, include only the first city.
- When listing multiple authors of a single work, make use of the conjunction “and” instead of an ampersand (&).
- For pagination, refrain from using abbreviations p. or pp. when designating page numbers.
- For indentation, first line of each entry should be aligned left-flush. All subsequent lines should form a hanging indent, or should be indented 5-7 spaces.
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