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MLA Documentation

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Try our animated tutorial that explains the why and how of MLA documentation in a visual way.

Note: This has the MLA rules from the new 7th edition of the MLA Handbook, 2009.

When you use the words or original ideas of another person in your writing, you need to document, or give credit to, the sources of those words or ideas. If exact words from the original are used, quotation marks are necessary. If you paraphrase, or restate the idea in your own words, quotation marks are not required, but documentation of the source is still required. There are several different formats for documentation. This page explains the MLA format (named for the Modern Language Association, which developed it). In this format, you briefly identify your sources in the text of your paper, then give the full information in the "works cited" list at the end of the paper. This handout is based on MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: MLA, 2009. Print.

How to document quotations and paraphrasing is explained first, then how to do the "works cited" list is explained.

Parenthetical Documentation

In the MLA format, "parenthetical documentation" is used to briefly identify the sources of information you have borrowed in writing your paper. Parenthetical documentation should be integrated smoothly into the text of your paper, rather than listed separately.

  • The general rule is to cite the source right in the text of your paper. If the reader wants to get more information, they go to the Works Cited list at the end of your paper.

    If the author's name is mentioned in your writing (this is called a "signal phrase"), you only need to put the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence. The reader can then consult the list of Works Cited (explained below) at the end of the paper to get the complete citation.

    NOTE: Some sources, especially those on the Web, do not give page numbers. The general rule is to use a section number if it is given; otherwise just use the author name or, if no author is given, the first words of the title.
    Ross Parke notes that "natural fathers aren't the only ones raising children on their own. As more families split up, social workers note that stepfathers increasingly are being called on to bring up other people's kids" (52).

    According to Bernard Farber in Encyclopedia Americana, there is a trend toward waiting to marry and toward postponing the birth of the first child (6).

    According to the web site Our Fathers, "Almost 20 percent of fathers ask for child custody after divorce."
  • You may decide not to highlight the source of some of your derived information. In such cases, at the end of the sentence enclose in parantheses both the author's last name and the page referred to. The reader can then consult the list of Works Cited at the end of the paper to get the complete citation.
    At the turn of the century many men worked long hours, which "entailed their absence from the family for most of the day: that was not a rejection of fatherhood but a necessary element of it" (McKee and O'Brien 54).

    Child support payments can be withheld from wages in 45 states (Schorr 33).
  • For publications with no author given, you should include the first 2-3 key words from the title and the page number in parentheses.
    "Fathers today no longer know who they are or what their wives and children expect from them" ("Fathers Confused" 5), and this increases the likelihood they will abandon their families.
  • If possible, you should quote or paraphrase material from the original source, but if you do use material that is within someone else's work, include the abbreviation qtd. in ("quoted in") and then refer to the source where you got the information. Use qtd. in even if it's a paraphrase and not a quote.
    Dr. Ann Rudolph contends that fathers who bond with their infant children are more likely to maintain lifelong contact (qtd. in Parke 112).


DO I HAVE TO DOCUMENT EVERYTHING?

One of the hardest parts of documentation is deciding how far to go in documenting sources. If you mention that Los Angeles suffered an earthquake in January 1994, do you have to show where that information came from? No. This is considered "common knowledge," even if you didn't know on your own. This can get tricky. When in doubt it is probably a good idea to include the documentation. Ask a librarian or your instructor for advice on specific situations.

Works Cited

A list of works cited has all the sources that contributed ideas and information to your paper. (It is the same as a "bibliography.") It is arranged in alphabetical order by the authors' last names or, if the source doesn't list an author, by the first word of the title (ignore "A," "An," and "The"). The following sample works cited list is in correct order.

If you have a type of source not covered in the examples below, ask the librarian to show you the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition, or go to the MLA's web site (although not many details are given there).


SAMPLE - All sources are integrated into one list, arrange alphabetically.
Typing should be double-spaced, with the second line of an entry indented 5 spaces.

Works Cited

Box, Scott. "One Father's Unique Perspective." Newsweek 5 Mar. 1999: 38. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 12
         Feb. 2009.
"Parent." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2008. Web. 13 Mar. 2009.
Parke, Ross. Fathers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.
Schorr, Burt, Jr. "States Cracking Down on Fathers Dodging Child-Support Payments." Wall Street Journal
         26 Jan. 2009, eastern ed.: 33. Print.
Sheppard, Lisa. "Father Involvement Shows Positive Outcomes." Urban Programs Resource Network.
         University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Apr. 2001. Web. 29 May 2009.

How to format the works cited page

Two ways to do "hanging indent" for entries in Microsoft Word:



When the ruler is visible, select the text you want indented, then drag lower margin marker to right a half inch , OR...

In the "Paragraph" menu, select "Hanging indent."


Top of page and sides have 1" margins
The most BASIC RULES for works cited entries are:

BOOKS

Last name, First name of author. Title of book. City where published: Name of Publisher, year published. Print.

PRINT MAGAZINES

Last name, First name of author (if given). "Title of Article." Name of Magazine Date of issue: page numbers. Print.

MAGAZINE ARTICLE FROM LIBRARY ONLINE DATABASE

Last name, First name of author (if given). "Title of Article." Name of Magazine Date of issue: page numbers. Name of Database.

Web. Date of Access.

WEB PAGES

These have several factors that can affect the citations; see section below for examples.

Other Rules

For other than "public" web pages, when required information is not given: In the spot where the information should be, put the following abbreviations:
  • No date of publication - n.d.
  • No place of publication or no publisher - n.p.
  • No page number - n.pag.
A second work by the same author: Instead of repeating the author's name in the works cited list for the second entry, put 3 hyphens and a period (---.) and alphabetize as if the name were spelled out.


There are many variations for Works Cited entries. Look at the examples for print, video, and web sources below.

Remember, the following examples are not in the order you will list sources.
Your list will be one alphabetical list.


The Work Cited List Examples

A works cited list has all the sources mentioned in your paper, arranged in alphabetical order by the authors' last names or, if a source doesn't list an author, by the first word of the title (ignore a, an, and the). If you have a type of source not covered in the examples below, ask the librarian to show you the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: MLA, 2009.

Reference List Examples by Type of Reference

Online (web) sources indicated with double plus sign ++

  • When two dates are listed in a citation, the first one is the publication date; the second is when you accessed it.

ARTICLES

Reference Type:List Example:
Magazine article with an authorGold, Jeannye. "When Fathers Raise Children Alone." U.S. News and
           World Report 12 Apr. 1999: 51-52. Print.
Magazine article, no author given"Fathers Confused by Changing Family Roles." Family Monthly
         Oct. 1980: 5. Print.
++ Full text magazine article from online database to which the library subscribes (first date is date of publication; second date is day you accessed it.)Box, Scott. "One Father's Unique Perspective." Newsweek 5 Mar.
          1999: 38. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 12 Feb. 2009.
Newspaper article with authorSchorr, Burt, Jr. "States Cracking Down on Fathers Dodging
          Child-Support Payments." Wall Street Journal
         26 Jan. 2009, eastern ed.: 33. Print.
++ Newspaper article from an online database to which the library subscribesGriest, Stephanie. "Program Offers Help for Young Fathers." Austin
           American-Statesman 27 Apr. 1999: E4. InfoTrac Newspapers.
           Web. 21 Apr. 2009.
++ Web newspaper article with author (name of publisher follows title of source, so Washington Post repeats)Willison, Marilyn Murray. "Family Issues." Washington Post.
         Washington Post, 1 May 2009. Web. 6 May 2009.
Scholarly journal article(volume & issue numbers go after journal name; if no issue number, just put volume)Larson, Eric. "Cross-Cultural Studies of Fatherhood." Journal of
         Marriage and the Family 11.4 (1998):212-18. Print.
++ Scholarly journal article from an online database to which the library subscribes (volume & issue numbers go after journal name)Gerry, Judy O. "Balancing Employment and Fatherhood." Journal
          of Family Issues 18.6 (1997): 386-402. Academic Search
          Complete. Web. 21 July 2008.
Previously published scholarly article reprinted in a collectionWornen, Henry. "The Father and His Sons." Modern Literature 27.3
          (1995): 179-85. Rpt. in Twentieth Century Literary Criticism.
           Ed. Michael Stewart. Vol. 89. Detroit: Gale, 1999. 404-10. Print.

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BOOKS

Reference Type: List Example:
Book or pamphlet Parke, Ross. Fathers.Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.
Book with two editors, not the first edition McKee, Lorna, and Margaret O'Brien, eds. The Father Figure. 3rd ed.
         New York: Tavistock, 1982. Print.
++ E-book from online database to which the library subscribes Coltrane, Scott. Family Man: Fatherhood, Housework, and Gender Equity.
         New York: Oxford, 1996. eBooks on EBSCOhost. Web. 7 Feb. 2009.
++ E-book NOT from library database. At end, put specific e-reader name if known (Kindle file, Nook file, etc.) Chang, Vivian. Men and Marriage: Evolving Attitudes. Austin:
         University of Texas, 2012. Digital file.
Republished book Young, Marilyn. Family Life. 1972. New York: Doubleday, 1999. Print.
A work or chapter within a larger work Valsiner, Jaan. "The Father's Role in the Social Network of a Soviet Child."
         Role of the Father in Child Development. Ed. Michael E. Lamb.
          New York: Wiley, 1981. 187-201. Print.
Work reprinted in a collection and given a new title Wooster, Bernard. "Child Support Laws Should Be Tougher."
         Family Values: Opposing Viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven,
         1998. 10-14. Print. Rpt. of "Deadbeat Dads." Reader's Digest
         Jan. 1996: 29-34.

ENCYCLOPEDIA ARTICLES

Reference Type: List Example:
General encyclopedia, signed article Farber, Bernard. "Family." Encyclopedia Americana. 2007 ed. Print.
Specialized encyclopedia, no author given "Fatherhood." Encyclopedia of Sociology. Ed. T.E. Chen.
         Vol 2. New York: Putnam, 1999. Print.
++ Web encyclopedia, no author given "Parent." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannica,
         2008. Web. 13 Mar. 2009.

 

OTHER WORKS

Reference Type: List Example:
Government document United States. Dept. of Justice. Child Support Payment Laws.
         Washington: GPO, 2007. Print.
++ Government document from the web United States. Dept. of Education. Choices for Parents. 9 Oct. 2008.
          Web. 11 Nov. 2008.
Interviews (in-person and from an outside source) Vargas, Carmen. Personal interview. 8 Nov. 2005.
Jensen, Alfred.Interview by Ted Koppel. Nightline. ABC. KVUE, Austin, TX.
         24 May 2004. Television.
++ Work reprinted in a collection from a library database (give information about where originally published first, then about reprint source) O'Neale, Sondra. "Fathers, Gods, and Religion: Perceptions of
          Christianity and Ethnic Faith in James Baldwin." Critical Essays
          on James Baldwin. Ed. Fred Stanley and Nancy Burt. N.p.: Hall,
          1988: 125-43. Rpt. in Contemporary Literary Criticism.
          Web. 12 Dec. 2008.
Film or video When Fathers Desert Families. Prod. Project Hope. Maxwell, 2008. DVD.
++ Online video Barack Obama Podcast: On Fatherhood. barackobama.com. 17 June 2007.
          YouTube. Web. 5 May 2009.
++ Streaming video from library source The Pill. Films Media Group. 2003. Films on Demand. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.
++ World Wide Web site (Give the specific page's title in quotation marks, then general title of web site in italics. Give publisher after that.) Sheppard, Lisa. "Father Involvement Shows Positive Outcomes."
         Urban Programs Resource Network. University of Illinois
         at Urbana-Champaign, Apr. 2001. Web. 29 May 2009.
++ World Wide Web page with "missing" information (Often all the information asked for in the above example isn't there. Here there was no author or overall web site name or publisher or publication date.) Why Fathers Are Getting Child Custody More. N.p., n.d. Web. 30
          June 2008.
++ Blog or listserv entry (If screen name is given, use it followed by real name, if known, in brackets) Happy Dad [Marlin Johnson]. "Time Well Spent." African American
          Dad.
FatherDad, 30 Nov. 2010. Web. 5 Oct. 2011.
++ Blackboard material Silva, Ricardo. "Lecture Notes." Sociology 1301. Austin
          Community College. Blackboard. 7 July 2010. Microsoft Word
          file.
++ Tweet (Use real name followed by Twitter name in parentheses. Next, place the tweet in its entirety in quotations, inserting a period (a question mark in this example) after the tweet within the quotations. Include the date and time of posting, using the reader's time zone). Kim, Sally (WorkingMom). "Why are men who help take care of kids
         called special but for women it's expected?" 22 Jan. 2012,
         3:06 a.m. Tweet.

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Format Of The Research Paper

This sample research paper shows the MLA rules on how a paper should look:
Title, page numbers, works cited list, etc.

Get Help from a Human

You can get help from a librarian by e-mailing redwass@austincc.edu or by calling, during weekday business hours, 512 223-3074. Or get help from any ACC librarian.

Last update 7-28-14 rw