In academic writing, it is essential to give credit to the sources used for research or information. Proper citation not only ensures that you avoid plagiarism, but it also adds credibility to your work by demonstrating that you have done thorough research and used reliable sources. The Modern Language Association (MLA) is one of the most commonly used citation styles in the humanities. This guide will provide a step-by-step process of how to cite sources in MLA format, as well as offer helpful tips, examples, and resources to ensure accurate and thorough citation.

Step-by-Step Guide

Basic rules for citing sources in MLA format

When citing sources in MLA format, there are some basic rules to follow:

  1. Include in-text citations for the source within the body of your paper.
  2. Provide a complete bibliographic citation in the Works Cited page at the end of your paper.
  3. Use italics for the titles of longer works (e.g., books, magazines, journals) and quotation marks for shorter works (e.g., articles, chapters, poems).
  4. List sources alphabetically by author’s last name.
  5. Double space all citations.

Examples of how to cite different types of sources

The following examples show how to cite different sources in MLA format:

Citing print books

Author Last name, First name. Book Title. Publication City: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.

Smith, John. The Art of Writing. New York: Random House, 2005. Print.

Citing articles from online databases

Author Last name, First name. “Article Title.” Journal Title Volume.Issue (Year): page range. Database Name. Web. Date of Access.

Smith, John. “The Importance of Writing.” The Journal of Writing 33.4 (2010): 24-35. JSTOR. Web. 5 May 2017.

Citing websites

Author Last name, First name. “Article Title.” Website Title. Publisher, Date Published. Web. Date of Access.

Smith, John. “The Importance of Writing.” Writing World. Writing Society, 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

How to create a Works Cited page

The Works Cited page is where you list all the sources you have cited in your paper. Here are the guidelines for creating a Works Cited page:

  1. Title the page “Works Cited.” Center the title at the top of the page.
  2. List entries alphabetically by author’s last name or, if no author is given, the first word of the title of the work (excluding “A,” “An,” or “The”).
  3. Indent the second and subsequent lines of each entry 0.5 inches.
  4. Double space all entries.
  5. Include the medium of publication (e.g., Print, Web).

Tips for formatting the page

Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when formatting your Works Cited page:

  1. Use a consistent font (e.g., Times New Roman) and font size (e.g., 12 pt.) throughout the page.
  2. Use hanging indentation for each entry (the first line is flush left, while the second and subsequent lines are indented).
  3. Only include the sources that you used in your paper.
  4. Double check your citations to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Top 5 Tips

Knowing which types of sources need to be cited

It’s important to know which types of sources require citation. Any information that is not common knowledge must be cited, including direct quotes, paraphrasing, and summaries. Additionally, ideas, facts, and statistics that are not general knowledge need to be cited.

Properly formatting in-text citations

In-text citations should be formatted properly and consistently throughout the paper. The basic format is (Author Page Number). For example: (Smith 45). If there are two authors, include both last names: (Smith and Jones 45).

Using the correct punctuation

Correct punctuation is essential in MLA citation. For example, a period should always be placed after the author’s name, and a comma should follow the publication date.

Checking for accuracy and completeness

It’s important to double-check the accuracy and completeness of your citations. Make sure that all information is correct, including author names, publication dates, and page numbers.

Avoiding plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that can lead to failure or even expulsion from school. Always document the sources you use, and give credit where it’s due.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not citing sources at all

Failing to cite sources at all can lead to plagiarism. When in doubt, always cite your sources.

Using incorrect formatting

Using incorrect formatting can lead to inaccurate citations, which can lower the credibility of your work. Refer to the MLA Handbook or online resources for guidance on proper formatting.

Using incorrect information

Using incorrect information, such as the wrong author name or publication date, can lead to inaccurate citations. Always double-check your information before citing it.

Including unnecessary sources

Including unnecessary sources can clutter your Works Cited page and distract from the important ones. Only include those sources that are necessary and relevant to your research.

Not proofreading carefully

Not carefully proofreading your citations can lead to errors that may be difficult to detect. Always take the time to thoroughly review your citations for accuracy.

Examples Galore

Examples of how to cite different types of sources

Refer to the examples provided earlier in this article or consult an MLA citation handbook to ensure accurate citations for different types of sources.

Step-by-step guidance on how to create a Works Cited page

Follow the guidelines outlined earlier in this article, paying careful attention to formatting, indentation, and what information to include for each citation.

FAQ Style

Q: What is the purpose of citation in MLA format?

A: The purpose of citation in MLA format is to give credit to the sources used for research or information, and to help readers locate the sources.

Q: When do I need to include an in-text citation?

A: In-text citations are required anytime you paraphrase, summarize, or directly quote from a source.

Q: Do I need to include page numbers for all sources?

A: Page numbers are required for all sources except for web pages or articles that lack pagination.

Q: What is the proper way to cite multiple authors?

A: When citing sources with two authors, include both last names. When citing sources with three or more authors, list the first author followed by “et al.” (which means “and others”).

Q: What if the source doesn’t have an author?

A: If the source does not have an author, start the citation with the title of the work.

Q: Do I need to cite common knowledge?

A: No, you do not need to cite information that is common knowledge.

Tools and Resources

Online citation generators

  • Citation Machine (
  • BibMe (

MLA handbook resources

  • The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (available in print or online)
  • Purdue Owl (

Other helpful websites and tools for citing sources in MLA format

  • EasyBib (
  • MLA Style Center (


In this guide, we have covered the importance of citing sources accurately in MLA format. We explored the basic rules for citing sources, gave examples of how to cite different types of sources, provided tips for formatting your Works Cited page, and highlighted common mistakes to avoid. We also offered examples, FAQ style questions and answers, and tools and resources for citation in MLA format. Remember, citing your sources not only helps you avoid plagiarism but also adds credibility to your work. Practice proper citation methods to ensure the accuracy and reliability of your research.

By Riddle Reviewer

Hi, I'm Riddle Reviewer. I curate fascinating insights across fields in this blog, hoping to illuminate and inspire. Join me on this journey of discovery as we explore the wonders of the world together.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *