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How to Use MLA Format–A Brief Guide

MLA format is mostly used in humanities classes, e.g. English, history, government. If you have problems with MLA format or are confused, Purdue OWL is always a great place to go to have your questions answered! If you are still confused after going there, ask your professor!

NOTE: This is a basic guide to MLA, based on the 7th edition of the MLA Style Guide. You should always follow your professor’s instructions about layout, style and citations and consult this guide as a reference.

Layout of Paper

Here is a general sample of what the top of your paper should look like.

For the Header:

If you are using Microsoft Word, double-click at the top of the page to open the header (A blue dotted line labeled “Header” should appear. Go to the INSERT tab and choose PAGE NUMBER. In front of the page number, add your last name (the example has Doe). It will automatically count all of your pages and have your last name in front of the number!

For the Heading:

As for the heading (part on the left-hand side of the page), it may vary by professor, but you should always have your name first (Jane Doe), the course (ENG 103.02), and the date in military format (day month year). Some professors may have their own style of heading. You should always follow that.

Doe 1

Jane Doe

Professor Smith

ENG 103.02

9 February 2015

Title of Paper

 

Once you have this done, the rest of your paper should be double-spaced, have a legible font (e.g. Times New Roman or Calibri), size 11 or 12 pt., and 1 inch margins.

In-text Citations

In-text citations occurs when you are referring to or quoting works of others within your paper. Any information you use in your paper that you did not create on your own needs to be cited in-text and on your Works Cited page. Here is a list of examples of how to do in-text citations.

One Author

The author’s last name and the page number should be used when available.

For example:

“The fact that much of advertising’s power comes from this belief that advertising does not affect us. The most effective kind of propaganda is that which is not recognized as propaganda” (Kilbourne 27).

You can also use the author’s name in the sentence as a signal phrase. When you use a signal phrase, you use ONLY the page number in the parentheses.

For example:

Kilbourne states that “much of advertising’s power comes from this belief that advertising does not affect us” (27).

Multiple Authors

With three or fewer authors, list all of the author’s names in the text or in the parenthetical citation:

For example:

Violence is deemed as an instance of physical force used to cause injury, destruction, or death (Anderson, Gentile, and Douglas 75).

If you have more than three authors, use the first author’s last name followed by et al.

For example:

The more students play violent video games, the more likely they are to become desensitized to violent material (Krahé et al. 24)

No Author

When you have no author, use a shortened version of the title of the source.

For example:

Part of society feels that these types of television shows are the reason that some children feel that being mean to others is okay; furthermore, they may feel that being violent to others is okay as well (CQ Researcher 12).

No page numbers

If you have no page number, simply use the author’s last name or the name of the website/article.

For example:

The boys were said to have played out their virtual life fantasies that day when they walked into their high school (Korach).

Works Cited

Your works cited page should always be in alphabetical order by author’s last name or the first word of the title. It should also be double spaced, like the rest of your paper. If your citation goes beyond one line, you should indent the second and all following lines.

NOTE: The first line of every citation should be justified left, NOT indented. ONLY THE LINES AFTER THE FIRST ONE ARE INDENTED.

See the example below.

Works Cited

Anderson, Craig Alan, Douglas A. Gentile, and Katherine E. Buckley. Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Digital File.

CQ Researcher on Teens in America. Washington, D.C.: CQ, 2001. Print.

Freedman, Jonathan L. Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2002. Print.

Lyons, Christina L. “Media Violence.” CQ Researcher 14 Feb. 2014: 145-68. Web. 14 March. 2014.

Willis, Laurie. Video Games. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2010. Print.

NEW IN MLA

Medium of Publication

Beginning with 7th edition of the MLA Style Guide, Works Cited entries include the medium of publication at the end of the citation. The most common options for medium of publication are below.

Medium Examples
Print Books and articles
Web Websites, digital books or articles, and web-only media (e. g. podcasts and Youtube videos
DVD/Blu-Ray Films and television shows
CD/.mp3 Audio recordings

Citing Articles

List the article’s author, put the title of the article in quotation marks, and italicize the periodical title. Add the date of publication. The basic format is as follows:

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical Day Month Year: pages. Medium of publication.

Magazines

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical Day Month Year: pages. Medium of publication.

For example:

Edwards, Gavin. “Inside the Grammys 2015 Pre-Show: 74 Trophies in 195 Minutes.” Rolling Stone 8 Feb 8 2015: 8-12. Print.

Scholarly Journals

Print Journal Articles

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication.

For example:

Gentile, Douglas A., Sarah Coyne, and David A. Walsh. “Media Violence, Physical Aggression, and Relational Aggression in School Age Children: A Short-Term Longitudinal Study.” Aggressive Behavior 37.2 (2011): 193-206. Print.

Digital Journal Articles

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal Volume.Issue (Year): pages. Medium of publication. Date accessed.

For example:

Gentile, Douglas A., Sarah Coyne, and David A. Walsh. “Media Violence, Physical Aggression, And Relational Aggression In School Age Children: A Short-Term Longitudinal Study.” Aggressive Behavior 37.2 (2011): 193-206. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

In an Anthology or Edited Collection

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Chapter Title.” Book Title. Ed. Editor’s First and Last Name. Publication City: Publisher, Date of Publication. Page Numbers of Chapter. Medium of Publication.

For example:

Alarcon, Daniel. “Grand Mall Seizure.” Mirror on America. 5th ed. Ed. Joan T. Mims and Elizabeth Nollen. Boston:Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 292-300. Print.

No Author

If you have a source with no author, list the source by the title of the source.

For example:

CQ Researcher on Teens in America. Washington, D.C.: CQ, 2001. Print.

Citing Books

The basic format for book citations is:

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

For example:

Freedman, Jonathan L. Media Violence and Its Effect on Aggression: Assessing the Scientific Evidence. Toronto: University of Toronto, 2002. Print.

 

Two or Three Authors

When you have two or three authors, the first name given appears in Last Name, First Name order. Then, the second author appears in First Name Last Name format.

For example:

Anderson, Craig A., Douglas A. Gentile, and Katherine E. Buckley. Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Print.

3+ Authors

If you have three or more authors, you can choose to either list all of the authors in order as they appear on the title page, or you can use the phrase et al.

For example:

Krahé, Barbara, et al. “Desensitization To Media Violence: Links With Habitual MediaViolence Exposure, Aggressive Cognitions, And Aggressive Behavior.” Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology 100.4 (2011): 630-646. PsychARTICLES. Web. 22 Feb. 2014.

Citing Websites

The basic format for citing websites is:

Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number. Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation. Medium of publication. Date of access.

NOTE: Use n.p. if no publisher name is available and n.d. if no publishing date is given.

NOTE: If a URL is required by your professor, be sure to include the complete address for the site. (The following examples do not include a URL because MLA no longer requires a URL to be included, but some professors would like the link.)

Whole Websites

It is necessary to update and list the date you accessed the website because web postings are often updated, and information available on one date may not be available later!

For example:

The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, Felluga, Dino. Guide to Literary and Critical Theory. Purdue U, 28 Nov. 2003. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

A Certain Page on a Website

For an individual page on a Web site, always list the author (if known). Then list the title of the page in quotes. Follow the title by the information that you would normally use for an entire Website.

Remember to use n.p. if no publisher name is available and n.d. if no publishing date is given.

For example:

Lear, Eric. “Notebook: Blackhawks all black at Friday’s Practice.” Chicago Blackhawks, 19 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Feb. 2015.

 

REMEMBER:

This page is for a quick reference that includes the basics of MLA formatting and citations.

If your question is not answered through this reference, or it did not address what you were looking for, Purdue OWL or the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (available in the LINK) can help with citing other types of sources.

 

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