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English Composition 1

Preparing a Works Cited Page: The Elements

The MLA identifies nine elements of a source that, if available, should be presented for the source on a Works Cited page. The punctuation shown after each element in the list below is the punctuation that should follow the element on the Works Cited page. However, a period always should follow an element that is the last information presented for the source on the Works Cited page.

You can read more information about each element by scrolling down this page or by clicking on the name of the element on the list.   

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

1. Author.

If a source has one author, the author's first and last name should be reversed for the purpose of alphabetizing on the Works Cited page.

Jones, Samantha.

If a source has two authors, both names should be given. Only the first author's name should be reversed, followed by a comma, the word "and," and the second author's name.

Jones, Samantha, and Marvin Thomas.

If a source has three or more authors, only the first author's name should be given, followed by a comma and the Latin expression et al. (meaning "and others").

Jones, Samantha, et al.

A source could have an organization as its author, such as a government department, a company, or a university, without identifying the names of individual writers. The name of the organization can appear in the place for the author of the source on the Works Cited page, but if the same name also is given as the publisher of the source in the Work Cited entry, then the organization should not be given as the author.

If a source does not identify its author, the word "Anonymous" should not be used in place of the author name on the Works Cited page. Instead, just omit any reference to an author and begin the Work Cited entry with the title of the source.

2. Title of source.

The title of the source may be the title of an article, a story, a web page, a book, a video, a movie, or a song, along with many more possibilities.

The title should be put in quotation marks for a source that is part of a larger work. For example, a short story typically appears in a collection of stories, so the title of the story would go in quotation marks. Likewise, a news article from the Chicago Tribune goes in quotation marks, and the title of an essay in a scholarly journal goes in quotation marks since the essay is part of a larger work.

"The Garden Party."

"The Stigma of Femininity in James Joyce's 'Eveline' and 'The Boarding House.'"

The title should be italicized and without quotation marks if the source is a larger work that can appear by itself. For example, a novel typically is long enough to be published by itself, so the title would be italicized, and the title of a movie is italicized since a movie usually can stand alone as a complete work. 

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Dark Knight Rises.

Conventional capitalization of titles should be used on the Works Cited page regardless of how the titles appear on sources. The first letter of each important word in a title should be capitalized on the Works Cited page even if the title does not appear this way on the source.       

3. Title of container,

A source often appears as part of a larger work. For example, an article may be published as part of a newspaper, a scholarly essay may be published in a journal, and a web page may be part of a website. The MLA refers to these larger works that hold sources as "containers." In many cases, a source is held in two containers. A news article, for instance, could be published in a newspaper (Container 1), and that newspaper could be presented in an online database of many sources (Container 2). This is why the MLA's template for Works Cited entries has areas for "Container 1" and "Container 2" information.

Containers include magazines, journals, newspapers, books that present collections of different works, websites, and online databases of sources.

The title of a container usually is italicized on the Works Cited page.

Examples of containers include the following:

U.S. News & World Report,

Twentieth Century Literature,

Academic Search Complete,


Literature and the Writing Process,

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

The title of the container is followed by a comma because what comes after the title is information to help readers locate the source within the container.

4. Other contributors,

In addition to identifying the author, a Work Cited entry for a source may identify other people who played key roles in the creation of the work, such as the translator of a play, the director of a movie, or the editor of a collection of short stories by different authors.

The role of the contributor should be indicated with descriptions such as translated by, directed by, edited by, illustrated by, and performance by, as shown in the example below:

Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Cask of Amontillado." Literature and the Writing Process, edited by Elizabeth McMahan et al., 10th ed., Pearson, 2014, pp. 226-31.

(Many sources have some sort of editor or editors, but the editor should be indicated in the Work Cited entry only if the editor is featured prominently in the source as a key contributor, as is the case if an editor is responsible for bringing together a collection of works by a variety of authors.)  

5. Version,

To help readers find the source, the version of the source should be indicated in the Work Cited entry if the source has been released in more than one version. For example, different versions of a book often are indicated with the edition number.

Examples of versions include the following:

8th ed.,

director's cut,

expanded ed.,

6. Number,

A source may include numbering to indicate that it is part of a sequence. For example, a long book may be published in more than one volume, and journal issues often are identified with both a volume and issue number. Other numbered works include issues of comic books and seasons and episodes of television shows.

Examples of how numbers are indicated include the following:

vol. 3,

vol. 37, no. 4,

no. 26,

season 2, episode 5,

7. Publisher,

The publisher of a source is the organization or company that makes the source available. On the Works Cited page, the name of the publisher usually appears for books, films, and television series, and the publisher sometimes appears for websites. 

For books, the publisher usually can be found on the title page at the beginning of the book and as part of the copyright notice presenting the year or years of publication.

For websites, the publisher usually can be found as part of the copyright notice at the bottoms of web pages. The publisher name may also be given near the top of the home page for the website.

On the Works Cited page, the publisher does not need to be given for a website if the publisher is the same or almost the same as the title of the website, which is often the case. Also, the titles of containers, such as JSTOR or YouTube, should not be presented as the name of the publisher.

Example of publishers include the following:



Oxford UP,

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services,

Sony Pictures,

 The publisher does not need to be given if the source is a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

8. Publication date,

The publication date is the date when a source was made available.

For books, the date usually is given just as a year, with the publication year found near the beginning of the book and as part of the copyright notice. If more than one year appears in a book, the most recent year should be presented for the source on the Works Cited page.

For magazine and newspaper articles, the publication day, month, and year usually are given, in the format 3 Feb. 2016.

For web pages, the publication date or the last date that the page was modified is given in the Work Cited entry as the day, month, and year, in the format 3 Feb. 2016.

For journal articles, the date is presented as it appears as part of the journal issue, often with a month or season and the year, such as May 2015 or Spring 2015.

If a source does not include a publication date, then nothing appears in the Work Cited entry where the publication date ordinarily would go.  

9. Location.

The way that a source location is indicated on the Works Cited page depends on the type of source.

For print sources (such as articles in printed versions of magazines, journals, and newspapers), the location is identified by the page numbers, with the Work Cited entry presenting the page numbers for the complete article, in the format pp. 223-29.

Page numbers also should be given for sources in journals, magazines, or newspapers in online databases if those sources include numbered pages, as is often the case if the source is presented in PDF format. 

Page numbers for books are included on the Works Cited page only if the source is a distinct part of a book, such as a short story in a collection of short stories. 

For online sources, the location usually is indicated by the URL (or web address). If a "stable link" or "permalink" is provided with a source, this is the link that should be given on the Works Cited page. The "http://" or "https://" at the beginning of the URL should not be included in the Work Cited entry. An identification code called a DOI (digital object identifier) sometimes is provided with an online source. If a DOI is included, the DOI instead of the URL should appear in the Work Cited entry for the source.

In some cases, two locations can be given in the Work Cited entry for a source. For example, if the pages are numbered in an article in an online journal, then the page numbers should be given as the location within the journal (Container 1), and if the journal appears in a database of sources, such as JSTOR or Academic Search Complete, then the URL should be given for the location of the source within the database (Container 2).

(The MLA recommends that URLs should be included for online sources on the Works Cited page, but the MLA also indicates that instructors may prefer that the URLs not be included and that students should not present the URLs on the Works Cited page if this is what the instructor prefers.)    

Examples of the Elements in Works Cited Entries

How to present


Copyright Randy Rambo, 2016.