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Papers in the Humanities and Fine Arts

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

These are some guidelines for documenting sources following the MLA style for providing citations.


     Following are some guidelines for documenting material from other sources. The way you document and cite your sources depends upon the academic discipline about which you are writing.


Where to Include Citations

     Generally, put a citation at the place where a pause would naturally occur, as near as possible to the cited material—usually at the end of a sentence, clause, or phrase before the final punctuation. If identifying the author in the text, then give only page number(s) in the parentheses after the quotation marks.

Citing Prose

Generally, put a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence, unless it would difficult for a reader to tell which information is being cited. In that case, put citation directly following cited material. If identifying the author in the text, then give only the page number(s) in parentheses after the quotation marks:

The character of Ruth, in Gloria Naylor's Linden Hills demonstrates great loyalty to her husband, Norman, when she stays with him, even though she becomes "past bone-tired, of hurting from being crushed between her hatred and love" for him (35).

A direct quotation that is more than four typewritten lines of prose should be set off from the text by indenting two tab spaces, ten spaces, or an inch. Double space your set off quotations and do not enclose them in quotation marks:

Naylor describes Norman and his mental illness in a particularly poignant passage:

     Looking at him, it was difficult to imagine that this square-jawed man with the gentle, sloping lips was the same one who every other spring went up and down Wayne Avenue, screaming and tearing at his face and hair with his fingernails, trying to scrape off the pinks. He resorted to his teeth and bare nails only after everything else had failed—jagged sections of plates and glasses, wire hangers, curtain rods, splinters of wood once part of a dresser, a coffee table, or [Ruth's] grandmother's antique music box. Up and down Wayne Avenue—in a frantic search for untried edges and textures to dig into his skin—until he was taken away, arms forced and laced to his side, and sent into a twilight that dimmed the shades of his nightmare. (34)


Citing Plays

In quoting from a play include the act, scene, and line numbers, unless the play is very brief, in which case just cite the line numbers:

In The Tempest, Shakespeare says, through Prospero's character, what many critics believe is his retirement wish to his fans, "Be free, and fare thou well!" (5.1.319).

If you are quoting a section of dialogue between two or more characters, you must set off that quotation. Indent the characters' names each two tab spaces, ten spaces, or an inch. Follow that name with a period and begin to quote the dialogue. For any remaining dialogue of the characters' indent an additional three spaces or a quarter inch:

Early in Thornton Wilder's Our Town he uses dialogue to establish his charcters' traits:

REBECCA. Mama, do you know what I love most in the world—do you?—Money.

MRS. GIBBS. Eat your breakfast. (182-184)


Citing Poetry

Cite poetry by the line and section number rather than by page number. For poems without numbered lines, cite by title. You can cite up to three lines this way, with quotation marks, as long as you separate the lines with a slash mark with a space on each side.

Shakespeare concludes with the line "I never writ, nor no man ever loved"(14).

Emily Dickinson explains that "God made a little gentian; / It tried to be a rose /

And failed, and all the summer laughed" ( "XLVIII" 1-3).

To cite a longer section of poetry, start your quotation on a new line, indenting each line two tab spaces, ten spaces, or an inch. As when quoting long sections of prose, you do not add quotation marks:

Emily Dickinson's poem, "XLVI," plays on seasonal symbolism, as its speaker seeks to determine the time of year:

It can't be summer,—that got through;

It's early yet for spring;

There's that long town of white to cross

Before the blackbirds sing.


It can't be dying,—it's too rouge,—

The dead shall go in white.

So sunset shuts my question down

With clasps of chrysolite. (1-8)


Citing the Bible

Cite the name of the Biblical book followed by the chapter and verse numbers:

Some people take the Biblical authors literally, believing that the entire universe

was created in a week, because, in the Bible, it is translated that "By the seventh day

God finished what he had been doing and stopped working" (Genesis 2:2 ).


Nonprint Sources (Films and Recordings)

Cite either the title or name(s) of the individual(s) responsible for the work:

It is worth examining the poetic style of "Fern Hill," a recording by Dylan Thomas.






One Work by One Author

Include the author's last name and page number(s) in parentheses:

The author describes the main character as a "hardworking, fastidious" (Smith 564) individual.


One Work by One Author

If the author's name is given in the text or lead-in to the quotation, then include only the page number:

Smith describes the main character as a "hardworking, fastidious" (564) individual.


Two or More Works by One Author

Include a short form of the title and page number(s).

Bennette asserts that "the changing political situation in Central Europe will cause enormous changes in strategy by the United States" ("Politics" 34).


Two or Three Authors or Editors

Include all of their names in either the text or in parentheses:

One study has found that "students learn best when they study for short periods of time spread out over several days" (Jones and Lacey 641).


Four or More Authors or Editors

Include the last name of the first author listed plus "et al." ("et al". is an abbreviation that means "and others".)

The authors begin with the statement that "Our world is a vastly changing place" (Hobbes et al. 16).


An Author of an Article or Chapter in an Edited Book or Anthology

Include the author of the work being cited and the page number(s):

"The dog has got more fun out of Man than Man has got out of the dog, for the clearly demonstrable reason that Man is the more laughable of the two animals" (Thurber 378).


A Corporate Name

Give the entire corporate name in your own text or as a parenthetical insertion at the end of your sentence:

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is a definite trend towards recycling industrial and consumer waste (321).


Unknown Author

If the author is unknown, give the citation by title:

The council members adopted several new policies during a recent meeting ("New American Politics" 16).


Material Quoted by a Source

Include "qtd. in" (meaning "quoted in") before the name of the source:

Ibsen wrote that "the play is not intended as an attack on modern civilization" (qtd. in Johnson 6: 104).





     On a separate page at the end of your paper provide a Works Cited list. The purpose of this list is to allow a reader to find the sources you used in writing a paper; thus include only the sources cited in the text; do not include sources used for background.


Title the page "Works Cited" and double-space all entries. Type the first line of each entry flush left and indent the second and succeeding lines five spaces, or 1 tab space, each. Double-space both between and among the entries.


The following is the MLA format for listing book sources on the "Works Cited" page(s):


Galbraith, Winston. A Study of the Adult Learner. Boston: Salem Press, 1964.



Note: A period follows the name of the author, the title, and the facts of publication. One space follows each period, comma, and colon.


Note: If there are several places of publication listed, give the first place of publication. If you cannot find the publication date of the source you're using, look for the copyright date. If there is more than one copyright date, give the latest one. If no publication or copyright date is listed, use "n.d." (no date listed).





Scholarly Journal article:

Bernstein, Stephen. "Form and Ideology in the Gothic Novel." Essays in Literature 18 (1991):


Von der Embse, Thomas J., and Judith M. Childs. "Adults in Transition: A Profile of the Older

College Student." Journal of College Student Personnel 20.6 (1979): 139-47.


Magazine article:

Iyer, Pico. "In Praise of the Humble Comma." Time 13 June 1988: 80.


Newspaper article:

Povich, Elaine S. "Senate Approves Campaign Bill, Speaking Fee Ban." Chicago Tribune 2 Aug. 1990: sec. 1, p. 1.



Lemann, Irving C. Elements of Behavior. New York: Rutlinger Foundation, 1981.

What You Need to Know When Traveling to Middle Eastern Countries. New York: World Travel Organization, n.d.



Dickinson, Emily. The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993.

Good News Bible: The Bible in Today's English Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1976.

Hairston, Maxine. A Contemporary Rhetoric. 2nd. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1978.

Naylor, Gloria. Linden Hills. New York, Penguin Books, 1986.

Rauch, David B. Priorities in Adult Education. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.

Wilder, Thornton. Our Town. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.


Multiple Authors and Editors:

Newton, Harry, et al. "Mainstreaming in the Secondary School." Public School Education 20 (1990): 176-191.

Roberts, Charles J., and Bob Brasley. Historical Perspectives: Yugoslavia. New York: Harbor Press, 1992.

Sims, Teresa, Roberta Caldwell, and Trisha Van Dalton. Encyclopedia of Design. 3rd ed. New York: Harper Collins, 1988.


Edited Book:

Klevins, Chester, ed. Materials and Methods in Adult Education. New York: Klevens Publications, Inc., 1972.

Article, Chapter, or Section in an Edited Book or Anthology:

Note: Begin with the author and title of the work being cited, not with the title of the anthology or the author or editor of the anthology. Be sure to include the page numbers of the section.

Dickinson, Emily. "XLVI." The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993. 104.

Dickinson, Emily. "XLVIII." The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1993. 105.

Thurber, James. "A Dog's Eye View of Man." The Norton Reader. Ed. Arthur M. Eastman et al. 7th ed. New York:Norton,

1988. 378.


Nonprint Media:

Thomas, Dylan. "Fern Hill." Dylan Thomas Reading. Vol. 1. Caedmon, n.d.



8 1/2. Dir. Federico Fellini. Perf. Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Anouk Aimee, and Sandra Milo. Universal, 1963.


CD-ROMs and other portable databases:

Note: In general, give as much information as you can. The most important information to include, however, is the publication medium, the vendor's name, and the date of electronic publication.

Bernstein, Stephen. "Form and Ideology in the Gothic Novel." Essays in Literature. 18 (1991):

151-165. Infotrac. CD-ROM. Information Access. Dec. 1991.

Mega ClipArt 15,000. CD-ROM. Cambridge, MA.: Softkey, 1995.


Online databases

Note: In general, give as much information as you can. The most important information to include, however, is the publication medium, the name of the computer service or network, and the date you accessed the information.

Hall, Britt Hart. "Is Heroic Behavior Determined Genetically?" New York Times 1 June 1994,

late ed.: C2. New York Times Online. Online. Nexis. 12 March 1995.


For more specific information, you may access MLA's page on documenting Internet sources by selecting this link: MLA Style



Continue on to APA Style...