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Citing Sources in MLA Style: Core Elements

How to cite sources using MLA style

Core Elements

MLA 8th edition has changed how citations are formed. Works cited entries should consist of the following "core elements" in the order below. Each element should be followed by the punctuation mark shown below. If what you are citing does not have one of the elements, just skip it. 

  • Author.
  • Title of source.
  • Title of container,
  • Other contributors, 
  • Version,
  • Number, 
  • Publisher,
  • Publication date,
  • Location.

MLA Practice Template

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Author

Single Author

Last, First Middle initial

Gill, Sam D.

Two Authors

Last, First Middle initial, and First Middle initial Last

Doyle, Derek and David Barnard.

Three or more Authors

Last, First Middle Initial, et. al.

Booth, Wayne C., et.al. 

For more information on formatting authors, see pages 21-25 of the MLA Handbook.

Title

Title of Source

The "Title of Source" refers to the title of the specific work you are citing - so an article, chapter, or essay title, or a book title if you are using the entire book.

Title of Container

If you are citing something like an encyclopedia article, journal article, essay, or any other piece of information that is part of a larger work, you will need to include the title of that "container." For example, if I am citing a chapter of a book, the title of the chapter would be the "Title of Source" and the title of the entire book would be the "Title of Container."

For more information on formatting different source titles, see pages 25-29 in the MLA Handbook. For more information on formatting different container titles, see pages 30-36 in the MLA Handbook.

Other Contributors

Other contributors could be editors, translators, performers, or any other person who is credited in the work you are citing. Some examples you may see include:

  • Adapted by
  • Edited by
  • Directed by
  • Illustrated by
  • Narrated by
  • Performed by
  • Translated by

For more information on other contributors, see pages 37-38 in the MLA Handbook.

Version

If the work you are citing is a specific edition or version, include it.

Barkley, Russell A. Taking Charge of ADHD. 3rd ed., Guilford Press, 2013.

Holy Bible. New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001.

For more information on formatting versions, see pages 38-39 in the MLA Handbook. On using abbreviations like ed. and rev., see page 107 in the MLA Handbook.

Number

If the work you are citing is part of a numbered set, include that number. Some examples include:

  • Volume number from a multi-volume set
  • Volume and issue number for a journal article
  • Season and episode number for television shows

For more information on formatting numbers, see pages 39-40 in the MLA Handbook.

Publisher

This can be a book publisher, museum, association, movie studio, or other organization. The publisher would not be included for the following citations:

  • Journal, magazine, or newspaper
  • Self-published works
  • Websites where the page title is the same as the publisher
  • Websites that make content available but is not involved in publication of the content (YouTube, WordPress, databases like JSTOR, etc.)

For more information on formatting publishers and publication dates, see pages 40-42 in the MLA Handbook.

Publication Date

Select and format the publication date based on what is relevant to your use of the work. Multiple dates may be listed.

For example, if you are viewing an online version of a print magazine article and both publication dates are listed, use the online version date since that is what you are viewing.
Including day, month, year, and even time
If any of these are listed and are relevant, include them.

For more information on formatting publishers and publication dates, see pages 40-46 in the MLA Handbook.

Location

Location can mean different things:

  • Specific range of pages (for articles, book chapters, etc.)
  • URL for a website
  • DOI (digital object identifier) for an article
  • Location of a physical object (work of art in a museum)
  • For books, city of publication is not required, unless it is relevant. For example, if you are citing the British edition of a text, including London as the city of publication would be useful.

For more information on locations, see pages 46-50 in the MLA Handbook.