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What is MLA? MLA is the Modern Language Association, an organization for helping to set and maintain the standards of English and grammar. MLA Style is a standardized way of putting together a paper. It includes a format for the paper itself and very specific guidelines on how to give credit to sources for information you wouldn't have known without reading other information. The ultimate resource for correctly using MLA style and answering all your questions is the MLA Handbook. If there's any question - trust this book.

Who uses this? Well, if you're here, at the moment, you're using it. MLA is the standard format for classes at many high schools and community colleges. In upper level education, a lot of English and Humanities classes require writing and citing papers in MLA format.

Why do I have to do this? Because your teacher says so. Actually, you need to learn MLA style because it creates a standard format for providing information. Once you learn how to use MLA style, any professor at any college, or any editor of an English publication can look at your paper and understand the information you've given them. Creating a consistent format helps people to get information across quickly and without a lot of confusion.

Oh, and why do you have to do a works cited page? Because otherwise you're stealing information, and that's called plagiarism. It can get you failed, thrown out, or fined money. Just don't do it.

Is a Works Cited the same as a bibliography? No, actually, it isn't. A bibliography is a list of everything you read or looked at on your way to a finished paper. A works cited page doesn't look that way. A works cited page should ONLY contain information on sources you actually used and gave credit to in your paper.



Starting on your works cited page
Before you start, you should have your sources available. Once you know which sources you're going to be using, you can go through a 3-step process:

1 Figure out WHAT your source is - book, journal, encyclopedia, webpage, etc.
2 FIND that source type on the list below or in your MLA citation guide
3 FOLLOW the example given exactly with the information from your source.

Works cited pages aren't hard - they're just a pain in the butt. They require, thought, patience, and precision. Find the right example; follow it exactly, and you'll do just fine.


Basic format:
Works cited must be double spaced. The whole page. No single space, no double-double spacing between things. Just double space. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

The words Works Cited should be centered at the top of the page. Don't bold, italicize, or quote them. Just type the words in. In the middle.

The entries should be in alphabetical order (A-Z) by whatever word appears at the right hand side of the page.

The entries should be in hanging indentation - the first line should come out to the edge of the page, and all the lines under it should be indented 1/2" like this:

Smith, Jane. "Remembering the Search for the Flush Toilet." Tales from the Toiletries.
  New York: Charmin Squeeze Publishing, 2007

MS Word and other word processing programs can help you with this format. In MS Word, for example, click Format => Paragraph =>find the section labeled Indentation => Click the dropdown list under Spacing => Choose Hanging.

It does not matter where one line stops and wraps to the next. Let the word processor handle that for you.

  How to Cite your Sources:
Magazines/ Journals
Reference/ Misc.
Magazine article
Encyclopedia/ Dictionary
Journal article
Article gotten through a library database
Online Encyclopedia/ Dictionary
Journal article from an library subscription service
(book with sections by lots of different authors)
Government Publication
Collection of Literary Criticism etc.
2 or more works by the same author      

** Remember, if your source is MISSING information (like an author's name), skip that information and go to the next required piece of information in the example.

Title of article or section
Title of book, magazine, or website
Titles must be underlined or italicised.
City of publication
Publishing company
Publishing Date
Volume Number
Issue numbers
Page numbers


Book: 1 Author

Kimmerschmidt, Aron. Retelling the Tales: Anima in Modern Architecture. New York: Brickhouse Publishing, 2002.


Book: 2 Authors

Diaz, Cari and Hubert Jackman. Living La Vida Loca on a Small Town Budget. Gainesville: Corona Sunrise Press, 2006.


Book: More than 4 Authors

Booth, Patricia, et al. Living with the Library: A Memoir. Toledo: Georgetown University Press, 2006.