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MLA Formatting Basics

MLA Basics

Below are step-by-step directions for correctly citing print and online database sources.

Key to colors:

Author(s) Title of Book "Title of Article" Title of Periodical Volume Place of Publication Publisher Date Other Information Pages

How to cite Periodicals-Journals, magazines, and newspapers:

Sample entry -

Lever, Janet. “Sex Differences in the Games Children Play: Gender Stereotypes at Early Ages.”  Social Problems. 23 (1976):478-87.

1.  AuthorUse the author’s full name: last name first, followed by a comma, and then the first name and any middle name or initial.  Omit any title or degree attached to the author’s name on the source, such as Dr. or PhD.  End the name with a period and one space.

2.  Title of the articleGive the full title, including any subtitle (after a colon).  Place the title in quotation marks, capitalize all important (or main) words in the title, and end the title with a period (inside the final quotation mark) and one space.

3.  Publication information.

  • The title of the periodical, underline, followed by a space.  Omit any article (A, An, or The) from the beginning of the title.
  • The volume and/or issue number (in Arabic numerals), followed by a space.
  • The date of publication, followed by a colon and a space.
  • The inclusive page numbers of the article (without the abbreviation “pp.”).  For the second number in inclusive page numbers over 100, provide only as many digits as needed for clarity (usually two): 87-88, 100-01, 398-401, 1026-36, 1190-206.  For example, page numbers 333-334 would be written as 333-4 (because numbers should never be repeated unnecessarily).  If the article does not run on consecutive pages, provide only the first page number followed by a plus sign: 16+


***NOTE: when creating an MLA works cited page,

  • every piece of punctuation counts!!! 
  • Follow the examples EXACTLY.  Do not willy nilly omit or add punctuation marks because then you are not following MLA format. 
  • note that each entry is REVERSE indented (that is, the first line extends to the 1” margin border; every subsequent line in THAT ENTRY is indented one tab).  Also, in a works cited page, there are NO EXTRA SPACES between entries.  The entire page, though, is double-spaced.


How to cite Database Sources:

Sample entry -

Robbins, Richard H. and Philip DeVita.  "Anthropology and the Teaching of Human Values."  Anthropology and Education Quarterly.  16.4 (Winter, 1985): 251-256.  Blackwell Publishing/American Anthropological Association.  24 Mar. 2004.  JSTOR.  CSULA University Library. 12 Dec. 2008 <>.

In the above entry, the information is listed as follows:

1.  Name of author(s)

2.  Title of article

3.  Print publication information, which includes:

  • Journal (periodical) in which the article was originally printed
  • Issue and volume numbers seperated with a period
  • Month/season and year of publication
  • Page numbers for original article

4.  Publication information for online version, which includes:

  • Title of the site (publisher), underlined
  • Date of electronic publication or last update
  • Name of organization or institution sponsoring the site
  • The library or other organization (and its location) that provided you with access to the database.

5.  Date you accessed the online article

6.  Article's electronic address or URL

How to write In-Text Citations:

When writing a research paper, you must cite sources WITHIN the paper when you quote an outside source.  Plagiarism is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship or incorporating material from someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement.  If you are not careful to clearly cite each source you borrow directly from, you run the risk of being busted for plagiarism.

Example of an in-text citation for quoted material, author's name not included in text:

Finally, the third major argument against Internet taxes holds that the issue is too complex to be resolved, a “logistical nightmare,” in the words of a taxation opponent (Granfield 57).

***NOTE: in the above example, the quoted material is merely two words, but...

  • if you borrow two words in a row from any source,
  • you MUST set them apart in your paper with quotation marks, and
  • you must attribute the quote to an author. 

An in-text citation should include, as in the example above, the author’s last name, NOT followed by a comma, and the page number on which the quote was found.


Sometimes an in-text citation will not require that the author’s name be included, as you may have already introduced the author earlier in the sentence.

Example of an in-text citation for quoted material, author's name mentioned in text:

According to Dean Granfield of the Washington Post, “Households with incomes of $75,000 and higher are more likely to have access for the Internet than those at the lowest income levels [below $15,000]” (24-5).


***NOTE: that in the above example, because Granfield is introduced within the sentence itself, his name does not need to be listed a second time in the citation.

***NOTE the order of operations when writing an in-text citation.  First the quote is ended; then the parenthesis containing the author’s last name, if necessary, and the page number(s); then the period which ends the sentence. "........" (Name pg#).

For example:

"midwest states have noticed a sharp increase in unemployment rates in recent years" (Granfield 24).