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How to Use MLA Referencing Style Properly

Student referencing a paper MLA referencing style is one of the most commonly used types of formatting, so you’re bound to encounter it at least once throughout your post-secondary schooling.

However, it can be hard to master this style of referencing because there are so many tricky little elements you have to get right. Your professor will always be looking for those errors, so be sure to do it right to avoid losing simple marks.

Here is a helpful guide to get you started on acing those little tricks.

Perfect MLA Formatting Tips

First and foremost, you will need to know how to properly structure your paper. MLA referencing style does not usually require a title page- instead, list the following information in the top left corner of your paper:

● Name

● Professor

● Class

● Date

Then, leave a space and center your title. It does not need to be bolded, italicized, or underlined. Leave another space, and then you can start your introduction. Page numbers should be in the top right corner beside your last name.

Mastering In-Text Citations

When you’re quoting an author in your essay, put the last name and page number in brackets like this: (Smith 54). If you mention the author in the sentence, you only need to put the page number in brackets. Here is an example sentence: “Smith argues that children who eat more vegetables experience higher growth rates (54).”

Additionally, titles of books and plays should be italicized. The names of poems, short stories, television shows, and songs should be in quotations.

The Works Cited Page

MLA referencing style requires a Works Cited page at the end of your paper. Center the title, then begin your entries on the next line. The Works Cited should be on its own separate page.

Your Works Cited entries generally contain a list of core elements that make up a source’s publication information. Not every source will have all of these, but you should gather as many of them as you can.

Here are the elements you need:

● Author

● Title of work

● Title of container (if the work is a section of a book, for example)

● Any other contributors or editors

● Version

● Number

● Publisher

● Publication date

● Publication Location

Citing The 5 Most Common Types of Sources

Here are some example citations for 5 of the most common types of sources you’re going to use at some point or another. Always make sure you indent the second and subsequent lines of your citation.

1. Book: Last Name, First Name. Book Title. Publisher Name, Year.

Smith, Joe. Ten Things You Learn in College. Random House, 2002.

2. Chapter in a Book: Last Name, First Name. “Chapter Title.” Name of Book. Publisher, Year, pages.

Brunner, Steven. “How I Survived Freshman Year.” The Ultimate Guide to University. Oxford

University Press, 2007, pp. 25-56.

3. Academic Journal in Print: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Journal Title, volume, issue, year, pages.

Stevenson, Angela. “A Historiographical Study of German Inflation After World War II.” The

Journal of Western History, vol. 25, no. 4, 1998, pp. 130-200.

4. Academic Journal in an Electronic Database: Last Name, First Name. “Title of Article.” Journal Title, volume, issue, date, pages. Database Name, doi.

Percetta, Shelley. “Tea Trading Along China’s Silk Road.” The Journal of Chinese History, vol.

37, no. 33, 2002, pp. 57-98. JSTOR, doi: 10.1003/tox.33550.

5. Website: Editor or Author if Possible. Site Name. Organization or Institution, creation date, URL. Access date.

Halsall, Paul. Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Fordham University, 1996, Accessed 22 Sept. 2009.

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Purdue Online Writing Lab. MLA formatting and style guide. Retrieved from