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WRT 101 - Downtown (Dorsey) Writing I: MLA FAQ's

MLA Handbook

The official handbook, with 291 pages of rules. Available at every PCC Library.


Here are answers to some commonly asked questions about MLA citation format. I did my best to follow the rules and recommendations set forth in the most recent MLA Handbook, which you can find at every PCC library. Feel free to email me at with questions!

Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook For Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: Modern Language Association Of America, 2009. Print.

MLA in general

  1. Why is MLA used?
  2. Modern Language Association (MLA) style is a citation format commonly used in academic writing at secondary and higher education institutions. It provides authors a way to consistently organize their research in a way that allows their readers to quickly locate the sources referenced.

  3. What is the most important thing to remember about MLA?
  4. While there are a lot of rules (enough to fill up 291 pages), the most important thing to remember about MLA is that its major purpose is to help protect you from unintentional plagiarism while presenting your research in a clear, well-organized manner consistent with that of other scholars. Although it can often take more time to properly format your citations than it did for you to write your paper, proper use of MLA is intended to help you, and the more you practice it, the easier it becomes.

  5. How does MLA differ from APA?
  6. There are a lot of different citation formats, and which one you use largely depends on which subject or discipline you are studying. MLA format is widely used in humanities classes, like English, writing, foreign languages, etc. APA, which stands for American Psychological Association, is most commonly  used in psychology, sociology, and political science classes. The format you use is typically determined by your instructor, so don't assume or guess, ask your instructor. Other commonly used citation formats include Chicago/Turabian (history), American Anthropological Association (anthropology), American Sociological Association (sociology), American Medical Association (nursing & medical), and many more.

    The differences between MLA and APA citations are subtle and affect both in-text and references listed at the end of the paper. For example, if you were citing a book using either citation style, it would look like the following:


    In-text: Your text, "A quote you used" (Author last name page#), end of your text.

    Works Cited page: Last name, First name. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication. Medium of Publication.


    In-text: Your text, "A quote you used" (Author last name, Publication date, p. #), end of your text.

    References page: Author Last name, First initial & middle initial. (Year of publication). Title of work: Capital letter also for subtitle. Location: Publisher.

  7. How do I know if I'm doing it right?
  8. This can be really difficult, especially if you are trying to cite less commonly referenced materials, or websites in which it is difficult to identify elements like author or sponsor. There are many online materials and guides available through the library's website, and multiple copies of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers are available at every campus library. Additionally, the librarians are always available to help.

Parenthetical/in-text citations

  1. What information needs to be included in in-text citations, and in what order?
  2. Generally, you need the author's last name, and the page number where you found the information, (Stewart 17). If there is no author, you will list the title in quotes, ("Economic Outlook" 250). If there is no page number, or you are referring to the entire work, omit that element.

  3. When do I cite paragraph numbers instead of page numbers?
  4. If your source uses page numbers, cite the page number. If your source uses paragraph, stanza, or line numbers, provide that information. However the information is presented in the original source that you are referencing will be your best guide.

  5. When do I need to include in-text parenthetical citations?
  6. Whenever you refer to statistics, ideas, information, images, concepts, facts or anything else that you found from an outside source, you need to let your reader know where you found that information.

  7. When citing articles, when do I use quotes versus italics?
  8. For articles, you put the title of the article itself in quotes and italicize the name of the journal, magazine or newspaper in which it was published. For example, "Rialto Ends Rent Dispute with Rio Nuevo Board," or "Australian Classrooms: A Choice Between Ethics and Religion?" are titles of articles, and Journal of Social Psychology, Time, Arizona Daily Star are all titles of journals.

  9. How do I cite sources other than articles in the text of my paper?
  10. In-text citations will look pretty much the same no matter what your original source of information is. Your in-text citation is just the basic information, typically the author's last name and the page number from where it came (when available or relevant).

  11. How do I cite a person I interviewed?
  12. Person's last name, First name. Personal Interview (or Telephone Interview). Date of interview.

    DeFrain, Erica. Personal Interview. 19 Nov. 2010.

  13. How do I reference multiple sources in one paragraph?
  14. If you are referencing two or more sources of information that provided you with similar information within your sentence or paragraph (but not directly quoting), you can combine your parenthetical citations into one. You will still need the authors' last names and page  numbers, separated by a semicolon:

    (Fukuyama 42; McRae 101-33)

    ("Labor Statistics"; Guerra 5-7)

  15. When referencing the same citation multiple times, do you need to keep citing it in every sentence?
  16. When summarizing or paraphrasing general ideas, you can hold off on inserting a parenthetical citation until the last sentence. However, if you are using quotes or citing statistical information, you will need to include a citation for each sentence.

  17. What are good ways to integrate quotes into my paper?
  18. answer coming soon!

  19. Does the period come before or after the quotation?
  20. Any punctuation directly following a quotation is typically included within the quotation marks, but a parenthetical citation should be placed between the end quote and the period:

    The recently approved ballot measure allowing for the distribution of medical marijuana is considered "the first step in getting marijuana to patients with chronic, debilitating pain" (Cole).

  21. When should I use quotes versus paraphrasing or summarizing?
  22. answer coming soon!

  23. Is there a different citation format when paraphrasing, summarizing, or quoting?
  24. Nope. Author last name and page number.

  25. How long should a quote be?
  26. answer coming soon!

  27. I worry that my whole paper is composed of someone else's work. Is there a point when there is too much citing?
  28. answer coming soon!

  29. What is the proper way to paraphrase?
  30. answer coming soon!

  31. I have trouble quoting web sources. For example, how would I quote something from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics?
  32. Web sources can be tough, particularly since it can be very difficult to identify authors, titles, dates of publication, and other elements needed for MLA citations. Just like any source, if you cannot find certain elements (authorship) or they don't exist (date of publication), skip that element and move to the next one.

    If you are quoting something from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it might look something like this (the web address is optional for MLA 7th edition):

    "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009: Technical Writers." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor, 14 May 2009. Web. 23 Nov. 2010. <>.

  33. Do I include permalinks in my citations?
  34. MLA 7th edition does not require it, leaving it to your discretion. If you think it would make it easier for your reader to find the site, then include it.

Works Cited page

  1. How do I properly format a works cited page?
  2. In a nutshell, it's the last page of your paper, with 1" margins, double-spaced, and the words Works Cited centered at the top of the page (do not bold, italicize, or underline these words). Each citation will have a hanging indent for the first line, and will be organized alphabetically by the authors' last names. If you are using Microsoft Word, you can format the hanging indent by selecting your citations, right-clicking, selecting Paragraph, and then under Indentation - Special, select Hanging.

  3. When I format my works cited page, do I alphabetize by the authors' first or last names?
  4. Your Works Cited page will be alphabetized according to the authors' last names. If there was no author listed, you will alphabetize according to the title of the book, article, or website used.

  5. Can you show me some examples?
  6. Of course. Sample papers including complete Works Cited pages are available from the OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab and the Diana Hacker websites.

Online citation generators

  1. Does Microsoft Word cite things properly?
  2. Unfortunately, no. For example, I used Word to create an MLA citation for a journal article and was given the following:

    Griffin, James. "What Do Happiness Studies Study?" Journal of Happiness Studies (2007): 139-148.

    It's on the right track, but the journal title should be italicized, not underlined, and we're missing the Print or Web element required by MLA 7th edition. Also, it is missing the volume and issue number and full date of publication. It's an okay start, but you will definitely need to manually fix some mistakes if you use this feature.

  3. Are there any online citation generators that you recommend?
  4. Yes.There are many of them available. Currently, we recommend EasyBib ( and BibMe ( Both do an excellent job of providing proper MLA 7th edition citation format.

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