MLA Works Cited

Learning Objectives

Create and identify appropriate MLA Works Cited entries.

MLA style is one of the most common citation and formatting styles you will encounter in your academic career. The MLA, which stands for Modern Language Association, is an organization of language scholars and experts. MLA format is typically used for writing in the humanities and is widely used in many high school and introductory college English classes, as well as scholarly books and professional journals.


Instead of offering a specific way to format each and every source time, the new MLA offers a streamlined approach using something called “containers.”

MLA containers listed in order: Author, title of source. Title of container, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, location.

Figure 1. MLA formatting requires you to think about your source as a whole and pick out all the appropriate pieces to include in the container.

These containers, pictured here, provide you with the required elements, order, and punctuation for each of your Works Cited entries.

As you work to format your Works Cited entries, you will notice that some sources require only one container, as shown on the right. These are sources that you access directly from their original publication, such as books, an online magazine article, and general websites. You should follow the order of items listed in the container, following the simplified punctuation rules you see in the container as well. You will place a period after the author and the title of the source. Then, you should place commas after each item until the end of the entry.

Two containers. Shows all of the information in Container 1, plus container 2 information that includes the title of container, other contributors, version, number, publisher, publication date, and location, which are all the same elements existing in container 1.

Figure 2. You use two containers if the source you are using is part of a larger source, such as a poem within an anthology, a series within a TV show, or a journal within a database.

Two containers are required for sources that you access through places like library databases. An example of MLA’s “two container” structure is depicted at the left. Here, you will notice there is a place for the first container with the original publication information.

Below the first container, the second container provides publication information for where you retrieved that information. For example, a journal article you access through your library’s databases will have its original publication information (container 1) and access information from the online database (container 2).

Focus on the Core Elements

Regardless of the source type, you are now asked to locate the same core elements from your sources and place them in a standard order in order to create citations. These core elements are explained in detail below. Note that you do not need to memorize every step of this process, but should take this opportunity to understand how citations are created. (You will likely use some kind of citation generator to do this work for you, but you will need a general familiarity so that you can know what information to plug into that citation generator and so that you can understand how to double-check the citation generator’s inevitable mistakes.) You can always return to this page, to the MLA handbook, the MLA Style Center, or to other online resources to help you create the citations you need for your paper.

MLA: Core Elements

Watch this video to see examples of how to identify the core elements needed in a citation:

You can view the transcript for “MLA Style, 8th Edition: An Introduction” here (opens in new window).

The basic guidelines for many types of citations are listed below. To see more, visit MLA Citations on the Excelsior OWL website, Purdue OWL website, or in this citation guide from Santa Fe College.

Print Books with a Single Author

If you are accessing a print book, then you will need just one container for publication information.

Minot, Stephen. Three Genres. Pearson, 2003.

Books with Multiple Authors

If you are accessing a print book, then you will need just one container for publication information.

Two Authors

Sennett, Richard, and Jonathan Cobb. The Hidden Injuries of Class. Vintage Books, 1973.

More Than Two Authors

For more than two authors: list only the first author followed by the phrase “et al.” (Latin abbreviation for “and others”; no period after “et”) in place of the other authors’ names.

Smith, John, et al. Writing and Erasing: New Theories for Pencils. Utah State UP, 2001.

Article in a Reference Book

If you are accessing a print book, then you will need just one container for publication information. If an article in a reference work has no author, you should begin with the title of the article.

“Discourse.” The Dictionary of Literary Theory. 2nd ed., Penguin, 1991.


Because eBooks may have been originally published in print, you may need two containers to present publication information. The first container includes the print information, and the second container includes the access information.

Gikandi, Simon. Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Cambridge UP, 2000. ACLS Humanities E-book,

Print Magazine Articles

If you are accessing a print magazine article, then you will need just one container for publication information.

Gallivan, Joseph. “Against the Odds.” Oregon Humanities, Summer 2008, pp. 16–24.

Online Magazine Articles

If you are accessing a magazine article directly from the web, you will most likely need just one container to present publication information.

Bilger, Burkhard. “The Height Gap.” The New Yorker, 5 Apr. 2004,

Print Journal Articles

If you are accessing a print journal article, then you will need just one container for publication information. If the journal does not use volume numbers, cite the issue numbers only.

Pasquaretta, Paul. “On the Indianness’ of Bingo: Gambling and the Native American Community.” Critical Inquiry, vol. 20, no.4, 1994, pp. 151–187.

Online Journal Articles

If you are accessing a journal article directly from the journal’s website, you will most likely need just one container to present publication information. Note that MLA now requires full URLs for online material. However, if your article includes a DOI (digital object identifier), that information should be provided instead of the URL.

Collins, Ross. “Writing and Desire: Synthesizing Rhetorical Theories of Genre and Lacanian Theories of the Unconscious.” Composition Forum, vol. 33, Spring 2016,

Cho, Helen, Sam D. Stout, and Thomas A. Bishop. 2006 Cortical Bone Remodeling Rates in a Sample of African American and European American Descent Groups from the American Midwest: Comparisons of Age and Sex in Ribs. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 130(2):214–226. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.20312.

Article from a Database

If you are accessing a journal article from a database, you will need two containers to present the original publication information as well as the access information from the database.

Goldman, Anne. “Questions of Transport: Reading Primo Levi Reading Dante.” The Georgia Review, vol. 64, no. 1, 2010, pp. 69–88. JSTOR,

Online Newspaper

If you are accessing a newspaper article directly from the web, you will most likely need just one container to present publication information. Reviews and letters to the editor should be presented in a similar manner.

St. Fleur, Nicholas. “City Bees Stick to a Flower Diet Rather Than Slurp Up Soda.” The New York Times, 19 May 2016,


Websites that contain articles, postings, and almost anything else have been simplified in the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook. Just one container is needed for most websites.

Hollmichel, Stephanie. “The Reading Brain: Differences between Digital and Print.” So Many Books, 25 Apr. 2013,


In the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook, images from the web will most likely need just one container. Images from other types of sources should follow guidelines for those particular sources.

Wootten, Bayard. Woman Resting. 1937. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, 12 Feb. 2013,


In the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook, videos accessed via web will most likely need just one container.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Unaired Pilot 1996.” Youtube, uploaded by Brian Stowe, 28 Jan. 2012,


Try It

Build the MLA-style citation for each source. Note that these exercises do not use hanging indents.

Formatting the Works Cited Section

In MLA style, all the sources you cite throughout your speech are listed together in full in the Works Cited section.

  • Title: On the first line, the title of the page—“Works Cited”—should appear centered, and not italicized or bolded.
  • Spacing: Like the rest of your paper, this page should be double-spaced and have one-inch margins (don’t skip an extra line between citations).
  • Alphabetical order: Starting on the next line after the page title, your references should be listed in alphabetical order by author. Multiple sources by the same author should be listed chronologically by year within the same group. If your reference has no author, use the title to alphabetize, leaving out any articles (for example, alphabetize The Awakening under A).
  • Hanging indents: Each reference should be formatted with what is called a hanging indent. This means the first line of each reference should be flush with the left margin (i.e., not indented), but the rest of that reference should be indented 0.5 inches further.
    • Any word-processing program will let you format this automatically so you don’t have to do it by hand. (In Microsoft Word, for example, you simply highlight your citations, click on the small arrow right next to the word “Paragraph” on the home tab, and in the popup box choose “hanging indent” under the “Special” section. Click OK, and you’re done. In Google Docs, highlight the area you want to indent then choose Format > Align & Indent > Indentation options > Select “Special,” then “Hanging” > Apply.)
Example of a works cited page. Five different sources are listed according to the format explained in the surrounding text with the name of the author, the title of the article in quotations, the publisher, volume number, date of publication, page numbers, and a URL.

Figure 2. A correctly formatted Works Cited page, according to the MLA handbook.

Recap: Works Cited

Watch this video to review the process for creating a Works Cited page.

You can view the transcript for “MLA Works Cited” here (opens in new window).