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Citations: MLA

Basic tips on the three main citation styles and links to more information.

MLA Citation Examples

MLA Style

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has developed a standardized way of citing resources used in academic research. Traditionally, MLA formatting has been used for academic papers written in the subject areas of English, Foreign Languages, Communications, Philosophy, and Theatre.  It is important to check with instructors to see which formatting style they prefer.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th edition) is available at all Vance-Granville Community College library locations. The call number is LB 2369 .G53 2009.

More information about MLA Style can be found at


MLA In-Text Citations

Two pieces of information are required for the in-text (or parenthetical) reference in MLA Style

  1. author's name(s)
  2. page number(s) where you got the information. 
  • Example: (Johnson 57)

If your source does not have page numbers (e.g. websites or other electronic material), simply list the author's name in your citation. If you do not have an author name, list the title of the source in quotation marks.

  • Example: ("A Biography of Abraham Lincoln" 67)

Paraphrasing a Source: You may summarize or paraphrase the original words, thought, or idea; however, credit must be given to the source.

  • Example:  Stem cell research will bring about new ways of treating Alzheimer's disease (Tannen 178-180).

If you include the author's name(s) in the sentence, only the page number(s) is needed in the parenthetical reference.

  • Example:  Tannen has argued the point that stem cell research will bring about new ways of treating Alzheimer's disease (178-180).

Two or Three Authors:

In citing information from a work by two or three authors include all authors' last names in either the signal phrase or parenthetical reference.

  • Example: Researchers found significant differences in the cancer rates of people who used sunscreen when compared to those who did not (Roberts and Lombardi 73).
  • Example: Researchers found significant differences in the cancer rates of people who used sunscreen when compared to those who did not (Roberts, Simmons, and Lombardi 73).

More Than Three Authors:

If there are more than 3 authors, provide the first author's last name followed by et al. or list all the last names.

  • Example: Some experts disagree with Johnson's argument and state that the spike in property crime is largely a result of high unemployment (Jones et al. 4).

Short Quotation:

When you incorporate a direct quotation into a sentence, you must cite the source. Fit quotations within your sentences:

  • Example 1: “Quotations are effective in research papers when used selectively” (Gibaldi 109).
  • Example 2: Gilbaldi states that "[q]uotations are effective in research papers when used selectively" (109).

Long Quotation:

If the quote you are using is longer than four lines set it off from your text with a free standing block.

  • Example:

Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration:

They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)


MLA Style Guide

MLA - Citing Print Sources

Print Books -- Basic Form:
Author name. Title of the Book. Publisher location: Publisher name, Publication date. Print.
Shulman, Albert M. The Religious Heritage of America. San Diego: A.S. Barnes, 1981. Print.
Print Magazine & Newspaper Articles -- Basic Form:
Author name. "Title of the Article." Publication Title. Date: Pages. Print.
Ghosh, Bobby, Charles Crain, and Brian Bennett. "Hold the Cheers." Time 24 Dec. 2007: 58-63. Print.
Scholarly Journal Articles -- Basic Form:
Author name. "Title of the Article." Journal Title. Volume.Issue (Year): Pages. Print.
Lee, Richard H., Carl F. Pieper, and Cathleen Colón-Emeric. "Functional Impairments Mediate Association Between Clinical Fracture Risk and Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Older Women." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 63.8 (2015): 1546-551.
Recorded Films -- Basic Form:
List films by their title. Include the name of the director. If relevant, list performer names after the director’s name. Use the abbreviation Perf. to head the list. End the entry with the distributor, the release year, and the appropriate medium of publication (e.g. DVD, VHS, Laser disc).
Ed Wood. Dir. Tim Burton. Perf. Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patricia Arquette. Touchstone, 1994. DVD.

MLA - Citing Online Sources

Websites -- Basic Form:
Author or Editor. "Title of Webpage." Title of Overall Website. Publisher or sponsoring organization (if none found,use "n.p."), Date of publication (if none found, use "n.d."). Web. Date of access.
Note: if website is untitled, use a generic label such as Home page or Introduction. Do not use quotations or italics in this case.
Brown, Philip. "The Murder of the Handicapped." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d. Web. 14 June 2004.
Articles Retrieved from Online Databases -- Basic Form:
Author name. "Title of the Article." Title of Journal or Magazine Publication date information: page numbers. Database Name. Web. Date of access.
Gibbs, Nancy. "Spooked by the Surplus." Time 19 July 1999: 32-35. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 February
"Gaiam, Inc." Morningstar Investment Research Center, 2010. Web. 10 Oct 2010.
Electronic Books -- Basic Form:
Author name. Title of E-Book. Place of publication: Publisher,Year. Database Name. Web. Date of access.
Gibbs, John. The Death of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Gale, 2004. eBooks on EBSCOhost . Web. 22 November 2009.

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Thank you to Surry Community College Library for their assistance in creating this guide.

Need help?  Contact the VGCC Library.