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Citation Styles Playbook

The purpose of this playbook is to help you cite the sources used in your academic research.

What is the MLA citation style?

The MLA citation style is a set rules about source documentation, created by the Modern Language Association.  Generally, this style is used by the humanities.

The MLA Style playbook contains templates, examples, and handouts that will help you learn this citation style. Why learn how to cite?  Because

  • citation generators can't be trusted (error level is high)
  • learning how to cite will save you time in the long run
  • citing properly will increase your grade

This playbook was designed specifically for the needs of PVCC students. To access the different sections of this playbook, click on the links.  For help with MLA style citations, contact the librarians at


Books | Articles | Web Pages | Miscellaneous | Legal Citations | In-Text and Parenthetical Citations | Capitalization | Figures and Tables

MLA Style: The Core Elements

image lists MLA core elements

Citations in the 8th edition of the MLA style are all made up of 9 elements, called core elements. These are elements common to most citations. By using the core elements, any item can be cited, regardless of format.  Please play close attention to the punctuation after each element.

When an element is unavailable, it is simply skipped.

A crucial concept for the new MLA style is the concept of containers. A container is the larger work that includes the source. A chapter is contained in a book; an article is contained in a periodical; an episode of a sitcom is contained in the series, etc.  There are other changes in the 8th edition; to learn about them, click here.

To learn more about what is new, check out the MLA Style Center, and for more information on formatting, see the MLA's Works Cited quick guideSee sample papers in MLA style here. 

Practice MLA citations by using this interactive template.

Note: This playbook uses the core elements to format the most common types of citations, but it is recommended that everyone spend some time learning how to put the elements together to format any citation.

Using Footnotes or End Notes with MLA

Please note that the MLA Style allows the use of footnotes and end notes.  Learn more about using footnotes and end notes.

A Note About Using MS Word to Format Citations

Microsoft Word includes a citation utility that promises to format citations in several styles, such as MLA, APA, and Chicago.  This utility should not be used, as it is never correctly programmed and produces erroneously formatted citations. 

Please note that the Jessup Library librarians do not support the Word citing utility and are therefore unable to help students who choose to use it.  The librarians suggest learning how to cite from scratch.

Can I Use a Citation Generator?

Citation generators format your citations based on the information you enter into their fields.  Using these apps is counterproductive because

  • Citation generators insert a lot of errors into the citations
  • If you do not know how to cite by hand, you will not recognize the errors
  • Citation generators actually waste your time: The time spent entering the information into the citation generator and then verifying the information with a citation guide is far longer than the time it takes to learn how to cite correctly
  • While some instructors do allow the use of these apps, many do not, and when you encounter one of these instructors, you will be at a disadvantage (grade-wise)  for not having learned how to cite

Formatting the Hanging Indent with Word

Follow the steps below to format the hanging indent with Word

[1] Select the text you would like to format (you can select your entire list of citations, for example, to format all at once)

[2] From the Home tab in Word, select the arrow next to Paragraph

fomatting hanging indent step 1


[3] Next, under Special, select Hanging


formatting hanging indent step 2

Formatting the Hanging Indent with Google Docs

Follow the steps below to format the hanging indent with Google Docs

[1] Select the text you want to format in hanging indent style

[2] Click Format

[3] Click Align & Indent

[4] Click Indentation Options

[5] Under Special, select Hanging (it's usually already selected)

[6] Click Apply