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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 Style?

The MLA citation style is a set of rules created by the Modern Language Association.  Generally, this style is used by the liberal arts and the humanities.

Most of the examples in these pages were taken from:

The 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 guide.  To see sample papers in MLA style, go here.

 

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. To learn more about this, click here.

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

Formatting 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

[3] Next, under Special, select Hanging

[4] Click OK.  Your selected text will now be formatted with a hanging indent.

Formatting the hanging indent with Google docs:

To see how to format the hanging indent using Google Docs, see this tutorial.