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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, created by the Modern Language Association,  is a set rules about source documentation.  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 learning how to cite in the  MLA style, contact the librarians at


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

MLA Style: The Core Elements

image lists MLA core elements

MLA style citations are all composed of 9 parts, called core elements. These are elements common to most citations. By using the core elements, any item can be cited, regardless of format.  The image on the left shows the elements.  Please play close attention to the punctuation after each element.

When an element is unavailable, it is simply skipped.

A crucial concept for the MLA style is the concept of containers. A container is the larger work that includes the source. A chapter is contained in a book, so the book is the container; an article is contained in a periodical, so the periodical is the container; an episode of a sitcom is contained in the series, so the series is the container, etc.

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.

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

Writing an Annotated Bibliography?

MLA Style Quiz