MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics // Purdue Writing Lab

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Citation Style: MLA

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  • What is MLA citation style?
  • 8th edition changes
  • The core elements
  • MLA handouts
  • Sample MLA formatted papers
  • Formatting the hanging indent
  • Tutorials
  • Learn more
  • Related guides

MLA citation style  is a set of rules created by the  Modern Language Association  that establishes standards of written communication (college research papers; articles, books and other documents submitted for publication) including:

  • formatting and page layout
  • writing style
  • citing sources

MLA citation style is often used in the following classes/fields:

  • English
  • Cultural Studies

We keep a copy of the handbook at the Library Reference Desk at all three Reynolds campuses. 

  • Whats New in the Eighth Edition

    Modern Language Association

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 .

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.

  • MLA 8th Edition: Citation Examples
  • MLA 8th Edition: The Core Elements & Works Cited Page
  • MLA 8th Edition: Format a Paper & In-Text Citations

  • Sample first year paper in expository writing

    The MLA Style Center

  • Second year paper in African American Studies

    The MLA Style Center

Save time by using Microsoft Word to format the hanging indent:

[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.

  • Anatomy of Citations: MLA

    Raynor Memorial Libraries, Marquette University (Adobe Flash Required to play game)

  • MLA (8th Edition) Citation Format Tutorial

    Carroll Community College, Westminster, MD

  • MLA 8th Edition Citation Style: Drag & Drop Game

  • MLA 8th Edition Research Paper Basics

    Hoonuit. To access this tutorial, you will need to first login to My Reynolds. You can also access any Hoonuit tutorial by clicking on the Hoonuit option from the My Reynolds main menu.

  • Ask the MLA (FAQs)

    The MLA Style Center

  • MLA 8th Edition Handbook Guide


  • MLA Formatting & Style Guide

    OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab

  • MLA Style

    Online Writing Lab at Excelsior College

  • The MLA Style Center

    Writing resources from the Modern Language Association

  • Works Cited: A Quick Guide

    The MLA Style Center

  • Citing Sources

    by Denise Woetzel

    Last Updated Nov 5, 2018

    11836 views this year
  • Citation Style: APA

    by Denise Woetzel

    Last Updated Oct 25, 2018

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Important Note

Always check with your instructor on what format specifications to use for a particular class or assignment, especially when citing electronic resources including material found in library databases.


This guide was adapted from the MLA Style 8th Edition pages in the Citation Styles Playbook created by Piedmont Virginia Community College Library.

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  • Last Updated: Nov 5, 2018 1:28 PM
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English & Literature , Foreign Languages and American Sign Language (ASL) , Information Literacy & Tutorials , Teaching Faculty

citation , mla , plagiarism

Ask the MLA in-text citations

What kind of number do I put in the parenthetical citation for a poem—a page number, a line number, or another part number?

The ultimate goal is to be concise and to cite what is most useful to the reader. For quotations from a poem in a print or online source, there are three common possibilities:

  1. If the poem is short (no longer than a page or its online equivalent), do not cite any number in the text. The page number or Web location that appears in the poem’s works-cited-list entry will be specific enough to identify a borrowing from such a short text.
  2. If the poem is longer than a page (or its online equivalent) and is published with explicit numbers marking lines or other parts (e.g., stanzas, cantos, books), cite the line numbers and other part numbers but not page numbers. If lines alone are numbered, use the form “line 57” or “lines 119–20” in the first citation, and cite the line numbers alone, without the label line or lines, in the later citations. If other parts are numbered as well as lines, combine the numbers without a label. For instance, if books and lines are numbered, “9.19” means book 9, line 19.
  3. If the poem is longer than a page and is not published with explicit numbers marking lines or other parts, cite page numbers (as you would for a work in prose) if the poem is in print. If no page numbers are present (as is often the case online), none can be cited.

Published 29 February 2016