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Referencing style - MLA: Introduction

A guide to using the MLA referencing system for in-text citations and reference lists.

Why is Referencing Important?

Referencing or citing your sources is an important part of academic writing. It lets you acknowledge the ideas or words of others if you use them in your work and helps avoid plagiarism.

When books, journals, official publications, newspapers etc. are used to reinforce ideas in an essay, you must give credit to these sources.

Referencing also demonstrates that you've read relevant background literature and you can provide authority for statements you make in your assignments.

Every scholarly discipline has a preferred format or style for citing sources. A widely accepted method used in the humanities is the MLA documentation style. This guide explains how to use this system, however, if you require further information consult the MLA handbook 9th edition

*** Please remember to check with your unit co-ordinator or tutor before submitting your assignments, as their style preference may vary from the guidelines presented here. ***

New MLA Handbook, 9th edition

The 9th edition of the MLA Handbook was published in April 2021.  This guide was updated in July 2021 to reflect the new edition.

There are two minor changes to the formatting style:

  • DOIs now include the prefix.
    (In the MLA 8th edition, the DOI information was formatted as doi:10.1632/adfl.43.2.11)
  • The season in a publication date (typically used in journal articles) is now in lower case.
    EG: vol. 40, no. 1, fall 200

Getting Started

There are two components to referencing: in-text citations in your paper and the Works Cited list at the end of your paper.

The in-text citation:

  • Is brief and only provides as much information as is necessary to identify the source as it appears in the Works Cited list. This generally means the author's name and the page reference.

In-text citation example:

If the author's name is mentioned in the text, only the page number appears in the citation.

                                                                                        MLA in-text example: page number only


Works Cited list:

  • A complete list of the works consulted at the end of the essay. The cited works are listed in alphabetical order by the author's surnames or by title if there is no author.
  • Works Cited entries contain all the information that someone needs to follow up your source.

Works Cited example for a book:

MLA Book reference


Works Cited example for a journal article:

Journal article format

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