A Quick Guide to Understand MLA Referencing and Citation Style

In academic writing, a student is always required to support his or her claims by referring to other people’s published work. Even if you are sure that your readers know the source of the reference, it does not relieve you from the obligation of citing the source. The reason being, the rationale behind citing references is not only to let the audience know the source of information, but also give credit to the original author for his/her ideas. To make the referencing process easier, different citation styles have been developed over time.

MLA Referencing and Citation Style

Modern Language Association (MLA) is one of the most common referencing used by students, especially for humanities stream. This style is widely used by arts and humanities students since the style is well-suited to literature and archival sources.

So, here is a brief guide to learn MLA referencing style.

This guide mainly covers two aspects of citing sources in academic writing in a bid to avoid plagiarism. Moreover, it also provides some basic explanations and examples for the most common types of citations. It helps you as a student to develop research skills. Once you understand this method of referencing, you can involve any type of source extracted from any type of paper in any field.

Things to Remember in MLA Citation Style

Before you understand the general rules for MLA citation, go through these updates from the new edition. If we go through the Eighth Edition of MLA Citation Style, here are few important pieces of information that students should remember,


In previous edition, the writer could use abbreviated form of ‘editor’ as ‘ed’, ‘translation’ as ‘trans’, but the updated version of MLA handbook requires the writers to spell out the words in full.

More than two authors:

As per the previous handbook, citing a work by more than two or three authors required students to mention the names of all the authors. Now students do not have to list the names of all the authors if the work has more than two authors.

For electronic sources:

The updated version of the MLA handbook suggests that when you cite an online source, you need to include the URL or doi (digital object identifier). The permanent link or doi is preferred in this case. It is advised that students should avoid using shorten form of URL because they are unstable and your readers may not have access to these sites in future.

Citing Sources in MLA Referencing Style

Like any referencing style, MLA system also involves two main tasks: one is citing the source in the body of the text (in-text citation) and second is compiling a list of references, mentioning all the sources that the writer used in the content in the first place.

Here you get the chance to read some examples of the MLA style citation. But before you go through the examples, learn the elements of MLA referencing style.

• Name of the Author

• Title of the Work

• Title of the Container

• Version

• Name of the Publisher

• Date of Publication

• Location

General Rules for In-texting:

The writer needs to use a brief reference at places where the source is mentioned. Readers can use these references to check the authenticity of the sources. According to MLA referencing style, citing the last name of the author and page number is sufficient. Moreover, if you mention the name of the author in the text, you need to state the page number in the parenthesis.

General Rules for Reference List:

Reference list should appear at the end of the paper, containing detailed information of works cited within the text. The list of work cited in writing should follow an alphabetical order based on the authors’ last name or title of the work if there is no author. The writer should start the reference list on a new page and italicize the titles of books and place the names of the articles in quotation marks. All the sources cited in the reference list should be double spaced. While citing the electronic sources, mentioning date of access is not mandatory. However, you can include information to make your readers more comfortable with the references.

Citing Book by One Author:

In-text Citation:

Through this reflective study (Wenger, 180)

Wenger has discussed (80)

Reference List:

Wenger, Oliver. Marketing: The Strategy That can Change the World. Dublin: Veritas, 2003.

Citing Book by Two Authors:

In-texting referencing:

In this comparative study, factors have been highlighted (Wenger, Mclean)

Reference List:

Wenger, Oliver and Mclean, Vivian. The Secrets of Vedic Math: Learn how to Crack Math: New York Portfolio, 2003.

Citing Book by More Two Authors:

In-text Referencing:

It has been suggested that (Wenger et al. 155)

Wenger suggests (155)…

Reference List:

Wenger, Oliver et al. How to use Marketing Strategies Effectively. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

Book with an Editor:

In-text Referencing

Another approach shows (Rafael, 78)

Reference List:

Rafael, Henry. Ed. Social Development: Practices of Theories and Research: Essex: Longman, 2001.

Citing Chapter in an Edited Book:

In-text Referencing:

Other comparative studies explain (Johnson, 189)

Johnson (189) describes…

Reference List:

Johnson, Harry. “To the Memory of My Beloved, the Author William Shakespeare” The Norton Anthology of Poetry. Ed. Alexander Allison et el. New York: Norton, 1993. 155- 176.

Citing Print Journal Article:

In-text Referencing:

Study shows (Miller, 133)…

Miller (133) argues…

Reference List:

Miller, Joshua. “Myths of Freelancing.” Journal of Social Media. 51. 1 (2000): 809 – 56.

Citing E-Journal Article:

In-Text Referencing:

By evaluating the factors, it can said… (Moore, 456)

Moore (456) discussed the factors in the light of…

Reference List:

Moore, Isaac. “Differences Between The Classical Music and Contemporary Music.” Popular Music & Society 11.6 (2003): 322 – 378. Web. 4th September, 2016.

Citing Print Newspaper Article:

In-Text Referencing:

Other arguments presented (Fuller, 233)

Fuller(233) argues…

Reference List:

Fuller, Austin. “Disciplinary Issues in School: an Approach to Elevate the Quality of Learning” The Guardian 19th September, 2016, p.12.

Citing Online Newspaper Article:

In-text Referencing:

In the study, the aspects… (Wright, 135)

Wright (154) describes…

Reference List:

Wright, Owen. “Disciplinary Issues in School: an Approach to Elevate the Quality of Learning.” The Guardian 19th September 2016. Web. 21st September 2016.

Citing Website:

In-text Referencing:

According to the other sources… (Carter, 123)

Carter (123) discussed the other aspects…

Reference List:

Harris, Perry. The Writing Style Followed in Victorian Age. Indiana University, September 2016, Web. 21st September 2016.

Citing Blog:

In-text Referencing:

According to the study… (O’Connor)


Joshua, O’Connor. “Global Warming and its Viral Impact” George Murphy Blog, 14th September 2016. Web 19th September 2016.

Citing Conferences:

In-text Referencing:

According to the other study (O’Brien, 198)

O’Brien (176) describes other aspects…

Reference List:

O’Brien, Ben. “Social Development to Understanding the Natural Resources” Future role of Natural Resources,  University College Dublin. 13 – 19 March 2016. Dublin. Irish Environmental Institute, 2009. 78 – 99. Print.

Citing Thesis:

In-Text Referencing:

The theory has been presented.. (Nelson, 899)

Nelson (899) presents the theory…

Reference List:

Nelson, Sean. “A Study On the Carnivalization of Internet Memes.” PhD Thesis. University College Dublin, 2001. Print.

Remember, if you borrow ideas or summarize any author’s work without including a reference in the writing, you are plagiarizing. So now you understand the significance of referencing in writing. You are not judged by how well you present the ideas, but how you manage to relate the ideas with the literature. To avoid failures in academic writing, you need to cite. And the above suggestions and examples will go a long way in helping you cite the sources in the preferred manner.

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