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The Ultimate MLA Format Citation Guide

Still struggling to nail the MLA citation format? Don’t worry it happens to the best of us when asked to present an MLA format bibliography for an essay. The best way to overcome such a challenge is by having a look through this MLA citation guide. Below you can get acquainted with some helpful tips and tricks as well as multiple MLA format examples.


What is the MLA Citation Format?

It can be quite challenging for students to learn how to apply various referencing styles to avoid plagiarism. Such situations often lead to individuals seeking out a reliable and accessible MLA citation guide. So what exactly does the MLA citation style stand for and what are its requirements?

The MLA citation format (Modern Language Association style) is most often used by students while writing papers or citing sources which are relevant to the liberal arts subjects as well as humanities. Throughout this MLA citation guide, we will ONLY be referring to the latest version that is required from students, namely the MLA citation format 8th Edition. However, if this article is not enough for you to grasp the fundamental concepts it is best to consult the MLA Handbook since it will offer additional MLA format examples concerning:

  • MLA Research Papers
  • Use of MLA Citation In-Text
  • Structuring Footnotes/Endnotes
  • Example of Bibliography/Reference/Works Cited Page

Related article to APA Formating: APA Citation Guide – Learn How to Cite Anything in APA Format
If you want to know more about Chicago / Turabian Citation Style: The Ultimate Chicago Citation Style Guide

What Version of the MLA Format is Currently in Use?

As previously mentioned, currently the MLA format required by most academic institutions is the 8th Edition which was published in April 2016. Throughout the new MLA citation format handbook, students are shown how citations should be done according to this style. It incorporates both MLA in-text citations as well as the required structure for an MLA bibliography.

Due to the evolution of professional writing as well as academic writing one can clearly see that following a simple set of rules is not diverse enough to cope. Thus, the MLA citation format has emerged as a referencing style which can be applied to an extensive list of sources from a multitude of academic spheres. One of the main differences is the current MLA citation format Handbook uses a list of principles instead of the old set of specific rules.

Overall the goal is to have students learn how to reference correctly using a flexible method, which is universally applicable. This MLA citation guide seeks to highlight all the new elements in an efficient and easy-to-learn manner, so you can get your research paper’s sources referenced correctly in no time.

So What Does the New Version of the MLA Format Require?

Now that we have a pretty good idea about what the MLA citation format stands for and how it has evolved to where it is today let’s get into the specifics. In the section below we will explore all the requirements of the new MLA citation format.

Universal MLA Citation Format

According to the MLA citation format Handbook, it is inefficient to research a new style of referencing for each type of source: E.g., Books, Journals, Websites, etc. That was one of the leading concerns directing the creation of this latest version. Nowadays one can even use tweets as a direct source. For example, we are quite often faced with all kind of tweet feeds coming from Donald Trump or the NFL players choosing to sit down during the National Anthem. Thus, since technology gives us access to new platforms which can be used as a direct source, it would be a nightmare having to learn a new MLA citation format for each of these social media platforms.

To help young academics and professionals cope with the growing availability and types of resources that can be used the MLA citation style presents us with a universal format which can be used to create appropriate citations. The way it is done now is by locating the so-called “Core Elements” of whatever type of source you are looking to include in the MLA bibliography. What they represent in this scenario are the elements making up the information needed to be listed for each source in particular. The list below covers the order in which these items must be presented for any new MLA citation format.

MLA Citation Style Core Elements In a Nutshell:

  1. Author
  2. Title of the source
  3. Title of the container
  4. Other contributors
  5. Version
  6. Numbers [ Page Number, Article Number, etc.]
  7. Publisher
  8. Official date of publication
  9. Location

*Note: As in the previous MLA citation format Handbooks the correct punctuation marks must be applied after each Core Element is listed.

*Basic MLA Format Example:

Author. Title. Title of the container. Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication Date, Location

Including “Containers” in our citations

This new requirement of the MLA citation format is designed to help the visual structure and ease with which an examiner can backtrack sources. So what exactly is a “container” in the new MLA citation format? In essence, when referencing a smaller section of a large source, E.g., Chapter 5 from House of the Spirits, the container becomes the large source as it contains the smaller source we are trying to use in our assignment.

MLA Format Example:

mla citation format example

Allende, Isabel. “House of the Spirits.” Chapter 5: The Lovers, translated from Spanish by Magda Bogin, Dial Press Trade Paperback, 1982, pp. 99 – 110.

Allows the use of Pseudonyms for Authors Names

As previously mentioned the development of social media platforms has been noted by those developing the MLA citation format. Thus, to help keep up with the times’ students may now use screen names, twitter handles or usernames instead of the author’s credentials, even if they are available. Doing so makes it significantly easier to reference sources in-text as well as when constructing one’s MLA bibliography.

To help highlight what this change incurs for students, we have provided an MLA format example of both the primary outline as well as the finished version below to increase the positive impact this MLA citation guide can have.

Basic Outline:

Do not include HTTP:// or https:// when referencing tweets using the MLA format.

@TwitterHandle. “Full tweet text content”. Twitter, Date Posted, Time Posted, Available at Twitter URL

MLA Format Example:

@realDonalTrump. “Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election.” Twitter, 15 Oct. 2016, 5:23 A.M., twitter .com/realDonaldTrump/status/787267564405653505

MLA Journal Article Citations New Format

This comes as a rather significant change to the MLA citation format since in the previous version there was little to no indication that the numbers students or examiners saw in periodical citations referred to issue numbers of the volume it is a part of. To help highlight this new change, we will explore the same source cited using both MLA styles.

MLA 7:

O’Carroll, John. “The Dying Of The Epic.” Anthropoetics 30.2 (2011): 48-49. Print.

MLA 8:

O’Carroll, John. “The Dying Of The Epic.” Anthropoetics, vol. 30, no. 2, 2011, pp. 48-49.

Avoid including URLs

This section of the MLA citation format Handbook is quite straightforward as it suggests that students steer clear of adding the HTTP:// or https:// when referencing any source while using the 8th version.

City of Publication Requirement Changes

For those students who have already experienced the MLA citation format requirements from previous versions, this will come as quite a shock. In the 8th release, it has been established that this information carries little to no significance as the city of publication can often change due to reprints or edits. Thus, it has been deemed that including such information is trivial and can be safely omitted by students working on an MLA bibliography.

Nonetheless, there are a set of circumstances where students must include this information. Such an issue becomes a requirement if there are different versions of the resource in question. For example, if a version of the same book is published in the UK and one in the US.

Enjoy having more flexibility with the MLA citation format

In comparison to the previous versions of the MLA format, the 8th provides a substantial degree of freedom regarding how it is presented. In theory, one may say that there is no right or wrong way to include a source of one’s references due to certain aspects being ignored according to what the focus of the work is.

What it means for students is that they must focus on what pieces of information are most relevant to the task at hand. Thus, when applying the MLA citation format to a movie for example, one may either reference the director if they are assessing motifs or choose to reference the name of the actor if they are performing an in-depth character analysis. In a sense, this has made life easier and harder at the same time while trying to piece together an MLA bibliography. The best MLA format example will contain the most relevant information tailored to help readers locate the original source with ease if they are required to do so.

Easy-To-Use MLA Formatting Guidelines

Regardless of the subject, your MLA bibliography has been assigned to sticking to the formatting guidelines is vital. Hence, students must be aware of the requirements concerning the MLA bibliography as well as the in-text MLA citations.

Here is a the new general list of guidelines that must be applied:

  1. Use standard format A4 paper [ white 8 ½ x 11” paper ]
  2. Set the document to create 1 inch margins on all sides of the paper.
  3. Indent the first word of every paragraph [ 1 inch and a half ]
  4. Indent set-off quotations [ 1 inch from the left margin ]
  5. Use 12 point size while typing up the assignment
  6. As far as font choices go, Times New Roman is recommended. Nonetheless, students may write with any legible fonts they enjoy as long as it is easy to read and italicized text is noticeable.
  7. The entire paper has to be double spaced, including the bibliography page.
  8. Always make use of one space after periods or any other punctuation marks. However, if the instructor has given out different requirements then they must be adhered to.
  9. Create a title page or structure the document with a running header without a title page.

As far as the other significant elements that can be found in an MLA format essay we will go through each of them together throughout this entire section of the MLA citation guide.

Title Page or MLA Header:

  • Start on a blank piece of paper from the top of the page and flush down the left margin.
  • The corresponding elements must be double spaced between each other:
    • The student’s name
    • The instructor’s name
    • Course Number
    • Date the assignment is due
  • After these details have been correctly listed, make use of another double space as instructed by the MLA citation format and center the title of the work. It is important NOT TObold, underline or write the title using all capital letters. Apply the general MLA format which italicizes only that which needs it such as the title of the book being reviewed.
  • According to the 8th MLA citation format, students SHOULD NOT place a period after any heading or the title itself.
  • Remember to make use of double space between the first lines of the text and the title.

Page Numbers:

  • The page numbers are always placed in the upper right-hand corner 1 inch and a half from the top, flushed from the right margin.
  • The student’s last name must be typed up before the page number on each page. The easiest and fastest way to do so is by setting the processor in Microsoft Word to automatically add one’s last name and page number on each of the document’s pages.
  • Never place a “p.” before the page number, since this annotation is used to determine what page is being referenced from our sources.
  • Ask the lecturer if students should place the page number on the first page or not since this is a requirement that is unique to each teacher requesting MLA format assignments.

Tables and Illustrations:

  • The MLA citation format dictates that any tables or illustrations used must be placed as closely as possible to the segment they are related or referring to.
  • All tables and Illustrations should be labeled accordingly with the following MLA citation format: Table/Illustration, corresponding Arabic numeral, appropriate title. Keep in mind that it has to respect the fonts and placement style used throughout. Other structural requirements are:
    • The information describing the table or illustration must be located above it, flushed from the left-hand side and on a separate line.
    • Include any additional information, such as origin, extra notes, etc., beneath it. All notes that are to be included should be labeled using letters rather than numbers.
    • Illustrations should be labeled as Fig. Followed by the respective Arabic number and a caption describing it. The caption in the new MLA citation format should be placed underneath the illustration. The benefit of illustrations that already contain their source of origin does not need to be cited in the text according to the new MLA format, as they have previously been acknowledged.

In-Text Citations:

Most students find the correct application of MLA citation in-text the hardest one to master out of them all. Nonetheless, this version of the MLA format carries across one of the fastest and most efficient ways to do so without wasting any time. In essence, the goal of using MLA style in-text citations is to give credit to the respective author when drawing inspiration or even directly quoting them.

As far as the requirements go for this version it is quite straightforward since we must make use of parentheses in the following manner throughout the MLA format essay:

Author’s Surname, Page reference from the borrowed material

E.g. Allende, p. 122

The methods students can apply to incorporate these citations into their MLA format essay often vary and are up to the individual to decide upon. Nonetheless, the best approach is to mention them as closely as possible to the relevant material such as using them at the end of a paragraph, sentence or direct quote. Keep in mind that students can paraphrase or summarize the main idea of the quote and merely reference where the ideas have come from in their MLA format. Feeling a bit confused about what might fit you best? Don’t worry we will go through an MLA format example below to make things crystal clear.

Some students prefer to incorporate the MLA citation into their text as follows:

According to I. Allende, Esteban Trueba’s love for Carla is misguided and often overzealous because he “does not fully understand her feminine nature” (122).

However, the most popular MLA citation alternative is slightly different:

As Esteban looks to expand his family, his efforts to impregnate his wife are not met as he expected since “he does not fully understand her feminine nature” (Allende 122).

These are just two of the many ways students can make the MLA style more personal when seeking to paraphrase or add a direct quotation.

Why Should I Use an MLA Citation Guide When There Are Online Generators?

Despite how frustrating it is sometimes to get acquainted with the MLA format guidelines, there are many benefits to mastering them. Nonetheless, students often realize there is a multitude of online MLA citation machines which can get the job done for you. As tempting as it sounds at first students must recognize that not all these generators are updated, meaning they could be using an old version of the MLA citation format. On top of that, it is hard to confirm whether the reference they produce is, in fact, the correct MLA format without being intimately acquainted with it. Thus, no matter how you twist and turn it at the end of the day it is best to learn how to apply the MLA format to keep from wasting time needlessly.

Once the student has familiarized himself with the core elements and requirements of the MLA citation format they know what the correct version of a reference should look like, be it for an in-text citation or the MLA bibliography. Therefore, by understanding how everything comes together, it becomes easy to detect a decent MLA citation machine from one which will get you accused of plagiarism. Overall, by being aware of all the new simplified MLA citation requirements, the student will actually end up saving time when faced with assignments that require adequate referencing.

Additional MLA Citation Format Tips

The following section is tailored for those students looking to go the extra mile to impress their tutors as well as their peers. These tips will let you wow anybody with how well you have come to understand the MLA format. So without any further adieu here are some great tricks to make sure everything is absolutely perfect:

  • Remember that an annotated bibliography is not the same thing as the MLA bibliography/Works cited page. The annotated bibliography consists of a literature review which summarizes and evaluates the quality of the sources used in the MLA format essay.
  • Each of the major sections deserves its own page unless you have chosen to use a running header instead of a title page.
  • The MLA bibliography must always be placed at the end of the assignment unless instructed to do otherwise. The title has to be centered on the page regardless, situated 1 inch from the top of the page.
  • Avoid starting one’s sentences with numerals, and it is considered more academic to spell out the number.
  • Try to use numerals before symbols or abbreviations, E.g., 9 lbs.
  • Keep in mind to double space the assignment as well as using 1-inch margins all around

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