MLA Format in Bibliography Writing

9 Jul

What is MLA?

MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, which is an organization that focuses on language and literature.

According to MLA style, you must have a Works Cited page at the end of your research paper. All entries in the Works Cited page must correspond to the works cited in your main text.
Your list of works cited should begin at the end of the paper on a new page with the centered title, Works Cited. Alphabetize the entries in your list by the author’s last name, using the letter-by-letter system (ignore spaces and other punctuation.) If the author’s name is unknown, alphabetize by the title, ignoring any A, An, or The.

There are other styles, such as APA format and Chicago citation style, but MLA format is often used for literature, language, liberal arts, and other humanities subjects. This guide extensively covers this format but is not associated with the organization.

When everyone documents their sources and papers in the same way, it is simple to recognize and understand the types of sources that were used for a project. Readers of your work will not only look at your citations to understand them, but to possibly explore them as well.

Basic rules

Begin your Works Cited page on a separate page at the end of your research paper. It should have the same one-inch margins and last name, page number header as the rest of your paper.

For dates, spell out the names of months in the text of your paper, but abbreviate them in the list of works cited, except for May, June, and July. Use either the day-month-year style (22 July 1999) or the month-day-year style (July 22, 1999) and be consistent. With the month-day-year style, be sure to add a comma after the year unless another punctuation mark goes there.

The good news is that references in MLA bibliography format and regular works cited references are structured the exact same way.
Label the page Works Cited (do not italicize the words Works Cited or put them in quotation marks) and center the words Works Cited at the top of the page.
Only the title should be centered. The citation entries themselves should be aligned with the left margin.
Double space all citations, but do not skip spaces between entries.

All MLA citations should use hanging indents, that is, the first line of an entry should be flush left, and the second and subsequent lines should be indented 1/2″.

MLA citing format often includes the following pieces of information, in this order:

Author’s Last name, First name. “Title of Source.” Title of Container, other contributors, version, numbers, publisher, publication date, location.

List page numbers of sources efficiently, when needed. If you refer to a journal article that appeared on pages 225 through 250, list the page numbers on your Works Cited page as pp. 225-50 (Note: MLA style dictates that you should omit the first sets of repeated digits. In our example, the digit in the hundreds place is repeated between 225 and 250, so you omit the 2 from 250 in the citation: pp. 225-50). If the excerpt spans multiple pages, use “pp.” Note that MLA style uses a hyphen in a span of pages.

Separate author, title, and publication information with a period followed by one space. Use a colon and a space to separate a title from a subtitle. Include other kinds of punctuation only if it is part of the title. Use quotation marks to indicate the titles of short works appearing within larger works (e.g., “Memories of Childhood.” American Short Stories).

Author’s last name, first name. Book title. Additional information. City of publication: Publishing company, publication date.


Allen, Thomas B. Vanishing Wildlife of North America. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society, 1974.

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Creators: A History of the Heroes of the Imagination. New York: Random, 1992.

Hall, Donald, ed. The Oxford Book of American Literacy Anecdotes. New York: Oxford UP, 1981.
For online sources, you should include a location to show readers where you found the source. Many scholarly databases use a DOI (digital object identifier). Use a DOI in your citation if you can; otherwise use a URL. Delete “http://” from URLs. The DOI or URL is usually the last element in a citation and should be followed by a period.
All works cited entries end with a period.

Do not list titles (Dr., Sir, Saint, etc.) or degrees (PhD, MA, DDS, etc.) with names. A book listing an author named “John Bigbrain, PhD” appears simply as “Bigbrain, John.” Do, however, include suffixes like “Jr.” or “II.” Putting it all together, a work by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be cited as “King, Martin Luther, Jr.” Here the suffix following the first or middle name and a comma.