An Overview of MLA Referencing Guide and Format

While writing an assignment or any other academic document, you take help and references from different sources, such as books, articles, online journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. So citation provides information to the readers about the original sources that you have used or consulted. Every university/college has certain guidelines and rules regarding citation and follow different referencing styles. Scholars who fail to provide a list of references and acknowledge the owner of the information and data might face document rejections as this is considered as plagiarism, which is a serious offense. Furthermore, it can negatively affect their scorecard. So to be on the safe side, it is preferable to always mention the names of original sources. It not only saves you from any embarrassing situation, but also helps to support your arguments and prove the authenticity of your work.

What Is MLA Referencing Style?

There are a number of referencing styles used by GCC-based universities, and MLA is quite a popular one among them. It is the abbreviated form of Modern Language Association and uses in-text citations instead of footnotes or endnotes. You are required to mention the page number(s) when paraphrasing in MLA. It is currently in its 8th edition which has been quite altered from its previous versions. MLA is commonly used in Comparative Literature, English Literature, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Linguistics, and Education.

Why Do We Cite the Sources?

As we mentioned earlier, correct citation avoids plagiarism-a term used for stealing and publishing other person’s thoughts, ideas, and expression.

It also:

  • Gives credit to the owner of the information.
  • Directs readers and audience for further research.

Important Elements While Citing Under MLA Referencing Style

In the currently used eighth edition, a few principles have replaced the extensive list of specific rules. It is more organized and based on the process of documentation, rather than by the sources themselves. It provides writers with a flexible method that is universally applicable.

When you decide how to cite your source, always start by consulting the list of core elements. Here is a list of elements that should come in the same order:

  • Author.
  • Title of source.
  • Title of container,
  • Other contributors,
  • Version,
  • Number,
  • Publisher,
  • Publication date,
  • Location.

Remember to follow each element with the punctuation mark shown above. The Earlier editions included the place of publication, along with punctuation, such as colons after issue numbers. However, in the latest version, punctuation is simpler as only commas and periods separate the elements, and source information is kept to the basics.

In-Text Citations: General Rules

1. If the author's name is given in the sentence, cite the page number only.
2. But, if there is no author's name in the sentence, mention both the name and the page number while citing.
3. Font and capitalization should be in sync in the reference list.
4. Long quotations which are more than four lines should be divided.
5. While citing more than one reference at a time in single document, separate them with a semicolon, like Smith 150; Jackson 41.
6. If no author is given for the source, then use the title.
7. When you cite two works of the same author, put a comma after the author's name and mention title words. For example, Smith, "Memories of Motherhood" 77.
8. If two authors share the same surname, use the first initial.

How to Cite Different Documents?

Books with one authors


Last name, First name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year of Publication.


Gleick, James. Chaos: Making a New Science. Penguin, 1987.

Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House. MacMurray, 1999.

Books with two authors


Last name, First name, and First name Last name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year of Publication.


Allain, Paul, and Jen Harvie. The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2015

Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Books with more than two authors


First author's Last name, First name, et al. Title of Book. Publisher, Year of Publication.


Booth, Wayne C., et al. The Craft of Research. 3rd ed., U of Chicago P, 2008.

When a source belongs to three or more authors, only the first author is mentioned followed by et al. which means "and others".

Two or More Books by the Same Author

In such case, list the works in an alphabetic order of the title. (ignore articles like A, An, and The). For each subsequent reference of the same author, put three hyphens and a period.


Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism. St. Martin's, 1997.

The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Southern Illinois UP, 1993.

Article in a Magazine


Last name, First name. "Title of Article." Title of Journal, volume, issue, month year, page range of article


Belton, John. "Painting by numbers: The Digital Intermediate." Film Quarterly, vol. 61, no.3, Spring 2008, pp.58-65.

Mather, Christine C. "The Political Afterlife of Eleonara Duse." Theatre Survey, vol. 45, no.1, May 2004, pp. 41-59.

Article in a newspaper


Last name, First name. "Title of Article." Title of Newspaper, day month year, page range of article.


Brubaker, Bill. "New Health Center Targets County's Uninsured Patients." Washington Post, 24 May 2007, p. LZ01.



Last name, First name. Name of site. Publisher or sponsor of site, date of publication (if available), URL.


Felluga, Dino. Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Purdue University, 31 Jan. 2011,

Referencing Tools Vancouver Harvard APA

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