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MLA Citation Style Guide


This is the basic format for a citation (courtesy of Purdue Owl):

Author. Title. Title of container (self contained if book), Other contributors (translators or editors), Version (edition), Number (vol. and/or no.), Publisher, Publication Date, Location (pages, paragraphs URL or DOI). 2nd container’s title, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location, Date of Access (if applicable).

More information may be found at the MLA Style Center Website

Containers are now an essential citation element.  When a resource being cited is a part of a larger whole that larger whole is the container for the source.  For example, when citing a book chapter, the book is the container; when citing the series Stranger Things, Netflix is the container since that is the platform the show is hosted on.

Some sources might have multiple containers. If this is the case, fill in the information from the first container first, then fill in the information for the secondary container.  Here's an example from a TV show on Hulu.

"Under the Gun." Pretty Little Liars, season 4, episode 6, ABC Family, 16 July 2013. Hulu,

The first container is the name of the series Pretty Little Liars and ABC family is the publisher.  The second container is the content provider, Hulu,  and the episodes location on that platform (the url).

The 8th edition of the MLA handbook relies on a general format for all resources rather than asking you to figure out which type of format applies to their resource.  You will need to note the basic elements of your source, (author, title, etc.) and incorporate them into this general format. This will give you greater freedom and allow you to more easily cite any item regardless of format.

Here are the main changes from the previous edition:

  • Medium of Publication ("print" or "web"):  no longer listed except when needed for clarity.
  • City of publication: optional in MLA 8.
  • URLs: List the DOI or URL for websites (omit "http" or "https"). DOIs should be used instead of URLS when available.
  • Publisher: can be left out of the citation if it matches the name of the website or if it is a periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper)
  • Date of Access: for web materials is now an optional element but should be included if the online  resource itself is undated.  If the website has a publication date the date of access can be omitted.
  • Unknown Elements: Indicators of unknown information (for example, “n.d.”) are no longer used.  If information missing is found in another reliable external source they are listed in square brackets, otherwise the information is just left out of the citation.
  • Spell out terms: Elements that were abbreviated in MLA 7 (editor, translator, etc.) are completely spelled out in MLA 8.  Also elements describing numbers left out in MLA 7 (page, volume, issue) are included in an abbreviated form in MLA 8

MLA 8 Core Elements

MLA 8 uses the same structure for citing all types of resources.  For any source you are creating a citation for work down this list of core elements.  After reaching the end of the list start at the beginning again to add any additional elements.  Repeat as needed.

Containers for MLA 8

* Note the punctuation at the end: Author, Title of Source and Location are followed by periods.  All of the others are separated by commas.