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General notes on MLA style
Writers, scholars and students all incorporate, confirm, modify, correct, and refute the work done by previous scholars and peers. The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is a system of documentation that directs readers to the source of the quotation, paraphrased idea, fact, or other material that has been borrowed from someone else (95).
The MLA's approach to citation
References in MLA style are formatted in a standard way so that they can be quickly understood by all, just like a common language (95).
The MLA Handbook does not list specific rules on how to cite different source types (a book, a journal article, a DVD, a podcast etc.), but instead outlines a universal set of general guidelines of citation that can be applied to any source type. This guide will help you understand the core elements and the process of creating citations. Examples will be provided for common source types, found in the MLA Citation Guide menu.
A note about indirect/secondary sources:
Whenever you can, find and take material from the original source. If you find a thought/idea/quote etc. in a paper that you want to reference but it is already being quoted/paraphrased in that work, it is worth the effort to find that original source and reference that instead of referencing it as an indirect or secondary source. This process also gives you practice reading and understanding how citations work. Please see Citing indirect sources for more information.
Works cited and core elements
Each source cited in your work should appear in a list at the end of your paper, on a new page entitled Works Cited (105).
The works cited list is arranged alphabetically by the author's last name. If the citation contains no author, the citation will begin with the title of the source, and will be listed with the other sources alphabetically.
For details on formatting works cited entries, please see Writing & formatting: Works cited list.
The MLA "core elements" template for creating any works cited item
Containers: Works that contain other works
Many sources are part of a larger work. This will not be applicable to all sources, but some sources -- such as an article -- are part of a larger work, like a journal or newspaper in which the article was published. This larger work is referred to as a container. Sometimes, this larger work may itself be contained within a work. In this case, the citation may continue into a second container. Here are two examples:
An article (source) found in a journal (container 1), which is found on a database (container 2).
An episode (source) of a TV series (container 1), which is found on a streaming website (container 2).
Applying the core elements to different types of works
1.) A standalone work with no container
2.) An article in a journal:
3.) An episode of a TV show.
See Chapter 5 of the MLA Handbook for more information about core elements and works cited entries.
The MLA website offers more examples using the template of core elements in Works Cited - a quick guide
From the Modern Language Association:
- The MLA website includes helpful citation information and minor corrections to the MLA Handbook on their FAQ page.
- Citations by format has examples of how to cite 5 different source types.
- Works Cited - a quick guide uses the template of core elements
- This interactive practice template can help you build your works-cited-list entries.