How to Cite Sources in MLA Style

Published: 05th January 2010
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The Works Cited page in MLA Style is important to your thesis or dissertation because it gives readers a list of sources you used to reach your conclusions. A well-researched paper will have high-quality sources. With MLA Style, you list these sources on the Works Cited page(s) at the end of the paper. MLA Style requires that you follow a specific format for listing every source, based on the type of source.

To start the Works Cited page, type "Works Cited" centered at the top margin. Then begin the first source immediately, double-spacing all text on the page. Each source should have a hanging indention, meaning the first line is flush left, and each subsequent line for the source should be indented one-half inch.

You should alphabetize the entire Works Cited list by author's last name. If the author's name is not known, use the title of the source in the alphabetized list, ignoring "A," "An," or "The" on the front of the name of the title.

Here are some examples for listing various types of sources. The examples here only list the information you need about each source. They do not follow the hanging indention or double-spacing rules.

List the author's name, the title of the book in italics, the city of publication, the publisher, and the year of publication. You are allowed to abbreviate the name of certain publishers in MLA Style. The MLA Style Manual lists the acceptable abbreviations. Specify the type of publication at the end of the entry, denoting whether the book is a printed version or an electronic version.

*Smith, Xavier Z. Working with a Fledgling Economy. New York: State University Press, 2006. Print.

If you make use of a dissertation or thesis as a source, you'll need to list the author's name, the title (in quotation marks), the type of paper, and some information about the publication. For example, many dissertations appear in "Dissertation Abstracts International," usually abbreviated to DAI. DAI requires some specific information, as you can see in the following example.

*Jones, Thomas. "The Relationship Between Economic Power and Technological Innovation." Diss. State University, 2003. DAI 66.17 (2004): item DA4267399. Print.

In MLA Style, you can abbreviate dissertation as "Diss", and master's thesis as either "MA thesis" or "MS thesis".

List the author's last name, followed by the full first name and middle initial, if the author commonly uses it. List the title of the article in quotation marks, followed by the publication name (in italics), the issue or volume numbers, the year of publication, and the page numbers for the full article. If you have other information you think would be helpful for a reader, you may list it at the end of the entry. In the following two examples, the first is for a scholarly journal and the second is for a newspaper. Notice how the word "Print" in the newspaper example differentiates between the print edition and Internet edition of the newspaper.

*Smith, Xavier Z. "Economic Growth in Africa." Economics Quarterly 3 (2008): 332-3.
*Johnson, Travis. "African Economic Viability." New York Financial Newspaper 13 Jun. 2008: B3. Print.

List the first author by last name, then first name, and subsequent authors by first name, then last name.

*Johnson, Travis, and Xavier Z. Smith. "Economic Downturn in Africa." Economics Quarterly 4 (2008): 413-21.

After listing the first source with the author's full name, subsequent sources from the same author don't require the author's name. Instead, substitute three hyphens.

*Johnson, Travis. "Africa's Economic Future." Economics Quarterly 2 (2008): 200-3.
*---. "African Economic Viability." New York Financial Newspaper 13 Jun. 2008: B3. Print.

If the same author is involved in multiple sources, but some of those sources include multiple authors, you will have to list the full name in every source. If you have multiple works from the same group of authors, however, you can substitute the three hyphens for listings beyond the first listing. In this example, Johnson and Smith combined to write the second and third entries, meaning the three hyphens are appropriate for the third entry.

*Johnson, Travis. "Africa's Economic Future." Economics Quarterly 2 (2008): 200-3.
*Johnson, Travis, and Smith, Xavier Z. "Economic Downturn in Africa." Economics Quarterly 4 (2008): 413-21.
*---. "Nurturing a Fledgling Economy." New York Financial Newspaper 19 Jan. 2008: B1. Print.

If you don't know the author, just skip that part of the listing and begin with the title.

*"Economic Growth on the African Continent." Editorial. New York Financial Newspaper 4 Feb. 2008: B7.

Brian Scott recommends using an MLA formatting software to correctly format and write papers in MLA Style, available at

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