This guide is intended as a quick introduction to MLA Citation Style and Format. If you require a more in-depth look, try one of the resources below!
The 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook marks a grand departure from previous editions. In her preface, Kathleen Fitzpatrick notes that "the handbook gained what some felt was a forbidding level of detail . . . . It gradually became a reference work, which users consulted at need, rather than a guide that taught the principles underlying documentation" (xi). The 8th edition aims to shift focus from a "prescriptive list of formats to the overarching purpose of source documentation: enabling readers to participate fully in the conversation between writers and their sources" (xii). In this spirit, the use of MLA format should be guided first and foremost to three identified general principles:
The MLA Handbook says that
The purpose of any documentation style is to allow authors to guide their readers quickly, and unobtrusively to the source of a quotation, a paraphrased idea, a piece of information, or another kind of borrowed material used in the development of an argument or idea. A citation should provide a road map leading to the original source while interrupting the reader's engagement with the text as little as possible. (Modern Language Association, 19)
To achieve this purpose, each citation will have two parts:
The following three-step process is paraphrased from the full explanation given in the MLA Handbook (2017).
The first step involves evaluating your source to determine if and how it is relevant and useful to your research. Try asking yourself the following:
These are only a few of the questions you may ask yourself when deciding what sources to use. All research is unique, so you will need to use your judgment to identify the most important sources to answer your questions and help craft your arguments.
Using the same questions you asked yourself in step 1, identify the elements (such as the author, title, publisher, publication date, and location) that will be most important to readers. Make sure to use the work itself as the basis for your identification, without relying on alternate versions. You will organize these elements in Step 3.
In step 2, you will have identified most or all of the Core Elements you will use in your citation. These elements are given below in the order that they should appear in your Works Cited List. If an element is not applicable, it should be left out. The final element in a citation should end in a period.
For further direction and additional elements, see the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition.
An in-text citation is used to direct your readers to a full citation in your Works Cited list. (MLA Handbook 54). The MLA Handbook says that a "typical in-text citation is composed of the element that comes first in the entry in the works-cited list (usually the author's name) and a page number" (54). When you cite a direct quote (as above), the parenthetical citation is placed "after the closing quotation mark" (MLA Handbook 54).
The goal of using in-text citation is to unambiguously signal what source you are using while not disrupting the readers' flow of ideas. As the MLA Handbook indicates,
A reader interested in your source can flip to the indicated entry in your list of works cited; a reader not interested in the source can pass over the citation without being distracted. Rarely should the page number be mentioned in the text (e.g., "As Naomi Baron argues on page 194") since it would disrupt the flow of ideas. (54)
Since the above quote contains 4 or more lines of text, it is indented from the rest of the text and quotation marks are not used. The parenthetical citation is placed after the final period. Since I had already indicated in the sentence that my source is the MLA Handbook I only include the page number in the in-text citation. If you quote from a source without page divisions, then your in-text citation will contain the author name (or whatever the first element of your citation is) only.
Below is an example of what your Works Cited list might look like; it includes many of the most common source types. In general, start your Works Cited list on a new page, list your sources in alphabetical order, and use a hanging indent (where the first line of each citation touches the left margin and any subsequent lines are indented 1cm). If the type of source you are looking for is not listed here, try one of the guides listed in the Key Resources section above. If you would like further assistance, visit the TRU Library or Contact your Subject Librarian. We are happy to help!
Andrews, Nicola. "Reflections on Resistance, Decolonization, and the Historical Trauma of Libraries and Academia." The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship, edited by Karen P. Nicholson and Maura Seale, Library Juice Press, 2018, pp. 181-192.
CBC News: The National. Stolen Children: Residential School Survivors Speak out. YouTube, 2 Jun 2015, https://youtu.be/vdR9HcmiXLA.
Edwards, Kyle. "Fighting Foster Care." Maclean's, 2018, https://www.macleans.ca/first-nations-fighting-foster-care/.
hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge, 1994.
MacFarlane, Peter and Nicole Schabus, editors. Whose Land is it Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization. Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of BC, 2017, https://fpse.ca/sites/default/files/news_files/Decolonization%20Handbook.pdf.
Manuel, Arthur and Grand Chief Ronald M. Derrickson. Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call. Foreword by Naomi Klein, Between the Lines, 2015.
Ross, Amélie, et al. "Impact of residential schooling and of child abuse on substance abuse problem in Indigenous Peoples." Addictive Behaviors, vol. 51, 2015, doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2015.07.014.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action. 2015, http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf.