How to Cite MLA in Your Paper: a Complete Guide from Flowcie

How to Cite MLA in Your Paper: a Complete Guide from Flowcie

As a student or an academic, citing sources is one of the most tedious aspects of the research process—especially with a wide variety of citation formats to consider. However, it’s essential. Not only does citing prepare your research for publication, but it also helps you organise and write your first drafts. This guide shows you how to cite a variety of sources in MLA style, and how to cite MLA in your paper.


What is MLA?

The MLA citation style is one which students often use, as well as academics, and publishers in the field of humanities (e.g. language, literature, and cultural studies). In recent years, the MLA style has evolved to accommodate multimedia sources and now uses a few guiding principles rather than a set of rigid rules.


The Core Elements of MLA Style

If you want to know how to cite MLA style in your paper, first you need to know that there are two main elements of an MLA citation: the in-text citation itself and the corresponding entry in the Works Cited section of the paper.

In-text citation Entry (general)
Format (Last Name Page #) Last name, First I. Title of the book. Publisher: Location of the publisher, YYYY.
  • With page #: (Bhabha 12)
  • Without: (Bhabha)
Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge, 1994.


The elements are listed in the following order. Make sure to note the corresponding punctuation marks and formatting for each element.

In-text Citations

The in-text citation attributes ideas and quotations to your sources in the Works Cited section. In the MLA citation format, a standard in-text citation is composed of the author’s name followed by the page number in parentheses.

If the author’s name was quoted in the citation itself, you only need to add the page numbers in parentheses at the end of the sentence. If there is no page number, simply cite the author’s last name without it.

Examples of MLA style in-text citations:

  • “The therapist must be the idealized parent who has the responsibility of bringing up the patient all over again” (Rosen, 10).
  • Rosen said that the therapist acts as a parental “substitute” who raises the patient. (10)


The first element of a cited work in an MLA citation is the author’s last name, followed by their first and middle initial.

Example of MLA style author citations: 

  • One author: Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge, 1994.
  • Two authors: Wykes, Maggie, and Barrie Gunter. The Media and Body Image: If Looks Could Kill. Sage, 2005.
  • Three authors: Johnson, Norine G., et al. Beyond Appearance: A New Look at Adolescent Girls.  American Psychological Association, 2009.

Title of source

The title immediately follows the author’s name in an MLA style citation. Books, periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers), albums, TV series, movies, and other long-form content are listed in italics. Songs, short stories, poems, individual web pages, and other short-form content are typically listed in quotation marks. End your titles with a period.

Examples of MLA style source titles: 

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

Title of container

Containers are the larger wholes in which the source can be found, such as books, television series, websites, or journals. The container may also be within a larger container, such as a book you read on Google Books, a show you watched on Netflix, or a journal on JSTOR.

When you’re creating an MLA citation, the container title is listed in italics and followed by a comma. 

Examples of MLA style titles of container: 

  • Kincaid, Jamaica. “Girl.” The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories, edited by Tobias Wolff, Vintage, 1994, pp. 306-07.
  • Wise, DeWanda. “Why TV Shows Make Me Feel Less Alone.” NAMI, 31 May 2019, Accessed 3 June 2019.
  • Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century England.” Historical Journal, vol. 50, no. 1, 2007, pp. 173-96. ProQuest, doi:10.1017/S0018246X06005966. Accessed 27 May 2009.

Other contributors

If their contributions are relevant to your work or the information is necessary to locate the source, make sure to credit other contributors such as editors or translators in your MLA citation.


Woolf, Virginia. Jacob’s Room. Annotated and with an introduction by Vara Neverow, Harcourt, Inc., 2008.


If a work has multiple versions or editions, clearly state which one you are using in the Works Cited entry.


The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.


When citing sources that are part of a numbered series (such as book volumes or journals) in MLA style, include these numbers in the citation entry. 


Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria. Translated by H. E. Butler, vol. 2, Loeb-Harvard UP, 1980.


A source may have more than one publisher. If relevant to your research, include them in your MLA citation, separated by a forward slash (/). You may not need to include the publisher’s name for periodicals or self-published sources. 


Women’s Health: Problems of the Digestive System. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2006.

Publication date

After the publisher, cite the full date of when the text was published or released, followed by a period. 

Example of MLA style publication date: 

“Hush.” Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, WB Television Network, 14 Dec. 1999.


The work’s location should be as specific as possible. Books and journal citations should include page numbers, while online works should include a URL. Include the date you accessed the work whenever possible, especially if it’s an online text (e.g. online journal, website, etc.).

Examples of MLA style citation locations: 

  • Adiche, Chimamanda Ngozi. “On Monday of Last Week.” The Thing around Your Neck, Alfred A. Knopf, 2009, pp. 74-94.
  • Wheelis, Mark. “Investigating Disease Outbreaks Under a Protocol to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention.” Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 6, no. 6, 2000, pp. 595-600, Accessed 8 Feb. 2009.

Streamlining Your Research Workflow

Now that you know how to cite MLA style – wouldn’t it be nice if you could just skip all of these details?

If you have been in the field of research for a long time, the time-consuming process of evaluating, organising and citing sources manually may seem like an inevitable and inescapable part of publishing.

But what if new technology could enable you to focus on developing your original ideas and arguments by reducing the time you spend on non-writing activities? 

With Flowcite, you can finally direct your energy where it’s needed the most: into research. Flowcite combines knowledge databases, referencing, citation, editing, proofreading, and plagiarism detection software in just one platform. 

Flowcite’s citation generator works on nearly any text-editing software of your choice. You can add citations directly into the text using Flowcite’s Word Plugin, the in-app text editor LaTex, or as a browser extension. Flowcite automatically extracts citation details, eliminating errors and saving you hours of tedious formatting. And it’s not just MLA—you can choose from thousands of citation styles and reformat entire documents in just a few clicks.

Start your free trial of Flowcite today to see how much time hassle-free academic citations can save you!

Brittany Storniolo
Brittany Storniolo
Content Marketing Strategist

Content Marketing Strategist
Brittany is a Content Marketing Strategist at Flowcite, and an outstanding academic writing expert. She holds a first-class Honours degree in Literae Humaniores from the University of Oxford and has been certified in Digital Marketing Analytics by the MIT Sloan School of Management.

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