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How to Cite Resources Using MLA Format

Written by tutor Patricia T.

Proper citation in MLA, or in any required format, is crucial for writers at every level-however, it is particularly important for upper-level high school students and beginning college students to have a good working knowledge of MLA. "MLA" stands for Modern Language Association, and it is likely that you will be required to use this format if you take college-level humanities or liberal arts courses. While students are making the transition to higher education, the unfamiliar format can, at first, seem challenging and difficult to remember; however, with time and practice, correct MLA citation will become second nature. Obviously, in general, it is important to cite your sources because using another person's work without citation, or passing that work off as your own, is plagiarism. Many colleges and universities deal with plagiarism by assigning an "F" on the plagiarized assignment for the first offense, and by giving the student an "F" in the entire course for the second offense. If, while writing a paper or any other work, you are trying to decide whether or not to cite something, just play it safe and do so!

Citing a Book with One Author

Citations can be used either within the text, page-by-page, or at the end of the text in the "Works Cited" page, a collection of all the sources the author has used while writing his or her work. The purpose of a citation is to give the reader all of the relevant information about a source and, most importantly, to give credit to the author of that source. The "Works Cited" page is where you will provide the most comprehensive information about the book or other work. A "Works Cited" citation gives the author's name, the title of the work, city of publication, publisher, year published, and information about the format of the work, such as print. A complete citation would look like this:

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso Books, 2006. Print.

When you assemble your "Works Cited" page, all sources should be listed in alphabetical order by the author's last name.

Citing a Book with an Editor

If a book has an editor or translator as well as an author, then their efforts have gone into making the book as well, and their work should also be acknowledged. The editor's name is generally placed after the name of the author and the name of the work, or simply after the name of the work, if there is no author credited. A citation with an editor would look like this:

Sources of The Making of the West, Vol. 1. Ed. Katharine J. Lualdi. New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 2012. Print.

Citing an Internet Source

In our day and age, however, there are certain sources which you will probably use most often because of their accessibility and easy-to-use layouts: internet sources. Practically all of the undergraduate papers I have graded or helped to develop in some way credit internet sources in their "Works Cited". MLA format, conveniently, does not require a URL when citing internet sources, but simply the author (if specified), the name of the website, the sponsor or enabling organization, the date the website was created (or the date of use if the date of creation is not given), the medium (Web), and the date accessed. A proper website citation would look like this:

"A Global Humanitarian Organization of Humble Origins." History of UNHCR. The United Nations High Commissioner for
          Refugees Online, 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2013.

Of course, although information is plentiful and readily accessible on the internet, it is not all of the same level of credibility. When searching for internet sources, you can probably trust pages created by universities, colleges, other accredited educational institutions, or recognized academic or professional organizations. Blogs or opinion pieces are not good sources, and Wikipedia, although generally accurate, is not an appropriate source for an academic paper.

Citing a Source In-Text

You will probably find yourself using MLA in-text citations most often. These are the quick, parenthetical citations embedded in the body of the work, such as: (Anderson, 65). You should use in-text citations whenever you quote an author directly, as well as whenever you refer to an original idea which you got from a specific author or book. If the book has no named author, then simply use the title of the book in your parenthetical citation. If you use more than one work by the same author, then you should also use the title of the work, rather than the author's name, in your citation.

Many students find MLA formatting and citations a challenging part of academic writing, but it is actually as simple as following a formula. The more you practice, the easier it will become, and by your second or third semester in college you will find yourself using MLA without even thinking about it!

Works Cited

Modern Language Association of America. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th Edition. New York: Modern
          Language Association of America, 2009. Print.

Rademaekers, Justin King. "Citation Style Chart." Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, 2013. Web. 2013.

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