MLA referencing style

How to use MLA referencing

MLA (Modern Languages Association) is a popular referencing style in the arts and humanities disciplines, particularly in the United States.

The following is a short overview of how to use MLA referencing in your academic manuscript. 

1. In-text citations

MLA uses an author-page system in citations, but the date is not included. Where the author’s name is given at the end of a sentence, the page number is given with it. 

However, when the author’s name is given within the sentence, the page number is given at the end of the sentence. 


The experiment verified the hypothesis outlined in the previous chapter (Brown 58). 

Although it has not been universally accepted, Brown claimed that the experiment verified the hypothesis outlined in the previous chapter (58). 

2. In-text citations according to the number of authors

Where one author is cited:

Within the text: Smith conducted a survey of the effect of climate change on biodiversity which has proved to be of serious concern (18).

At the end of a sentence: A recent survey has proved that climate change has had a serious effect on biodiversity (Smith 18). 

Where there are two authors:

Within the text: Evans and Parker argue that the experiment was successful (24).

At the end of a sentence: The experiment was successful (Evans and Parker 24).

Where there are three or more authors:

Within the text: Evans, Parker and Green claim that new farming methods have caused a reduction in the number of bird species (37).

At the end of a sentence: New farming methods have caused a reduction in the number of bird species (Evans et al. 37). 

3. Reference List

In MLA, the title of the reference list is ‘Works Cited’. The list should be included at the end of the document but must be on a new page and should be in alphabetical order. 

Each entry in the list should include the following: author, source, container, version, number, volume, other contributors, publishers and date of publication, and also location. 

Double spacing should be used. Previous versions of MLA required ‘Print’, ‘Web’ or the name of the format at the end of each entry. However, from Version 8 onwards, this is not necessary, but where a website is quoted, the URL must be given. 

‘Works Cited’ examples: 

A book by one author:

Smith, George. Language Studies of Oriental Languages. Anytown University Press. 2018.

A book by two authors:

Green, Robert and John Smith. The Development of Music in the Fifteenth Century. New House Publishers. 2010. 

A book by three or more authors:

Marshall, K.A., et al. A New Understanding of Modern Science. Anytown University Press. 2020. 

4. Direct quotations

Quotations up to a maximum of four lines in prose and three lines in verse should be included in the text and enclosed in double quotation marks, for example:

According to Brown, “A sample of at least 20 people is needed if the result is to be authentic" (35). 

If a quotation is more than four lines, the quoted text should be indented and quotation marks should not be used, for example: 

According to Smith (72):

The results of the project were authentic because 20 people were interviewed. Of these, 10 were male and 10 were female; and also there were five aged under 30; seven under 40, with the remaining eight being aged 40 and over. It would be interesting to conduct another survey with the same group of people after a period of one year in order to ascertain if they all hold the same opinions as they did at the time of the initial survey.  

5. Other points

With regard to quotation marks, it is the usual practice to use double quotes in American English and single in British English. However, this can vary, so the style guide of your own university should be consulted. 

Different universities may have their own interpretation of MLA; for instance, although MLA 9 is the latest version, they may still require MLA 8. Again, it is essential to consult the style guide to see what is required. 


- McMillan, Kathleen and Weyers, Jonathan. 2013. How to cite, reference & avoid plagiarism at university. Essex: Pearson Education Limited. 

- Other sources

Not quite sure you referenced your sources correctly in your dissertation/thesis or essay according to MLA, why not use our in-depth academic proofreading and editing services?

Our specialist academic editors will correct any issues with your MLA referencing style - whether in in-text citations or bibliography.
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