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Citation Handbook: Citation, Copyright, etc.: Welcome

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What is MLA citation?

MLA style was created by the Modern Language Association of America. It is a set of rules for publications, including research papers.

There are two parts to MLA: In-text citations and the Works Cited list.  In MLA, you must "cite" sources that you have paraphrased, quoted or otherwise used to write your research paper.

Cite your sources in two places:

  1. In the body of your paper where you add a brief in-text citation.
  2. In the Works Cited list at the end of your paper where you give more complete information for the source.

MLA 9 DOESN'T use:

  • City of Publication
  • Medium of Publication (ie. Print or Web)
  • Date Accessed is optional

Features of MLA 9:

  • URLs: use them because there are so many persistent links (DOIS, permalinks)
  • If something is missing leave it out of the citation (don't need n.d. for not date)
  • Spell out roles such as editor
    • editor (instead of ed.)
    • Translated by
  • Abbreviate terms
    • Vol. (volumes)
    • no. (numbers)
    • pp. (pages)
    • "et al." (with 3 or more authors give first author's name and follow with "et al." for the rest)
  • Starting with MLA 8 use the term "Containers" (think chunks of information)
  • Punctuation: Use only commas and periods now.  Periods are used at the ends of containers or "chunks" of information and commas divide within the container.  

Glossary of Common Terms

Access Date: The date you first look at a source. The access date is added to the end of citations for all websites except library databases.

Citation: Details about one cited source.

Citing: The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

DOI or Digital Object Identifier- DOI uses a combination of numbers, letters and symbols to create an unique permanent identify for an article or document and link to it on the Internet.  Include the DOI and it will link to that article and only that article.

In-Text Citation: A brief note at the point where information is used from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Works Cited List.

Paraphrasing: Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism: Taking, using, and passing off as your own, the ideas or words of another.

Quoting: The copying of words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Works Cited List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.

When can you skip the citation?

There are times you can skip the citation:

There are four situations when you do NOT need to cite:

  • Historical overviews
  • Your personal ideas or findings
    • "In our experiment we found..."
  • Conclusions (based on things you have already cited)
    • Includes summaries of your arguments
    • Restatements
  • Common Knowledge
    • Information that most people know
      • George Washington was the first president
      • Winter starts in December (in the northern hemisphere)
    • Sayings and proverbs
    • Information that your audience already knows 

This citation guide is based on the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th ed.). The contents are accurate to the best of our knowledge.

Examples should be viewed as modifications to the official MLA guidelines. 

This guide is used/adapted with the permission of Seneca College Libraries. For information please contact

Note: When copying this guide, please retain this box.

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