How to Add MLA Citations to a Research Paper

When you're writing a research paper, effectively using information from other sources to prove your point can solidify your stance to an audience. Including quotes that are not yours is encouraged, but to avoid plagiarism you must acknowledge that you used another person's words and credit the person in your research. The Modern Language Association (MLA) has adopted guidelines to make citing references easier for you and standardized the format in which citations appear makes locating the references easier for any audience member who would like to dig further into your research.

Cite any information that is not your original content at the end of the sentences in which the information appears, regardless of whether the information is quoted or paraphrased. Place the citation in parenthesis before the sentence's terminal punctuation point. For example: If Americans make more health-conscious adjustments to their lifestyles, they could prevent the onset of many chronic ailments, which encompass "some 75% of U.S. health care costs" (Russo, 60).

Place in-text citations inside parenthesis and ensure that the citation is formatted correctly. If you use the name of the author from whom you borrowed the information in the sentence, as "Dr. Hopkins, the lead scientist at the University of Oceania's Biological Research Center, indicates that...," then the citation should only include the page number of the reference, as "(637)." If you don't use the author's name, then you have to include the author's last name and the page number on which the information is found, as "(Hopkins, 637)." If the reference has no known author, use the title of the reference, or a shortened version of the title if the title is very long, and include the page number on which the reference is found.

Include all the references that appear in your research paper on a page that is separate from the actual essay and label the page "Works Cited" with the title centered. The Works Cited page should have the same format (margins and font) as the research paper.

Format entries on the Works Cited page to include the author and editors first (if known), the title of the work you referenced (include the name of the periodical is appears in and the volumes and editions, if it is an article or excerpt), the date of the reference's publishing, the publisher's information and the pages on which the reference is found.


Housman, A.E. “Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff…” The Norton Anthology of Poetry: Fifth Edition. Ferguson, Margaret; Mary Jo Salter; John Stallworthy. New York. W.W. Norton & Company. 2005. 1178-1179.

Pollitt, Ronald. “‘Refuge of the Distressed Nations,’ Perceptions of Aliens in Elizabethan England.” The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 52, No. 1, On Demand Supplement (Mar., 1980). The University of Chicago Press. 4-10.

References should appear in alphabetical order by the author's last name. Note that the first line of each entry includes a hanging indentation and a double-space appears between the entries.

Ensure that the entries are grammatically correct. Check for spelling and punctuation. Articles, poems, short stories, songs and episodes of television series' should appear in quotations while titles of books, periodicals, albums and films and the names of programs, such as news broadcasts, should be italicized. If you reference more than one work by the same author, include three hyphens, as "---," where the author's name should appear and then enter the rest of the information.

  • The rules vary a bit depending on the reference, as a poem or short story wouldn't be cited the same way as a documentary and a book wouldn't be cited the same as an online article. Consult with an MLA style guide to see exactly what to do in case of variance from the general rules.
  • MLA guidelines may change from year to year, so you should check occasionally to ensure that you're formatting your references according to the current rules.
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