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How to Cite a Legal Document in an MLA Paper


When it comes to professional writing, even the most well-researched and eloquently written paper can be ruined by a single word: plagiarism. When research is involved in the writing process, the writer must carefully and precisely cite all of his sources, or the academic community may accuse him of copying information without giving credit where it is due. Different professions require different citation styles, and language arts fields use the Modern Language Association to cite sources. Legal documents such as laws or treaties require a specific order for their citations.

Begin the citation with the name of the country's government that produced it. Follow this with the name of the agency within that government. For example: United States. Senate.

Add the title of the legal document. Italicize the name of the document. For example: United States. Senate. Proceedings. (Proceedings should be italicized.)

Include information regarding the formation of the legal document, including the number and session of the meeting, as well as the type and number of the publication. Not all legal documents will have all these components, and some are passed in different ways. A congressional hearing would read: United States. Senate. Proceedings. 2nd. Congress. 1st sess.

List the title of the publication where you found the legal document. This title should be italicized. Follow that information with the full name of the editor or compiler of the publication. For example: United States. Senate. Proceedings. 2nd. Congress. 1st sess. Senate Documentation. Comp. John H. Smith. ("Senate Documentation" should be italicized.)

Add the city of publication, as well as the name of the document's publisher and the year in which it was published. For example: United States. Senate. Proceedings. 2nd. Congress. 1st sess. Senate Documentation. Comp. John H. Smith. Washington: Senator Publication Services, 2007.

Follow the publication information with the relevant page numbers from the document, if available.

Finish the citation with details about the way you found the document. If you found the document in an actual book, finish the citation with the word "Print." If you accessed the information from an online database, include the title of the online collection (italicized), the date of the most recent update to the web page, the name of the project database (italicized), the name of the organization that sponsors the database, the date on which you accessed the information and the electronic address. As before, all of this information may not be available, depending on your resource.

Tips
  • In MLA papers, all works cited should be listed in alphabetical order by the first letter of the entry. The references should be double-spaced between entries, as well as within the entries. Entries should include a "hanging indent," which spaces each line after the initial in each entry by five spaces.
  • Consult an MLA style guide for further details about citations.
Items you will need
MLA Style Guide
About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.

Photo Credits
  • old book-keeping document image by Andrii Oleksiienko from Fotolia.com