How to Cite a Book MLA in an Essay

The Modern Language Association (MLA) guides the structure of research and other types of papers. Schools, journals and university and commercial book presses from around the world follow MLA style. Used primarily in the humanities, according to the MLA style website, MLA format sets rules governing the in-text and works-cited list documentation of sources, including books.

In-Text Citations

Step 1

Locate the name or names of the author or authors of the book you wish to cite. MLA requires an in-text citation as close to the information you are borrowing as possible.

Step 2

In the text of your paper, include the author's last name and the page number(s) where the information you are using is located in the book. Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) notes that this can be done as part of a sentence or at the end of a sentence in parentheses. Examples of both methods are shown below.

Jones describes the antlers as those of elk (15). In the 1970s, Alberta's elk

disappeared (Jones 22).

Step 3

Cite all authors' names for books with three or fewer authors. For books with four or more authors, include the first author's last name followed by "et al.," as exampled below.

Jones et al. estimate the 59 percent of the elk survived. Moose on the other hand

fared much better (Jones et al. 32).

Works Cited Page

Step 1

Include a full, corresponding citation for books (and other sources) you reference in-text on your MLA works cited page. Gather the following information in order to cite In MLA format: author name(s), book title, publication date, publisher and place of publication. Purdue's OWL points out that hard copy books are listed as "print" sources in an MLA citation.

Step 2

Cite a book with one author as follows on your MLA works cited page. (MLA requires that you italicize the title of the book).

Duneier, Mitchell. Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999. Print.

Step 3

List either all authors' names in the order they appear on the source book's title page or list the first author's name followed by "et al." when preparing a citation for a book with more than three authors. MLA gives you the choice of which method to use. General MLA guidelines require format consistency throughout your paper.

For example:

Smith, Ron, Damien Jones, Tanya Martinez, and Jeff Mills. The Life and Times

of John F. Kennedy. New York: Random House, 1985. Print.


For complete details on how to handle any situation MLA covers, including other variations regarding book citation, consult the latest edition of the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" or the "MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing."