How to Cite A Book in MLA Format

Updated July 12, 2018
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You can always count on the frustrated sighs of high school and college students when their teacher assigns a research paper WITH a bibliography. The bibliography is always the kicker; you mean I have to keep track of sources and cite them? MLA stands for the Modern Language Association of America and this organization puts out the MLA Style Manual, which contains a set of rules and guidelines for academic writing. Many teachers and professors ask for bibliographies to be drawn up in MLA style. This how-to teaches you the first step in putting the finishing touches on that term paper: how to cite a book in MLA format.

Locate the book author's names. Every piece of written work was created by a talented individual who wants his or her name associated with it! The format for the first part of this citation is: LAST NAME, FIRST NAME, MIDDLE NAME/INITIAL.

So, the first part of the MLA citation for a Don DeLillo book would be:

DeLillo, Don.

Don does not write under a name that includes a middle initial, so that is left out. If he did (say his name was "Don C. DeLillo") the citation would read:

DeLillo, Don C.

Check to see if there are more than two authors. Let's say DeLillo had help writing his book. He is still the primary author, so his name comes first in MLA style, and the other names follow in a regular first name followed by last name format.

DeLillo, Don, Bob Robert and Chip Clipper.

Add the book title. In MLA format, book titles are underlined and separated from the author's name with a period. I am unable to use an underline in the example below, so have placed stars around the portion of the citation that should be underlined. Getting back to DeLillo:

DeLillo, Don. White Noise.

Next is publication information. This is content you normally find on the back of the title page. It's the boring small print most people who aren't writing a bibliography skip through. You will need the place of publication, the publisher and the year of publication. In MLA format, the information is written like this: "Place of publication: Publisher, Year."

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin Books, 1985.

Add the medium of publication. For all hard copies of books, the medium of publication is "Print." The updated citation in MLA style would look like:

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin Books, 1985. Print.

Finally, to finish citing a book in MLA format, you add any other supplementary information that is needed to the end of the citation. This could mean a certain set of page numbers that you used as a source. For example:

DeLillo, Don. White Noise. New York: Penguin Books, 1985. Print. 113-145.

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