How Do I Cite Song Lyrics From an Online Source?

When writing a book, research paper, document or other material, the lyrics to a song may be used to contribute to a particular viewpoint, claim or other purpose as expressed by the writer. Like other published material, you must cite song lyrics properly according to the documentation convention used in the work. Cite song lyrics using the style of the Modern Language Association (MLA), the American Psychological Association (APA), Chicago Style or another preferred style.

MLA Style

Step 1

Gather all available information on the song -- the artist, song title, album title, recording date, writer, label and other relevant information. Verify all details and lyrics are accurate. Validate that the artists, dates and recording information match between the footnotes or in-text references and the Works Cited, reference or bibliography at the end of your document.

Step 2

Cite the parenthetical reference using MLA style by include the artist's last name and the copyright year in parentheses immediately after the lyrics being referenced. Assume we need to reference the lyrics to the song "Writing is My World" by Thomas Lyrics from the album "Reflections." The song was recorded on Dec. 12, 2005 in New York and released in Jan. 1, 2006 by Meditation Records. You retrieved the song lyrics on March 1, 2009 from the artist's website, Using this example, the parenthetical reference will be as follows: (Lyrics 2006).

Step 3

Include the song in the Works Cited list for the MLA format. Include the elements in the following order: artist, song title (in quotation marks), recording date, album title (italicized), recording label, year of issue, the website from which the lyrics were taken (italicized), the medium, in this case "web" and lastly the date of access. Using our example, the entry in the Works Cited list will be as follows: Lyrics, Thomas. "Writing is My World." Rec. 12 Dec 2005. Reflections (italicized). Meditation Records, 2006. Thomas Lyrics (italicized). Web. 1 Mar 2009.

APA and Chicago Style

Step 1

Cite the parenthetical reference for the lyrics using APA style. Include the song title in quotation marks and in parentheses state the writer's last name, the copyright year and the track number if this is available. Using our example from Step 2 in the previous section, the in-text reference will be "Writing is My World" (Lyrics, 2006).

Step 2

Include the writer's name, copyright year, song title, album title (italicized) and the website in the reference when using APA Style. Using our example, the entry will appear in the reference list as follows: Lyrics, T. (2006). Writing is My World. Reflections (italicized). Retrieved from

Step 3

Cite the song using Chicago Style as a footnote. Include the superscript numeral in the text before hyphens and at the end of a sentence, clause or quotation. Use the normal size number in the footnote followed by a period. Assuming the details in Section 1, the footnote is as follows: 1. Thomas Lyrics, Writing is My World (italicized) (New York: Meditation Records, 2006),

Step 4

Include the song in the bibliographic reference for Chicago Style using the same detail that was included in the footnote. Begin with the artist's last name and include the publishing details without using parenthesis as was done in the footnote. Use periods to separate the elements. Using our example, cite the entry in the bibliography as follows: Lyrics, Thomas. Writing is My World (italicized). New York: Meditation Records, 2006.


There are several ways to cite resource material even within a particular style. If lacking certain elements, cite the information that is available applying the same formatting.

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