How to Cite a Textbook Source in an MLA Format

Updated February 21, 2017

Writing a citation for a textbook in Modern Language Association format is usually a straightforward process once you find the necessary information on the textbook's title page. However, textbooks often have more than one author or are collected works by an editor, so you need to know how to cite based on several textbook variables. In addition, while you'll usually be expected to cite your textbook at the end of your report, you may also have to add citations within the report's text.

Find the book's author or authors, book title and publishing information. They are usually found on the cover, but if they aren't, they can be found on the book's title page, located within the first few pages inside the book's front cover.

Format the book's citation for your works cited page beginning with the author's last name, first name, period, underlined book title, period, city where the book was published, colon, publishing house, comma, year published and then a period. For example: Doe, John. The Textbook's Title. Little Town: Little Town University Press, 2009.

Cite the textbook's title within your report's text by using a parenthetical citation. Immediately after the material that you need to cite, use an open parenthesis, the author's last name, a space, and then the page number or page numbers you are citing. For example: (Doe 20-28). This may appear anywhere within a sentence.

Include all authors' names if the textbook has more than a single author; first write the last and first name of the first author listed, then the first and last names of the other authors, separated by commas. These won't necessarily be alphabetical order; always follow the order in which the names are listed: Doe John, Ann Abrams, Jane Doe.

Use the Latin abbreviation "et al." as an option if the textbook has more than three authors; you can list all the names, or just the first author's last and first name, followed by et al. For example: Doe, John, et al.

Include the edition number if you are citing a textbook's later edition; include that information after the title on your works cited page, but don't underline that information. For example: The Textbook's Title, 2nd ed.

Include the abbreviation "ed." or "eds." if your textbook has an editor(s) instead of an author; include that information after the editor or editors' names. For example: Doe, Jane, ed. Or: Doe, John and Jane Doe, eds.

Cite an individual work included in a collection, such as a collection of essays, with the last and first name of the work's author, period, open quote, the work's title, period, closed quote, underlined book title, period, "Ed." to demarcate the editor, the editor's first and last name(s), period, city where the book was published, colon, publishing house, comma, year published, and then a period. For example: Smith, John. "The Work's Title." The Collection's Title. Ed. Jane Doe. Little Town: Little Town University Press: 2009.

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  • Don't include authors' and editors' titles and degrees in your citation.

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