How to Cite an Untitled Work in MLA Format
Proper documentation format helps your reader understand the source of borrowed information and also creates consistency among papers and publications. Part of the information typically provided about sources is the title of the work, but a title does not always appear, particularly with poetry and personal Web pages. In such cases, MLA guidelines explain how to indicate the work in question.
According to the "MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers" (7th edition), citations include the author's last name and a page number or line number for poetry. To indicate a Web page as a source within your text, use the author's name. If you want to use a title for a poem within the context of the paper to further clarify which work you are referring to, you should use the first line of the poem. Put the line in quotation marks, and follow the capitalization and other punctuation as it appears in the original.
Works Cited: Poetry
The same rule applies when creating the Works Cited entry for a poem without a title. Where the title typically appears in the entry, use the first line of the poem. The words should be placed inside quotation marks, and follow the capitalization and punctuation as it appears in the poem you reference. For example, one of Emily Dickinson's poems would have the title "I heard a fly buzz--when I died--" for the Works Cited entry.
Works Cited: Web
Web pages, particularly personal pages, may omit titles. When including such sources on the Works Cited page, you can leave off the page title where it normally appears, skipping directly from the author to the next type of information available, such as the publisher or sponsor. Alternatively, you may use a generic term such as "Home page" or "Links" to indicate which page in a site you refer to, creating an entry like this: Smith, John. Home page. Web. 3 March 2013.
The point of the references entries is to help your reader find your sources to get more information if warranted, so include the details you can about the page. The MLA handbook indicates that "if you cannot find some of this information, cite what is available." For other types of sources without titles, therefore, give whatever information you can to help your reader access the source. If a Web page has no title, consider carefully how credible it may be as a source before using it.
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition); Modern Language Association
- Cornell University Library: MLA Citation Style
- George Mason University: Criteria to Evaluate the Credibility of WWW Resources
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.