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MLA: MLA Style

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

What is MLA style?

Students in the liberal arts and humanities are usually expected to submit papers based on the MLA style, the editorial style adopted by the Modern Language Association.

For college students, the most important aspect of the style is the method for documenting sources you have used in your research. 

Proper documentation requires that you acknowledge sources within your paper.  These are called parenthetical or in-text citations. You must also provide a complete list of the sources you cite at the end of the paper. This is called a works cited list. Every source in a works cited list must also be cited within the paper.

MLA style also provides rules for clear and consistent presentation of written material. There are rules for

  • punctuation
  • abbreviations
  • construction of tables
  • paper format, including headings, title page, page numbers etc.

Updates to the Eight Edition


In April 2016, MLA replaced its seventh edition resources with a new eighth edition. What is different about the eighth edition is that it recommends a universal set of guidelines that writers can apply to any source, in any field. Instead of each type of source having a specific citation format, this new version of MLA presents core elements that you should look for in every source:

Author      Number
Title of source      Publisher
Title of container      Publication date
Other contributors      Location

The container might be a journal, a website, or an anthology to give some examples. 

Some specific changes of this 8th edition:

  • Citations for books no longer require the city of publication or the medium (print, web, ect.) of publication. 
  • The format for indicating volume, issue, and page number has changed to offer more explicit indication of all these numbers in the citation:

7th edition example: Kinkaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo 24.2 (Spring 2001): 620-26. Web.

8th edition example: Kincaid, Jamaica. “In History.” Callaloo, vol. 24, no. 2, Spring 2001, pp. 620-26.

  • For online sources, including URLs (Web addresses) is now recommended. 
  • The citing of DOIs (digital object identifiers) is also encouraged.