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The two distinctive features of MLA documentation are the Parenthetical Documentation in place of footnotes or endnotes and the Works Cited page in place of the traditional bibliography.

Parenthetical Documentation

When you are writing a paper and using a source, whether it is a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary of the work, you must give the author credit for it.  If you don't you can be convicted of plagiarism.

Documenting sources with MLA is really easy, though.  You don't have to deal with footnotes or endnotes.  You simply introduce the borrowing, and follow it with the author's name (unless it was included in the introduction) and page number where you found the information.  The documentation is placed in parenthesis at the end of the borrowing and almost always before the ending punctuation.

Here are examples of documentation:

. . . One critic wrote, "While the rest of the world writes well, this author continues to make money by selling books written at a third grade reading level" (Smith 32).

. . . According to Expensive Ivy League University Professor Dr. Angus Beefmaster, the only place for a woman is in the kitchen (152).  Although few would agree with his assertion . . .

. . . Researchers Bryant and Wilford assert that the cause of the problem is a lack of time and money (2463) . . .

in contrast, Professors David James, Allen Peters, and Katherine Christie argue that the problem has been instigated by bureaucratic nonsense on the part of the administration (30).

. . . Some researchers assert that the cause of the problem is a lack of time and money (Bryant and Wilford 2463) . . .
in contrast, a group of professors argue that the problem has been instigated by bureaucratic nonsense on the part of the administration (James, Peters, and Christie 30).

. . . According to one group of critics, the site of the beheading was the symbolic, womb-like focus of the racial deconstruction (Peters, et. al. 333-334) .

. . . Political Activist Barth Gurley called Hevering a "stupid dork" (2:197).

. . . While Dizzy Donald and the Peachy-Keen Kids were still recording their first album, Jake and His Friends released most of those songs under their own name, thus starting what has been called the "Kids/Friends Music Massacre" ("Dancing with the Kids" 43).

. . . When Harold the Mighty Monkey took hold of the banana and ate it, it was symbolic of his struggle against the harsh memory of his mother's rejection (220: ch. 23).

NOTE: In literary works, it is important to include the part and/or chapter of a prose work, the page numbers and line numbers of poems, and the act, scene, and line numbers of verse drama (Romeo and Juliet, II.ii.17).

No parenthesis are need for citing.  The title of the movie should be mentioned in the text of the paper, of course.

The parenthesis will come after the end punctuation in this context only.  Also, no quotes will be necessary, either. Although MLA requires that all text be double-spaced, I will single-space here because everything I am doing is single-spaced (don't tell MLA!).

. . . According to Joan Bailey, the palace can be interpreted as a fireplace:

Because you have the information in the Works Cited page, all you will need in-text is the source's name.

. . . one source close to the issue added that "the big nose really hurts her career" (Anderson).


The Works Cited Page

The MLA Works Cited Page is located at the end of the document.  The sources are listed in alphabetical order by the author's name (with a few minor exceptions) and are not numbered.  Works Cited Pages are also different from the standard bibliography in that they only include that works that are included in the paper, either through a quote, paraphrase, or summary.  The list is, like all other MLA documents, double-spaced. Also note that "UP" is used for "University Press."

The following samples are adapted from the MLA Handbook, 4th ed. pp. 156-66, and also the Research Guide for Advanced Literature Courses by the Harding University Department of English.  Below is a table of contents of the different kinds of sources one documents.  Click to see the proper structure for the citation you need.


Faulkner, William. The Mansion. New York: Vintage, 1965.
Matthiessen, F.O. American Renaissance: Art and Expression in
the Age of Emerson and Whitman. London: Oxford UP, 1941.
Miller, Perry, ed. The American Transcendentalists. Garden City,
 N.Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1957.
- - -, ed. The Transcendentalists . Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1971.
Miller, Perry and Thomas H. Johnson. The Puritans. 2 vols. New
York: Harper Torchbook, 1963.
Parrington, Vernon Louis. Main Currents in American Thought. New
York: Harvest Books, 1954.
Swift, Lindsay. Brook Farm: Its Members, Scholars, and Visitors.
Syracuse, N.Y.: Citadel Press, 1973.
If you are using a source included in an anthology: 
Calvino, Italo. "Cyberetics and Ghosts." The Uses of Literature:
 Essays. Trans. Patrick Creagh. San Diego: Harcourt, 1982. 3-27.
Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. Black Theater: A Twentieth-
Century Collection of the Works of Its Best Playwrights. Ed.
Lindsay Patterson. New York: Dodd, 1971. 221-76.
If the source has been previously published:
Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American
 Slave, Written by Himself. 1845. Classic American Autobiographies.
 Ed. William L. Andrews. New York: Mentor, 1992. 229-327.
If the source is a scholarly article that has been previously published:
Frye, Northrop. "Literary and Linguistic Scholarship in a Postliterate Age."
 PMLA 99 (1984): 990-95. Rpt. in Myth and Metaphor: Selected
Essays, 1974-88. Ed. Robert D. Denham. Charlottesville: UP of
Virginia, 1990. 18-27.
Note: The following are the ways you list books with more than three authors. You can list them all, use "et. al." thing.  This carries through for periodicals as well.
Perry, Daniel, et. al. The Big Red Book of Criticism. London:
Greenbridge Press, 1995.
Perry, Daniel, James Brown, Eileen Swanson, and David Goldfinger. A
Collection of Random Sayings About Transcendentalism.
New York: Amy's Imaginary Publishing Company, 1997.

Reference Books

Harding, Walter. "Henry Thoreau." Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia.
"Thoreau, Henry." World Book Encyclopedia. 1978 ed.


Note: If a work has more than three authors, you can refer to that part of the book section here.

The structure for a periodical that numbers it pages continuously throughout the annual volume, as below, is:

Authors Last, First Name. "Title of Article." Title of Periodical Volume Number
 (Year): Page Numbers.
For example:
Griffin, Andrew L. "Wordsworth and the Problem of Imaginative Story:
The Case of 'Simon Lee.'" PMLA 92 (1977): 192-209.
For periodicals that do not number their pages continuously throughout the annual volume, the structure is:
Authors Last, First Name. "Title of Article." Title of Periodical Day Month Year
of Periodical: Page Numbers.
For example: 
"Literary Surprises." Time 6 June 1950: 112.
Note: The above citation has an unknown author, so it is simply left out. In parenthetical documentation, the work would be referred to by the title of the article. In the following citation, the 4 refers to the issue number, rather than the volume number because the pages numbered separately in each issue.
McDonald, Walter R. "The Experience of Fiction." Christianity & Literature 4
(1977): 13-19.
More examples of periodical documentation:
Odum, Howard W., and John Maclachlan. "Literature in the South: An Exchange
of Views." Southern Renaissance: The Literature of the Modern South.
Ed. Louis D. Rubin, Jr., and Robert D. Jacobs. Baltimore: Johns
Hopkins UP, 1966. 83-111.
"Thoreau's Walden: A New Image." Boston Sunday Globe 13 May 1979, sec.

Online References

The 4th Edition MLA handbook does not specifically cite how to list World Wide Web sources. Ask your teacher how he or she would prefer you handle these sources. Also, here is a list of links for various online documentation methods.

According the MLA handbook, documenting online material requires more information than other forms of references because of its changeability.

Material that has an original printed source must have the following information:

  1. Name of author (if available)
  2. Publication information of the printed version
  3. Title of the database (underlined)
  4. Publication medium (online)
  5. Name of computer service or network
  6. Date when you accessed the information
Davis, Angus. "Persons, Places, and Red Shoelaces." Sudden Examples
Magazine 12 Aug. 1994: 120-123. New York Times Online.
Online. Nexis. 13 Sept. 1997.
Festering, Joel. "When Kids Cry for Help." More Convincing
Digest 6 June 1993: 12-15. PTS F and S Indexes. Online.
Dialog. 14 Jan. 1996.
Guidelines for Family Television Viewing. Urbana: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Educ., 1990.
ERIC. Online. BRS. 22 Nov. 1993.
Stempel, Carl William. "Towards a Historical Sociology of Sport
in the United States, 1825-1875." DAI 53 (1993): 3374A.
U of Oregon, 1992. Dissertation Abstracts Online. Online.
OCLC Epic. 3 Dec. 1993.
If you cannot find all the information available, cite what you can.
Davis, Angus. "Persons, Places, and Red Shoelaces." Sudden Examples
Magazine 12 Aug. 1994: 120-123. New York Times Online.
Online. 13 Sept. 1997.
For citing email:
Moran, Amy. "My Christmas List." Email to Santa Claus. 17 Dec. 1996.
Davis, Ian. Email to the author. 1 Mar. 1994.
For an online posting:
Schaumann, Thomas Michael. "Re: Technical German." 5 Aug. 1994.
Online posting. Newsgroup Usenet. 7
Sept. 1994.
For material from electronic journals, newsletters, and conferences, you must provide:
  1. Name of author (if available)
  2. Title of the document (in quotation marks)
  3. Title of the journal, newsletter or conference (underlined)
  4. Volume number, issue number, or ther identifying number
  5. Year or date of publication (in parentheses)
  6. Number of pages or paragraphs (if given) or n. pag. ("no pagination")
  7. Publication medium (online)
  8. Name of computer network
  9. Date when you accessed the information
Alston, Robin. "The Battle of the Books." Humanist 7.0176
(10 Sept. 1993): 10 pp. Online. Internet. 10 Oct. 1993.
Lindsay, Robert K. "Electronic Journals of Proposed Research."
EJournal 1.1 (1991): n. pag. Online. Internet. 10 Apr. 1991.
Moulthrop, Stuart. "You Say You Want a Revolution? Hypertext
and the Laws of Media." Postmodern Culture 1.3 (1991):
53 pars. Online. BITNET. 10 Jan. 1993.
Readings, Bill. "Translation and Comparative Literature: The
Terror of European Humanism." Surfaces 1.11 (Dec. 1991):
19 pp. Online. Internet. 2 Feb. 1992.
Steele, Ken. "Special Discounts on the New Variorum Shakespeare."
Shaksper 2.124 (4 May 1991): n. pag. Online. BITNET. 1 June 1991.
Some professors require an address for where you accessed the information. If so, provide it in the following format:
Readings, Bill. "Translatio and Comparative Literature: The
Terror of European Humanism." Surfaces 1.11 (Dec. 1991):
19 pp. Online. Internet. 2 Feb. 1992. Available FTP:
When citing electronic text, you need to have:
  1. Name of the author (if available)
  2. Title of the text (underlined)
  3. Publication information for the printed source
  4. Name of the repository of the electronic text (e.g., Oxford Text Archive)
  5. Name of computer network
  6. Date you accessed the information
Hardy, Thomas. Far From the Madding Crowd. Ed. Ronald
Blythe. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978. Online. Oxford Text
Archive. Internet. 24 Jan. 1994.
Octavian. Ed. Frances McSparran. Early English Text Soc. 289. London:
Oxford UP, 1986. Online. U of Virginia Lib. Internet. 6 Apr. 1994.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Works of William
 Shakespeare. Ed. Arthur H. Bullen. Stratford Town Ed.
Stratford-on-Avon:Shakespeare Head, 1911. Online. Dartmouth
Coll. Lib. Internet. 26 Dec. 1992.
United States. General Accounting Office. Drug-Exposed Infants: Report
to the Chairman, Committee on Finance. U.S. Senate. 6 Nov.
1992. Online. U. of Minnesota Lib. Internet. 1 May 1993.
As with other kinds of online documentation, your professor may want the address where you accessed the information. See above for the format. 


Documenting interviews is really easy. Name and date and how you went about interviewing are all you need:
Anderson, Blake. Personal interview. 22 July 1997.
Lamely, Bill. Telephone Interview. 3 Sep. 1997.

Video or Film

In the following examples, the former would be used to refer to the movie, the latter if the director's role were emphasized in the text of the paper.
Places in the Heart. Dir. Robert Benton. Perf. Sally Field, Danny Glover, Ed
Harris, and John Malcovich. Paramount, 1984.
Benton, Robert, dir. Places in the Heart. Perf. Sally Field, Danny Glover, Ed
Harris, and John Malcovich. Paramount, 1984.

Audio Recording

To cite a reference to a song:
Gabriel, Peter. "A Different Drum." Perf. Gabriel, Shankar, and Youssou
 N'Dour. Passion: Music for The Last Temptation of Christ,
 a film by Martin Scorcese. Geffen, 1989.
For a spoken word recording:
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. 1911. Read by Helena
 Bonham Carter. Audiocassette. Penguin-High Bridge, 1993.
Welles, Orson, dir. The War of the Worlds. By H.G. Wells. Adapt.
 Howard Koch. Mercury Theatre on the air. Rec. 30 Oct. 1938.
 LP. Evolution, 1969.

CD-ROM Publication

In the following example, Rel. is an abbreviation of release and refers to the version of the CD-ROM. If the CD-ROM is periodically published, it would require the name of the vendor (Information Access, UMI-Proquest, etc.) after the publication medium, in the following case CD-ROM.
English Poetry Full-Text Database. Rel. 2. CD-ROM. Cambridge, Eng.:
Chadwyck, 1993.

A Publication on Diskette

Joyce, Michael. Afternoon: A Story. Diskette. Watertown: Eastgate, 1987.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What if I am quoting a translation?
  2. What if I am quoting a work by more than one author?
  3. Okay, but what if I'm quoting a work by more than three?
  4. What about something in an anthology?
  5. What if I don't know the author?
  6. I can't figure out how to do a works cited for the BIBLE!
  7. (It's not in the MLA Handbook--Try this:
    The Bible. New King James Version.)