Skip to Main Content

MLA - Referencing Guide

4 Easy Steps

Four Steps to Referencing

1. Record

At the time of reading a document, record all of the information (descriptive elements) necessary to create a citation. The data you record should include the page numbers for direct quotations and for journal articles or book chapters.

The descriptive elements for a variety of document types are listed below. These lists will help you to keep the information necessary to create your references. Be careful with photocopied articles from journals or chapters from books. You must keep a record of the journal where the article was published or the book where you found the chapter.

Please note: you may not need to use all of these elements for every citation.

Whole book

  • Author’s surname and given name or initials
  • Title of publication
  • Title of series, if applicable
  • Volume number or number of volumes, if applicable
  • Edition, if not the first
  • Editor, reviser, compiler or translator, if other than the author
  • Publisher
  • Year of publication
  • Page number(s), if applicable

Parts of books (chapters, sections, conference papers, etc.)

In addition to the details for a whole book (see above) record the following information specific to the part:

  • Author's surname and given name or initials (of the part)
  • Title of the part
  • Inclusive page numbers of the part

Journal articles

  • Author’s surname and given name or initials
  • Title of the article
  • Title of the journal
  • Volume and issue number
  • Year of publication
  • Inclusive page numbers

Electronic documents

Some examples of electronic format documents are internet pages, journal articles published on the internet or journal articles retrieved from a full text database.

Some documents are published in both paper and electronic formats, for example, government reports and journal articles. Please cite according to the format you have accessed.

For electronic journal articles, record the descriptive elements specified above for journal articles. In addition, record relevant data from the list below.

The following is a list of common descriptive elements you may need to record for citation of an electronic document. This list is comprehensive. The elements you record will depend upon the type of electronic document you are describing.

  • Authors surname and given name or initials (if given)
  • Corporate author name (if given)
  • Title of the document
  • Title of the webpage
  • Database name
  • Page or section numbers (if given)
  • Year of publication or latest update date
  • DOI
  • Internet address

Please note: Not all electronic documents have an obvious author or title, so you will sometimes need to use your own judgment to determine these details. Be aware that pagination may not be present or appropriate for many electronic publications.

2. Organise

File or store this information, and the source documents if you have them, in a manner and format that is easily accessed at a later date. You may wish to write all details on the print copy of an article you are using; or you may wish to keep a system of filing cards for each reference item you use. Alternatively, you may decide to maintain a master reference list on your computer, which you add details to as required. There are a number of software packages that you can use to manage your references - one example is EndNote. These programs can be used to produce Works Cited lists in your specified style. Please see the EndNote Guide for information about this software.

3. Cite

Construct your citations within the text of your essay, using the appropriate guidelines for the style of citation you are using.

4. List

Create a Works Cited list at the end of your essay or thesis. Titles of books and journal titles should be italicised. The use of capitals and punctuation should be consistent and will vary according to the citation style being used.

The usual arrangement for a Works cCted list in MLA style is a single sequence in alphabetical order by author, with the author's surname preceding the given name or initials. Where an item has no author, it is usual to list it alphabetically in the Works Cited list by the first significant word of the title .

See the All Examples page for examples of in-text and reference list entries for specific resources such as articles, books, and web pages.