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CCC History 131

Library guide for History 131 students at CCC

MLA Basics

MLA is a system of documenting sources created by the Modern Language Association. It's most commonly used in arts and humanities disciplines, but like any citation style, it provides guidelines for writers on how to structure citations in a works cited page and refer back to them within the text. 

Overall, an MLA Works Cited entry has the following basic parts:


Who refers to an author or responsible person (like the director of a film), what is simply the title of the source, how is the publication information, when is the date the work was published, and where is the URL or DOI. MLA says they technically prefer a DOI to a URL, but in most college and university contexts, you'll want to provide a URL for the library database where you found the article (see examples below).

In-Text Citation

Remember that whenever you quote, summarize, or paraphrase someone else's work, you must provide a citation. A short citation goes right after the sentence where you used a source, like this (Author 35). This includes the author's last name, followed by a space, and then the page number from the work.  

Here's an example:

In Cane, Toomer uses the American Gothic form to "critique the violent racism of American capitalism" (Borst 14).

Have more questions about MLA citation, paper format, and references? Contact your librarian or try these resources:

Purdue Online Writing Lab

UCLA Citing & Documenting Sources

Want to look at a sample paper? The OWL has an annotated example

MLA Works Cited Format

MLA uses the term "Works Cited" to describe the list of references at the end of an MLA paper. Works cited pages are double-spaced, with "Works Cited" centered on the first line and the citations below, in alphabetical order by author's name and a hanging indent

Here's a detailed scheme for creating an MLA Works Cited entry:
Title of source.
Title of container,
Other contributors,
Publication date,

Note the punctuation after each item in the list: this is what you should put in your Works Cited entry after each item.

If an article includes a DOI (document object identifier), include it. Otherwise, include the URL if you found the article online or in a database. Remember: your instructor may ask you to format citations in a specific way, so always follow your instructor's guidelines first, then MLA's. 

Here's an example of a works cited page with two articles:

Borst, Allan. "Gothic Economics: Violence and Miscegenation in Jean Toomer's ‘Blood-Burning Moon’." Gothic Studies vol. 10, no. 1, May 2008, pp. 14-28.

Wan, Amy J. "The Little Orange Way to Know My Mother." Massachusetts Review, vol. 45, no. 3, Fall 2004, pp. 387-390. EBSCOhost,