Cover of the MLA Handbook 7th editionThe MLA Style Guide is widely used in the Humanities, including: English, literary criticism, film and media studies, and modern languages.  Several (but not all) of the courses that meet OSU's Bacc Core Writing requirements use MLA style.

This style places a heavy emphasis on the author of the work, reflecting the importance of the single author in these disciplines.  Bibliographic entries in MLA style include the author's full name, followed by the title.  

In-text citations (within the body of the paper) display the author and page number.


Basic rules

Obviously, the rules for correctly formatting citations in MLA style depend on the type of source you have.  But there are some basic rules that apply to everything in your Works Cited list.

  • Double space your entries, with no extra spaces between the entries.
  • Format every citation using a hanging indent.  This means that all lines after the first line should be intended 1/2 inch.

Smith, Joan and Lopez, William. The Title of an Amazing Book. Los Angeles, CA: Great Books Publishers, 2002. Print. 

  • Every entry should have a medium of publication note.  If it is a print source, you will include Print.  If it is a web source, you would use Web.  Other common formats include: MP3, Film, DVD, Television, Performance, Interview, Photograph, Email, etc.

The Title of a Great Documentary. Dir. Yan Li.  Paramount Pictures, 2014. Film.

  • For Web sources, you are not required to include URLs.  But, if you believe that the source cannot be found without that information, or if your teacher still wants you to include the URL, put them in angle brackets at the end of your entry.
  • Every main word in a title should be capitalized.

EXAMPLE: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

  • Spell out the full names of authors, and list them in this format:  Lastname, Firstname.

EXAMPLE: Smith, Joan P.

  • Italicize longer titles (books and journals), and use quotation marks to distinguish shorter titles (article titles, chapter titles).

In-Text Citations

MLA style provides guidelines to help you integrate sources into your written work.  When you use a source to support a quotation, a paraphrase or a summary, you should use a parenthetical citation to provide the author's name(s) and the page number.  Then, you will provide a full citation for the source in your Works Cited list.

In MLA style, sources are usually introduced directly in the text using what is called a signal phrase that includes the author's name and the page number.

(Use the resources linked at the bottom of this page to find out how to deal with less straightforward situations.)

Here's an example of a paraphrase using a signal phrase:

Stephen Brookfield defines a reflective thinking process as one that focuses on revealing the assumptions that shape behaviors (2).

And here's the same idea, without the signal phrase: 

A reflective thinking process focuses on revealing the assumptions that shape behaviors (Brookfield 2).

Works Cited Lists






Journal article citation formatted in MLA style with components labeled


 Book citation formatted in MLA style with components labeled



For More Information

  • The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th edition) is available in the library at call number: LB2369.G53 2009.

  • MLA Style Workshop, from the Purdue Online Writing Lab.