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Citing Sources of Information: Writing for the Health Sciences: MLA Style

This LibGuide was designed to provide you with assistance in citing your sources when writing an academic paper.

About MLA Style

Modern Language Association (MLA) style for documentation is widely used in the humanities, especially in writing on language and literature. Generally simpler and more concise than other styles, MLA style features brief parenthetical citations in the text keyed to an alphabetical list of works cited that appears at the end of the work.

Formatting Your Research Project

For more information, please check MLA Style Center

Helpful Handouts

In Text Citations- Why Use Them?

In-text citations are called parenthetical references in MLA.

These are used in the body ("in the text") of research papers or assignments when you use information from sources.

Parenthetical references are used to provide the reader with:

  • which sources in the Works Cited list the writer is referring to
  • what page number(s) you got the information from

Note: Parenthetical references musthave a matching source on the Works Cited list.

Basic Info Needed for In-text Citing

Two pieces of information are required in the parenthetical reference:  the author's name(s) and the page number(s) where you got the information.

EXAMPLE:  This point has already been argued (Tannen 178-185).

If you include the author's name(s) in the sentence, only the page number(s) is needed in the parenthetical reference.

EXAMPLE:  Tannen has argued his point (178-185).

Note:  The required information in MLA (author's name and page number) is different from the required information in APA (author's name and year published)

General Guidelines for MLA Style


  • All sources of information and data, whether quoted directly or paraphrased, are cited with parenthetical references in the text of your paper.
  • Double-space your entire paper, including the “Works Cited” list and any block quotes (p. 116).

Works Cited page

  • List entries with a hanging indent and ensure that the entire list is double-spaced -- see the example on page 131. (p. 130-131).

  • Arrange entries alphabetically by the surname of the first author or by title if there is no author. When beginning with the title ignore initial articles (e.g. A, An, The) for alphabetization (p. 131-133).

  • Cite the first author’s name with the surname first, but otherwise give the authors’ names as they appear in the source.

  • If the “Works Cited” list includes two or more entries by the same author(s), give the author(s) name(s) in the first entry only. In subsequent entries use three hyphens in place of the names, followed by a period and the title. Arrange the works in alphabetical order by title (p. 133-135).
  • Capitalize the first, the last, and all significant words in a title and subtitle (p. 86-87).

  • Italicize book titles, journal titles, and titles of other works published independently (p. 88). Use quotation marks around the titles of works published as part of another work, e.g. journal article, short story, or essay in an anthology (p. 89).

  • Omit any introductory article, e.g. first word The, in the title of an English-language journal (p. 138).

  • For books, list the city of publication, publisher’s name, and year of publication as they appear on the title page or its reverse. If there is more than one city, list the first one only. Abbreviate publishers' names according to MLA guidelines (e.g. omit articles, business abbreviations such as Co., Inc., etc., and descriptive words such as Books, etc.) (p. 148-152).

  • Typically when citing Web sources a URL is not included.  Include a URL only if you have been instructed to do so by your teacher or if the document would be hard to locate otherwise. (p. 182) However, when a “Works Cited” entry does include a URL that must be divided between two lines, break it only after a slash (p. 182). 

  • Citations must include an indication of the medium of the source (e.g. Print or Web) (p. xvii).

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