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Citing Sources

What's Included in this Guide?

General Formatting: Guidelines

These are general rules for formatting your paper. For more information and examples, see the "Formatting Research Papers" page on the MLA web site 

  • Use a font that is easily readable (e.g., Times New Roman). Whatever font you choose, the italicized type should be distinguishable from the regular type.
  • Set the type to a "standard size" (e.g., 12 point).
  • Double space throughout the entire paper.
  • Set margins to one inch all around.
  • Text should be left-justified only (i.e., flush on the left side, naturally staggered on the right side).
  • Leave only one space after periods unless your professor has instructed otherwise.
  • Do not allow words to be hyphenated or "broken" from one line onto the next.
  • Indent paragraphs one-half inch. Tab key preset is appropriate.

*NOTE: The first page of your paper has additional formatting guidelines.


In a title or subtitle, capitalize the first word, last word, and all principal words. (pp. 67-68)

Capitalize the following parts of speech:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Verbs
  • Adjectives
  • Adverbs (ex: slightly, quickly, fast [as in, "Thinks Fast"])
  • Subordinating conjunctions (ex: after, although, because, before)

Do NOT capitalize the following parts of speech unless they are the first word of the title or subtitle:

  • Articles (ex: a, an, the)
  • Prepositions (ex: of, between, in, against, for)
  • Coordinating conjunctions (ex: and, but, or, so)
  • The to in infinitives (How to Throw a Baseball)

Teaching Japanese Culture: A Contextual Approach to Achieving Fluency for the Young Learner

Notice the article "A" is capitalized because it is the first word of the subtitle. The article "the" is not capitalized because it falls in the middle of the subtitle.

Insert Header and Page Numbers

For an MLA-style paper, your last name and the page number must appear on all pages in the upper right corner. Use MS Word's functions to do this rather than typing it in manually. Download instructions below to learn how to do this in MS Word 2007.

Works Cited

  • Begin the Works Cited list on a new page at the end of your paper, centering the words Works Cited one inch from the top of the page. If you have only used one work, call it Work Cited.
  • Spacing: Double-space between references and within individual references.
  • Start each reference flush against the left margin. If a second or third line is necessary, use a hanging indent (indent the line one-half inch. This is equal to five spaces, or one tab.)
  • Organize the list by the first author's last name on a source. Don’t re-alphabetize the author’s names from a source.
  • If there is no author, alphabetize by the first significant title word (ignore a, the or an).
  • Capitalize the first letter of all words in a title except articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions, and "to" infinitives when they appear in the middle of a title. (See MLA Handbook, p. 67)
  • Italicize “containers” such as the titles of books, periodicals, Web sites, and online databases. (See MLA Handbook, p. 69).
  • Use quotation marks (“ ”) for articles, short stories, book chapters, articles/pages within a Web site, definitions, essay titles (See MLA Handbook, pp.68-69)

Want to see a sample paper? Check out a paper at the OWL at Purdue.



All citations in MLA style follow the same basic format, although the elements for each item may vary. When you locate resources, make a habit of recording all the elements needed to cite a source. Start with the most specific elements. Note what “container,” or larger source, the element is associated with. (For example, an article is an element in a journal “container.” MLA no longer requires specific notation as to whether or not a source is a print or web format, but you will include, in your citation, information for online retrieval where applicable.

                                                                        Elements of a Basic Citation

1. WHO is the author of article, chapter, web page

2. WHAT is the title of article, chapter, web page

3. WHAT is the title of container (journal name, book title, website)

4. WHO are other contributors if any (editor of book)

5. Version (edition if any)

6. Number (volume and issue of article)

7. Publisher

8. Publication date

9. Location (includes page numbers. Place

10. Online information: web address or doi

11. Date of access for web/online sources












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