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MLA Citation Style, 9th Edition: General Guidelines

MLA Style Guidelines

This section provides general guidelines on writing in-text references, also known as in-text citations, and works cited entries in MLA style.

The new MLA style expands upon the general method of the previous edition that can be applied to any type of source. This method encourages writers to evaluate sources using a standard set of criteria as a key first step in bibliographic documentation. The 9th edition of the MLA Handbook embeds information literacy into the system of documentation.

From here, writers are encouraged to consult the list of core elements of a citation, ensuring that each element is relevant to their source and the punctuation following each element is correct.


Core Elements of a Citation


In the 9th edition of the Handbook, source refers to the title of a particular resource, whether that is a title of a book, chapter, journal article, song, or blog post, for example.

Container refers to the larger whole of the resource where the work is contained. For example, the website on which a blog post is published would be referenced as the container. An edited volume of a book would be the container for a single chapter.

Contributor includes any people, groups, or organizations that contribute to a work without being the primary creator, such as editors, translators, illustrators, and film directors. If you feel that the contribution is significant to your research, be sure to include them on a case-by-case basis. 

Version is included if the work is edited or if you are referencing a specific version of a work (e.g. The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998).

Number: If a source is part of a numbered sequence, include the numbers within your citation. Examples may include a multi-volume work, a journal with volume and issue numbers, or a season of a television show.

Location: When citing the location of your source, try to be as specific as possible. Location could be the range of page numbers in an article or book, the URL of an online work, or the physical location of a piece of art.

It is important to note that not all core elements will be present in every citation. For instance, a book is its own container and may not have multiple versions, so it is not necessary to include these elements in the citation.


Supplemental Elements

In addition to the core elements, a number of supplemental elements may be added to your citation to provide additional information to your reader. Use the following at your discretion:

  • Date of original publication
  • City of publication
  • Date of access
  • URLs
  • DOIs

Navigate to one of the pages below for further citation guidelines: