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MLA Citation Guide: How Do I Cite?

This guide shows you how to cite references in current (9th edition) MLA style

Why Cite?

Citation isn't just about doing the right thing, it's about making your writing stronger and improving the quality of all research performed.

Here's three good reasons why we cite:

  1. Giving credit. The idea is fairly straightforward: great writing of all types is built at least in part on the work of others. We honor and acknowledge the ideas that give birth to our own.
  2. Strengthening our position. A large percentage of writing is persuasive in nature. Citing authoritative sources helps to support our key ideas and arguments. By attributing original works, we place our own ideas in a broader, ever-expanding context.
  3. Showing diligence. Without citation, every word, fact, and idea is attributed to you by default. If some of that information turns out to be wrong, it is on you. Citations show our research and our processes. Without them, any error is an error of negligence. In this way, citation isn't just about providing credit, it's about protecting yourself if mistakes are made in your research.

Source: Bailey, J. (2017, May 16). "Why cite? Three reasons to cite your sources." Plagiarism Today. 

What's Different (2021)?

Changes in the Ninth Edition 

Did they actually implement major changes in MLA 9th edition? The short answer is "no" because the new edition simply makes the previous MLA 8 format clearer with minor updates and examples that must be considered to avoid confusion. The significant changes you will encounter are mostly related to the use of containers for different media types and the use (or principles) of inclusive language.

Works Cited Page Changes: 

  • If you include anything that you have merely consulted, use "Works Cited and Consulted" by placing your consulted sources after any endnotes if necessary. 

New Container Rules: 

  • The research paper must include a container for the source that appears for digital sources right at the end of your citation, especially if you are using a source in a source. 
  • The "Title of Container" may represent the website or online database where your source has been published. Likewise, it can be websites like SoundCloud, Facebook posts (direct), blogs, articles, tweets, songs, Bible verses, or artworks. 
  • Google, Amazon, Blackboard, Facebook (as a general source), Amazon website, or Google as the primary source cannot be considered a container. 
  • You must add the format of your media source like “MP3 format”, “Amazon Prime Videoapp”, or a TV channel like BBC or NBC, according to MLA 9th Handbook

New Foreign Language Capitalization Rules: 

  • Foreign language sources or quotations use their native grammar and punctuation according to this new MLA format. 

Commonly Used Terms

Citation: The details about one source you are citing.

Citing: The process of acknowledging the sources of your information and ideas.

In-Text Citation: A brief note in your paper or essay at the point where you use information from a source to indicate where the information came from. An in-text citation should always match more detailed information that is available in the Works Cited List.

Paraphrasing: Taking information that you have read and putting it into your own words.

Plagiarism: Taking the ideas or words of another person and using them as your own.

Quoting: Copying words of text originally published elsewhere. Direct quotations generally appear in quotation marks and end with a citation.

Works Cited List: Contains details on ALL the sources cited in a text or essay, and supports your research and/or premise.