After several hours of working on your essay, you're finally ready to add the finishing touches!

But wait!

Your professor has asked you to use MLA style to reference your sources, but you're not familiar with it. How do you use this style correctly?

The Core Elements

MLA style follows a general method based around a list of core elements. This method can be applied to any source, for any type of paper.

The MLA core elements are:

  1. Author

  2. Title of source

  3. Title of container

  4. Other contributors

  5. Version

  6. Number

  7. Publisher

  8. Publication date

  9. Location

When referencing a source, the first thing to do is find the relevant core elements!

In your reference, list the core elements in order and with the punctuation shown in the previous list.


You're citing an episode of the show The Office that you watched on Netflix. What would be the container(s) in your citation?

In-Text Citations

To cite sources in the text, you use parentheses at the end of a sentence or quote. These citations match up with entries in the Works Cited List at the end of your paper.

In the citation, you include:

  • The first word of the corresponding reference in the Works Cited List, which is usually the author's last name

  • The page or page range that the source information is from

Example of an in-text citation. Click the link below for text-based examples. .

Click here to see examples of how to write in-text citations for specific situations.


You see this in-text citation at the end of a quote: (“MLA Citation Guide” 19). What does this tell you?

Entries In The Works Cited List

In MLA style, the list of references at the end of your paper is usually titled the Works Cited List. This list contains full references that include the core elements relevant to that source.

Example of a Works Cited List with references for a book and an article on a website. Click the link below for text examples.

💡 The source title may be italicized or in quotations, depending on the source type.

Click here to see examples of citations for a variety of different source types.

Take Action

Become a pro at MLA references by following these steps!

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