The MLA works cited. How to do this right?

A little bit of history

It is hard to believe that the storyline of the MLA style (which stands for Modern Language Asociation) began back in 1951 (which means we are far not the only generation «suffering» from the MLA «tough moments», but there have been many people to experience this before us). Those responsible for the creation of the MLA were well-known linguists Jean Pierre Barricelli and Estrella Lauter with colleagues.

The main goal. was to create the list of rules on how should all the academic papers look like.

When the first edition of those rules came out, it was a tiny brochure around 30 pages long. Two decades later, it was already a 50-page long handbook.

Today, the list of MLA requirements takes somewhere around 300 pages and it is the eighth and, something taller us, not the last generation of the Modern Language Asociation.

But no worries, no one makes you follow every single point of the MLA requirements. We bet there hardly are more than 300 people around the whole white world to know all of them. IN this article you will find a summary of all the tips and tricks one must know and keep in mind about the MLA.

What is so special about the MLA?

Nowadays, we are already using the eighth generation of the MLA. This means than even several years that same MLA had different requirements and it is very important not to miss the things up in the head. Most importantly, you always need to remember that your work will alas be checked according to the latest rules of MLA works cited, if you wrote your paper according to the MLA`s 2009th eighth edition, your paper can have some serious problems, it can even not be accepted at all.

The most important thing to keep in mind about writing an academic paper in MLA style

Let`s not forget that from all that three hundred pages of rules, the main point of the MLA style is the last page of your academic paper where you have your sources cited. It even happens quite often, that before taking your paper for a thorough reading, the first thing the tutors do is they take a look at the «Works Cited» page. If this part of your assignment has some issues there is a possibility that the further read will not even happen as not strictly following the MLA works cited policy is a big enough reason not even to evaluate your paper. However, this can also play the other way around. If your MLA works cited page is perfect, the tutors tend to be able to keep their eyes closed to other possible issues with your paper.

So let us take a look at what should the perfect MLA works cited page look like.

Making the perfect MLA works cited page

To be honest, the MLA style is no rocket science. There is nothing really difficult about it. Just try to concentrate and follow the strict order of citing your sources and materials you used in your work.

Mentioning the source in the right order

First things first, go the surname of the source`s author, his or her first name (preferably full name, not the initials), the middle name can be mentioned as an initial.

The material you worked with goes right next after you have written the author`s name. First goes the name of the source, then — where it was published (meaning the magazine, journal, newspaper, etc.)

For example, you are writing an English Medieval History academic paper about the End of the Plantagenet dynasty, the war of the roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. For this you could have used the Charles Dickens` «A Child`s History of England» and, maybe you could also use Christopher Dyer`s «Country Merchant» about Medieval England starting to become the monster of the world trade. In this case, in your works cited page you work cited this book should be mentioned this way:

Dickens, Charles J.// «A Child`s History of England» // Volume II // part 1//chapter 2// page 67 // 1853.

[We mentioned the name of the author in the right order, than comes the name of the material you were using, the volume you found the needed information in (it should be mentioned, if there is more than one), then we pointed where exactly the information we sued could be found in the book. Be attentive with the year of publishing, if the book or an article, etc.was released long ago and was reissued later, your «works cited page should contain the date your source saw the light of day for the first time.]

Dyer, Christopher C.// «A Country Merchant. 1495 — 1520.» // part 2// chapter 5// page198// 2014.

[You can also see the right order of mentioning the name of the author, the full name of the source; there is only one volume, so there is no need to get more specific other than pointing the number of chapters and the exact page.]

Putting the sources in the alphabetic order

Another important thing about the MLA works cited page is mentioning all your sources in the alphabetic order. This one can get rather tricky, especially if you are lucky enough to have a vigilant tutor who would check it quite accurately.

What we recommend here not to get all meat up with such thing as alphabet making a draft, on the separate piece of paper or in the digital notes, with all the sources you have used. But do not just make it a simple list, structure it as a contact book. Write all the works starting at «A» in one part of the list, those who start at «B» — in the other, and so on.

Even though it seems to be obvious, we still think it needs to be properly mentioned. The alphabetic order should be created based on the names of your sources, not the names of their authors.

What does not seem that obvious, is that while putting the cited sources into alphabetic order the articles, if there are some, do not matter. This means that some articles called «A Zoo» would still go in the end, not in the lead position. By the way, there was no such rule in the previous versions, it was first mentioned in 2009`s edition of the MLA rules.

Let`s take a look at how would the correctly alphabetically ordered sources at the MLA works cited page look like.

Imagine we are still writing an academic paper about the Medieval Kingdom of England, the end of the Plantagenet dynasty, the War of the roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. Let`s add some new works to those we have already mentioned making this sample as clear as possible.

We will add to our list the several works of the famous historian David Baldwin «Elisabeth Woodville», «The Lost Prince Richard: The Survival of Richard of York.»,«Richard III» and the one about the sisters of Earl of Warwick «The Kingmaker`s Sisters. Six powerful women in the War of the Roses».

Now, our task is to place all the sources we have already mentioned in the right order according to all the current MLA rules.

Dickens, Charles J.// «A Child`s History of England» // Volume II // part 1//chapter 2// page 67 // 1853.

[If the two sources begin with the same letter, we look at the second letters, if they are similar too — at the third and so on. The first letter in the first word after the article, who we pay no attention to here, is «C», just like in the next source. Dickens` book goes first because the letter «H» goes before the letter «O» in the alphabet.]

Dyer, Christopher C.// «A Country Merchant. 1495 — 1520.» // part 2// chapter 5// page198// 2014.

Baldwin, David// «Elisabeth Woodville: mother of princes in the tower.»// part 1//chapter 3//page 50// April, 2010.

Baldwin, David// «The Kingmaker`s Sisters. Six powerful women in the War of the Roses.»// chapter 1// page 47 // June, 2009.

[Do not try to mention the data that does not exist. Here we do not mention the parties the edition we read contained no parts.]

Baldwin, David// «The Lost Prince Richard: the survival of Richard of York»// part 1// page 78// February 2007.

Baldwin, David// «Richard III» // page 25// February 2012.

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Useful information: How to Cite a Movie in different Writing Styles

MLA citations in the text

Now that we are clear with the MLA works cited page, let us take a look at citations among the text. On one hand, you may think that it is a lot easier and if something goes wrong, it is hard to hide it somewhere deep in the text, but in the other, those quite experienced of you would not believe there is no trick about the APA vs MLA and you would be right.

First of all, you should remember that both direct quotations and paraphrasing are citations and should be delivered in a certain way.

When adding a citation within the text, you should, of course, deliver it surrounded by the quotation marks and followed by the Surname of the author and the number of the page those words can be found. For some reason, it has to be done this way. You do not need to give the name of the source itself hear.

For example, you were delivering the words of Shakespeare, «…The plague on both your houses…» said Tybalt in «Romeo and Juliet». In the real academic paper it should have looked like this: […as one dying man once said: «…The plague on both your houses…» ](Shakespeare, 78).

The same thing should happen if you are citing the works written by several people. For example: «This is not exactly the word I would use» (Lee, Ditko, 127).

It happens sometimes that two authors in your MLA works cited appear to have the same surname, to make them still look like two different people, make sure you have added the initials.


Generally speaking, these are the most important things about citing the sources in the MLA style. As you can see there is nothing really to get scared of. Just take a deep breath, concentrate and do it as good as you can. You are now more than welcome to check out the other useful articles on our website. See you soon and good luck!

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