Skip to Main Content

ACTC Citation: MLA Style

Information on citing sources in MLA and APA styles

What is "Style"?

Research "style" is very simply the set of instructions and format that a particular discipline uses when writing papers and citing resources.  Different areas of study do things a little bit differently.  For ENG 101 (and other English/Humanities courses), MLA Style is used.  MLA stands for the Modern Language Association, an organization of professionals who study and teach languages and literature.

What is MLA Style?

MLA 9th Edition

The core elements are, in order and with punctuation:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Contributor,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

Please note, not every citation will contain all 9 core elements.  Provide as much information as is available and pertinent to your source.  For websites, the URL appears at the end of the citation in the "location" position.  They should appear in alphabetical order based on the core element that appears first (usually author or title) and should end with a period regardless of the last core element that appears.  See examples below:


Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. HarperCollins, 1999.


Peet, Lisa. "To Kill a Mockingbird Author Harper Lee Dies." Library Journal, vol. 141, no. 5, 15 Mar. 2016, pp. 18-19.


"The Play." ​To Kill a​, Mockingbird Co., 2017,

Why is the URL not enough for citation?

Why isn’t the URL enough for citation?  The short answer is, because URLs can change.  Websites undergo redesign all the time, and URLs often change without notice.  Think of it as moving without leaving a forwarding address.

We cite our sources for two main reasons: one, to give credit to the source of your information (to avoid plagiarism); two, to make it possible for others to go back and find that source.  If the only piece of information provided is a URL, and that URL is changed after you use it, this prevents others from verifying your source, resulting in plagiarism, which is a serious academic offense.  In order to make the source “findable” you need to provide key pieces of information that don’t change.  If you have also provided the author, title, date of publication, etc., it gives someone enough information to search for and find the source you used, even if it moves.

While you should always provide the URL for an online resource, you must include other pieces of information so that if that URL should change, that source could still be found.  The format for a citation changes based on your field of study – you’ll learn MLA format in ENG 101 and 102, but other courses might ask you to use APA (social sciences), Chicago (history), AMA (medical), or others.  

Avoiding Plagiarism Video

New for 9th Edition

  • Apps and databases should be cited only when they are containers of the particular works you are citing, such as when they are the platforms of publication of the works in their entirety, and not an intermediary that redirects your access to a source published somewhere else, such as another platform. 
  • If it is important that your readers know an author’s/person’s pseudonym, stage-name, or various other names, then you should generally cite the better-known form of author’s/person’s name. 
  • For annotated bibliographies, annotations should be appended at the end of a source/entry with one-inch indentations from where the entry begins. Annotations may be written as concise phrases or complete sentences, generally not exceeding one paragraph in length.

I.C.E. Cite Sources Like a Pro