MLA Quick Reference

This handout is designed to answer the most common questions associated with MLA format.   For more specific details please refer to the actual MLA Handbook 6th edition.


Use and Accuracy of Quotations:   Quote only words, phrases, lines and passages that are particularly interesting, vivid, unusual, or apt, and keep all quotations as brief as possible.  The accuracy of quotations in research writing is extremely important.  They must reproduce the original sources exactly. Unless indicated, changes must not be made in the spelling, capitalization, or interior punctuation of the source. You must construct a clear, grammatically correct sentence that allows you to introduce or incorporate a quotation with complete accuracy.   Alternatively, you may paraphrase the original and quote only fragments, which may be easier to integrate into the text.  

Prose: If a prose quotation runs no more than four lines and requires no special emphasis, put it in quotation marks and incorporate it into the text.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," wrote Charles Dickens of the eighteenth century.

You need not always reproduce complete sentences. Sometimes you may want to quote just a word or phrase of your sentence.  In addition, if a quotation ending a sentence requires a parenthetical reference, place the sentence period after the reference.

The eighteenth century was both "the best of times" and "the worst of times" (Dickens 35).

If a quotation runs to more than four lines in your paper, set it off from your text by beginning a new line, indenting one inch from the left margin, and typing it double-spaced, without adding quotation marks.   A colon generally introduces a quotation displayed in this way.   A parenthetical reference to a prose quotation set off from the text follows the last line of the quotation.

At the conclusion of Lord of the Flies, Ralph and the other boys realize the horror of their actions:

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him.  He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body.  His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other boys began to shake and sob too.  (Golding 186)

Poetry: If you quote part or all of a single line of verse that does not require special emphasis, put it in quotation marks within your text.   You may also incorporate two or three lines in this way, using a slash with a space on each side ( / ) to separate them.

Reflecting on the "incident" in Baltimore, Cullen concludes, "Of all the things that happened there / That's all that I remember" (11-12).

Verse quotations of more than three lines should begin on a new line.   A line that is too long to fit within the right margin should be continued on the next line and the continuation indented an additional quarter inch (or three spaces).

The Format of a Research Paper

Margins:   Except for page numbers, leave margins of one inch at the top, bottom, and both sides of the text.   Indent the first word of each paragraph one-half inch from the left margin.

Spacing:   A research paper must be double-spaced throughout, including quotations, notes, and the list of works cited.

Heading and Title:   A research paper does not need a title page.   Instead, beginning one inch from the top of the first page and flush with the left margin, type your name, your instructor's name, the course number, and the date on separate lines, double-spacing between the lines.   Double-space again and center the title.   Double-space between the title and the first line of the text.   Do not underline your title or put it in quotations marks or type in all capital letters.   Underline only the words that you would underline in the text.   (e.g., The Attitude toward Violence in A Clockwork Orange )

Page Numbers:   Number all pages consecutively throughout the research paper in the upper right-hand corner, one half inch from the top and flush with the right margin.   Type your last name before the page number, as precaution in case of misplaced pages.   Do not use the abbreviation p . before a page number or add a period, a hyphen, or any other mark or symbol.

Preparing the List of Works Cited

MLA Style:   In MLA Documentation style, you acknowledge your sources by keying brief parenthetical citations in your text to an alphabetical list of works that appears at the end of your paper.   A citation in MLA style only contains enough information to enable readers to find the source in the works-cited list.   If the authors name appears in the text, only the page number appears in the citation: "(197)."   If more than one work by the author is in the list of works cited, a shortened version of the title is given: "(Marcuse, Survey 197)." NOTE the difference between documentation styles:

APA Style:   (Marcuse, 1975, p. 197)

MLA Style:   (Marcuse 197)

The list of works cited appears at the end of the paper.   Begin the list on a new page and number each page, continuing the page numbers of the text.   Center the title, Works Cited , an inch from the top of the page.   Double-space between the title and the first entry.   Begin each entry flush with the left margin; if an entry runs more than one line, indent the subsequent line or lines one-half inch from the left margin.   Double-space the entire list, both between and within entries.

A Book by a Single Author

Author. Title. Publication information.

Fukuyama, Francis. Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution . New York: Farrar, 20023.

An Anthology or a Compilation

Editor's Name. Title of the Anthology . Publication Information.

Lopate, Philip, ed.   The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present.   New York: Anchor-Doubleday, 1994.

A Work in an Anthology

Author's Name. "Title of the work." Title of the Anthology . Editor of the Anthology. Publication Information.

Hansberry, Lorraine. "A Raisin in the Sun." Black Theatre: a Twentieth-Century Collection of the Work of Its Best Playwrights. Ed. Lindsay Patterson. New York: Dodd, 1971. 221-76.

An Article in a Scholarly Journal

Author's name. "Title of the Article." Title of the journal . Volume (year): page numbers

Hanks, Patrick. "Do Word Meanings Exist?" Computers and the Humanities 34 (2000): 205-15.

A Magazine Article

Author's Name, "Title of Article." Title of Magazine month. Year: pages

Amelar, Sarah. "Restoration on 42 nd Street." Architecture Mar. 1998: 146-50.

A Document from an Internet Site

Author's name. "Title of the document." Information about print publication.   Information about electronic publication. Access information.

Ross, Don. "Game Theology." 11 Sept. 2001. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy . Ed. Edward N Zalta. Fall 2002 ed. Center for the Study of Language and Information, Stanford University. 1 Oct. 2002 <>.

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