what is an mla format

Everything You Need to Know About MLA Format

Throughout your high school and college careers one of the biggest challenges you will tackle is writing research papers. When writing a research paper, not only do you need a thesis and supporting facts, but you also need to make sure you are citing the appropriate resources where you found your information. There are three main formats used to cite sources in academic writing: APA, MLA, and Chicago. While all three of these types are equally important to learn how to use, MLA is the most common format that students will need to master first. So, what is MLA format and when do you use it? 


What is an MLA Format?

MLA format, sponsored by the Modern Language Association, is a style of writing used in English or humanities courses to create a works cited page listed at the end of a research paper. The purpose of a works cited list is so that the reader knows exactly where your information came from and to ensure that it is credible and not plagiarized. 

There are two specific features that distinguish MLA from APA or Chicago style citing. First, when using MLA style, you must acknowledge your sources within the text of your research paper. This is called parenthetical documentation, and it is done by using parenthesis and stating the author of the source followed by the page number where the original information can be found, like so: (Webster, 12). Whenever you quote, paraphrase, or summarize your source you must do this citation.

Second, at the very end of your research paper you must list all of the bibliographic information about each source that you mentioned throughout your writing. The list of all of your sources is titled “Works Cited” and it should be a separate page from the rest of your paper. To make the writing of your research paper go smoothly, you should create your works cited list as you go. This will eliminate having to go back and track down all of the sources you used. 



Here are a few common MLA format examples to help write the works cited page of your next research paper:

  • Book:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Publication Date.

Example: Wiley. The Official ACT Guide. 2018-2019 ed. Iowa City: ACT Publications, 2018.

  • Entire Internet site:

Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number, Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available), URL, DOI or permalink. Date of access (if applicable).

Example: LiviusPrep.com. Rise Marketing Inc. 2021. 1 Nov. 2021. <https://www.liviusprep.com> 

  • Film, videotape, or DVD:

Film title. The name of the director, the film studio or distributor, and the release year. If relevant, list performer names after the director’s name.

Example: Lucas, George, director. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Twentieth Century Fox, 1977.

  • E-Mail message:

Author of the message. Subject line in quotation marks. Received by: the recipient’s name, the date the message was sent.

Example: Webster, Holly. “Re: How to Improve my SAT Score.” Received by: Jason Breitkopf, 1 Nov. 2021.

  • Article online: 

Author or alias (if known). “Title of the article.” Name of site. URL. Date of access. 

Example: Webster, Holly. “How to Set Your Middle Schooler Up for Math Success.” Livius Prep, https://www.liviusprep.com/how-to-set-your-middle-schooler-up-for-math-success-today.html. Accessed 1 Nov. 2021.

For more information on MLA and to have your sources sited automatically, click here (but don’t forget to proofread and double check your format): https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_general_format.html. 

Happy researching, writing, and citing!