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Academic Integrity - Referencing, Citation & Avoiding Plagiarism: MLA Style Guide

This guide explains what referencing and citation is and how to use APA and MLA. It includes a short interactive tutorial on each style.

MLA Style - what is it?

Academic writing requires the author to support their arguments with reference to other published work or experimental results/findings. A reference system will perform three essential tasks:

  • Enable you to acknowledge other authors ideas and thereby avoid plagiarism.
  • Enable a reader to quickly locate the source of the material you refer to so they can consult it if they wish.
  • Indicate to the reader the scope and depth of your research.

Modern Language Association (MLA) style is commonly used in the humanities. Brief parenthetical references are placed in the text to enable readers to find a source in a list of Works Cited. This alphabetical list appears at the end of the work and includes the information necessary to retrieve each source.

How do I use the MLA Referencing Style?

The MLA style involves two tasks:

  • how you refer to other authors in the body of your text (in-text citation).
  • how you compile a list of reference sources at the end of your text (reference list)

In this guide we show how common reference types should look in your reference list along with an example. Immediately following this will be two samples of how that reference should appear as an in-text citation.

If the exact reference type you are looking for is not shown in this guide, look for one similar and follow the same rules. Alternatively consult the book MLA Handbook, 8th Edition, which is available in UCD Library.

MLA Style - what does it look like?

Here is an extract showing what In-text Citations look like in the MLA Style:

Adams (377) argues that in her 2005 novel, On Beauty, Smith portrays more the battle within the opposing sides of a liberal campus consciousness, rather than the clash of liberal and conservative.

Here is an example of what a Reference List looks like in the MLA Style. Note the hanging indent.

Works Cited

Adams, Ann Marie. "A Passage to Forster: Zadie Smith's Attempt to 'Only Connect' to Howard's End." Critique, vol.

52,4, 2011, pp. 377- 399.

Altieri, Charles. "Lyrical Ethics and Lyrical Experience." Mapping the Ethical Turn. Edited by Todd F. Davis and Kenneth

Womack, Virginia University Press of Virginia, 2001, pp. 30-59.

For more information on creating a Works Cited list using the MLA style, please consult section p. 20 - 54 of the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition.


MLA Style - Quotation

The use of quotations enables the reproduction of original material by another author in the research paper. It is important that accuracy is maintained when using quotations. MLA style suggests that all quotations should be kept as brief as possible. The student should ensure that the original meaning is not altered if integrating quotations into the text.

Short Quotations

For a quotation that is four lines in length or shorter, use quotation marks and incorporate it into the text. If the quotation is formally introduced it should be preceded by a colon. The parenthetical reference for short quotations should be placed in brackets before the full stop.

Shelley thought poets "the unacknowledged legislators of the World" (794).

Shelley held a bold view: "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World" (794).

Long Quotations

For quotations that exceed four lines in length, the quotation should be set off from the text. It should be typed double spaced on a new line using an indent of one inch from the margin. A colon is generally used to introduce the quotation. The parenthetical reference is placed in brackets after the full stop.

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 wreckage

of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and

sob too. (186)

For more detailed examples of quotations in poetry, drama etc. see section pp. 54 - 58 of the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition.


Note on MLA 8th Edition

This guide now uses the MLA Handbook, 8th Edition as the basis for all content.

Recommended Read

Interactive Tutorial - MLA

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