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Modern Language Association Style of Referencing (MLA Referencing)

The Modern Language Association of America (MLA) first published the Modern Language Association Referencing Style in 1985. Since then, the MLA referencing style has been widely used in academic writing in Humanities subjects, especially in writing on literature and language.

Now on its 7th edition, the Modern Language Association Style handbook provides comprehensive and updated guidelines on the MLA style of referencing. The MLA style follows the parenthetical documentation system which makes use of citations within the text and a corresponding reference list (normally titled 'Works Cited') at the end of the paper.

Whilst MLA referencing style may be similar in some aspects to other referencing styles such as Harvard and APA styles which also follow the parenthetical referencing system, MLA style citation has the following features:


When citing in-text:

  • Dates are usually not included in parenthesis.
  • For page numbers, there is no need to add 'p.' or 'pp.' before the number.

Works cited list:

  • Book titles as well as journal titles are underlined or italicised.
  • Author's full name is written.
  • All important words in title must be capitalised.
  • Listed at the end are the publication dates.

The official MLA Formatting and Style Guide provide extensive guidelines on how to properly format sources for both in-text citation and reference list. Some universities, however, have preferred MLA referencing style formats hence it would be prudent to check if your university has a published guide for MLA style citation.

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