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EN 101: The Process of Writing

MLA Style

What is MLA Style?

MLA Style is a standard for writing research papers. The guidelines of MLA Style cover formatting, grammar and language usage, and citing sources. There are other standards for writing research papers, such as APA and Chicago Style. The style standard you use is usually determined by the discipline in which you are writing. In this and other English courses, you will use MLA. 


What can be cited?

Any source you use for your paper can and must be cited. This includes any of the sources covered in this guide, as well as interviews, YouTube videos, tweets, and books. If you write about anything that is not your own original idea, cite your source!


Why is citation important?

Citing your sources shows the path of your research. It shows your work. Your professor or anyone else reading your paper can see where you found the information you include in your paper.

Citing sources gives credit to the authors who did the work that you learned from, and it is an essential part of academic writing and academic integrity. Not using citations usually looks like plagiarism—like you took an idea from someone else's work and are pretending it's your own idea. We all learn from the work of others, and giving citations shows who you learned from.

How do I cite my sources?

There are two steps to citing a source.

  • First, when you mention a source or something you learned from that source in your paper, include an in-text citation.

For example, if I write a paper about college entrance exams and use one of the sources we saw on the Types of Sources page, I could have the following text in my paper:


Fina et al. studied the relationship between students' scores on high school standardized tests and their grades in college.


"Fina et al." is the in-text citation. How did I determine this?

  • MLA requires the author's name and a page number.
  • If there are no page numbers—or, like in this example, you're describing something about the work as whole, not something that's on a specific page—just use the author's name.
  • This article has three authors, and MLA Style directs us to use the name of the author who is listed first and indicate the other authors with "et al."—which means "and others"—for sources with three or more authors.

If you are reading my paper, you can learn more about this source by going to the Works Cited page and looking for an entry that starts with "Fina," which is an author's last name. 

If there isn't a named author, use the title of the source for this. If I have used a webpage without a specific author and the title "About the Digital SAT", then I use "About the Digital SAT" as the in-text citation.


According to the College Board website, the SAT "is adapting to meet the changing needs of students and educators" ("About the Digital SAT"). 


  • The second step in citing a source is to create an entry on the Works Cited page. This contains more information about the source, like we saw on the Types of Sources page.

Each in-text citation points to an entry on the works cited page, so be sure that the information in each matches.

  • If the first author is "Fina," then "Fina et al." needs to be in the in-text citation and needs to be the first thing in the Works Cited page entry so that someone who sees  "Fina et al." in your paper can easily find more about that source on the works cited page.

The works cited page entry looks like this:


Fina, Anthony D., et al. “Establishing Empirical Links between High School Assessments and College Outcomes: An Essential Requirement for College Readiness Interpretations.” Educational Assessment, vol. 23, no. 3, July 2018, pp. 157–72. EBSCOhost


  • For the example "About the Digital SAT", the works cited page entry looks like this:


"About the Digital SAT." College Board, Accessed 1 Nov. 2023. 


Learn More: ProQuest Research Companion

Watch this video tutorial for an introduction to using and citing outside sources in your writing. Navigate between sections with the four-line menu in the upper right corner. This tutorial is part of ProQuest Research Companion.