MLA Citations (7th ed.): Getting Started

How to cite research resources using MLA style


Plagiarism is a serious academic offense. If you do it deliberately, it is considered cheating. If caught, students could face penalties up to and including expulsion from the college.  Columbus State Community College addresses plagiarism in the Student Code of Conduct, Academic Misconduct, Policy No. 7-10. Plagiarism is:

  • Submitting an assignment purporting to be the student's original work which has been wholly or partly created by another person.
  • Presenting as one's own the ideas, organization, or wording of another person without acknowledgment of sources.
  • Knowingly permitting one's own work to be submitted by another student as if it were the student's own.

Students can accidentally plagiarize when they fail to cite their sources accurately or misplace them in the document.

What's in This Guide

This guide will help you learn how to cite sources in MLA format. Specifically, you will learn to:

  • Cite sources for the Works Cited page
  • Create in-text or parenthetical citations in the body of your paper
  • Format your research paper
  • Cite legal sources and government documents
  • Evaluate and use citation generators

*Note that in April 2016, MLA revised its rules on how to document sources in its 8th edition of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Please check with your instructor to see if your class requires you to follow the 7th or 8th edition for MLA documentation. Click here for more information on the new 8th edition.

What is a Citation?

When you write a research paper, you will read research that others have performed before you. You need to mention (or cite), the sources that you used. At the end of the paper, you will create a list of those sources in alphabetical order. In MLA format, the list is called Works Cited;  Sometimes, this list is referred to as a Bibliography.

Why Cite Sources?

  • To give credit to the original author. If you quote or paraphrase someone else's words or ideas, you must cite the source.
    • A quotation uses the exact words of the author.
    • A paraphrase accurately states all the relevant information from a passage in your own words and sentence structures
  • To allow readers to locate and explore the sources you used in your research
  • To avoid plagiarism.

MLA Handbook, 7th ed.

Citation examples in this guide are based on:

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