The Beginner’s Guide to Mastering MLA Citation: Tips, Tricks, and Dos and Don’ts


Citations are an essential part of any research paper. They give credit where credit is due, acknowledge the sources that informed your work, and help readers locate and verify the information you used. But not all citations are created equal, and one of the most commonly used citation styles is MLA (Modern Language Association). MLA citation has specific guidelines and rules that can be challenging to master, especially for beginners.

This article is designed to help you understand MLA citation, from the basics to the more complicated elements. We’ll offer tips and tricks, dos and don’ts, and expert advice to help you ace your research papers.

The Beginner’s Guide to MLA Citation: How to Cite Sources in Your Papers

MLA citation is a set of rules that dictate how you should cite your sources in research papers. It’s important to follow these rules to ensure that your citations are accurate and consistent throughout your paper. There are two main elements of MLA citation: in-text citations and a works cited page.

In-text citations are brief references to your sources that appear in the body of your paper. They allow readers to identify the source of a particular piece of information and locate it on the works cited page. A works cited page is a list of all the sources you used in your research paper. It provides bibliographic information that allows readers to locate and verify the sources you used.

To create in-text citations and works cited pages in MLA format, follow these steps:

1. Identify the source type, such as a book, journal article, website, or interview.

2. Use the appropriate format for the source type, based on the guidelines provided by MLA.

3. Provide the necessary information, such as the author’s name, title of the source, publisher, and date of publication.

4. Make sure that your citations are consistent throughout your paper and follow the same format.

Mastering MLA Citation: Tips and Tricks for Accurate In-Text Citations and Works Cited Pages

While the basic elements of MLA citation are straightforward, the format can get more complicated when dealing with different source types. Here are some tips for handling common sources correctly:

– Books: In general, book citations should include the author’s name, title of the book, publisher, date of publication, and medium of publication (print, eBook, etc.). If you are citing an edited book or a chapter within a book, you’ll need to include the editor’s name or the chapter title as well.

– Journal Articles: For journal articles, you’ll need to include the author’s name, title of the article, title of the journal, volume number, issue number, date of publication, and page numbers.

– Websites: When citing websites, you’ll need to include the author (if available), title of the page, title of the website, date of publication or last update, URL, and date of access.

Formatting in-text citations and works cited pages correctly is also crucial. Follow these tips to avoid common mistakes:

– In-text Citations: In-text citations should be placed immediately after the information you are citing, and before any punctuation. They should include the author’s last name and the page number(s).

– Works Cited Pages: The works cited page should be titled “Works Cited” and should be listed at the end of your paper, on a separate page. All sources should be listed in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. The first line of each citation should be left-aligned, with subsequent lines indented.

The Dos and Don’ts of MLA Citation: A Step-by-Step Guide

To ensure that your MLA citations are accurate and consistent, follow these dos and don’ts:


– Use the correct formatting for each source type.

– Include all of the necessary information for each source type.

– Cite each source that you used in your research.

– Be consistent in your formatting and citation style.

– Proofread your citations carefully for accuracy.


– Don’t plagiarize – always give credit where credit is due.

– Don’t mix different citation styles in the same paper.

– Don’t leave out any necessary information in your citations.

– Don’t use unreliable sources or sources that have not been peer-reviewed.

– Don’t wait until the last minute to create your works cited page.

MLA Citation Made Easy: Simplifying Complex Sources and Formats

Citing complex sources and formats can be a challenge, but these tips can help simplify the process:

– Online Articles: When citing online articles, you’ll need to include the same information as for a print article, plus the URL and date of access.

– Websites: For websites, you may need to do some extra research to find the required information. Look for an “About” or “Contact Us” page to find the author’s name or the publishing organization.

– Social Media Posts: To cite social media posts, include the name of the author, the account name, the post content (in quotation marks), and the date and time of the post.

– Multiple Authors: If a source has multiple authors, list them all in the same order that they appear on the source.

Citing Your Sources in MLA: Common Mistakes and Best Practices

Avoid these common mistakes when citing sources in MLA:

– Forgetting to cite sources – always cite any sources that you used in your research.

– Incorrect formatting – make sure that your citations use the correct format for each source type.

– Incomplete or inaccurate information – double-check each citation for accuracy and make sure that you include all necessary information.

To stay organized and keep track of your sources, consider using a citation management tool or software. These tools can help you organize your sources, create citations automatically, and ensure that your citations are accurate and consistent throughout your paper.

Expert Advice on MLA Citation: What You Need to Know to Ace Your Research Papers

Experts in the field of MLA citation offer these tips:

– Keep up-to-date with changes to MLA citation guidelines.

– Use reliable sources and double-check your citations for accuracy.

– Don’t rely too heavily on online citation generators – they can be unreliable and may create incorrect citations.

– When in doubt, consult a style guide or ask your instructor for guidance.


In conclusion, proper MLA citation is essential for any research paper. Citations give credit where credit is due, help readers locate and verify sources, and demonstrate your knowledge of the subject matter. By following the guidelines outlined in this article, you can create accurate and consistent in-text citations and works cited pages, avoid common mistakes, and improve your research paper writing skills overall. Remember to always double-check your citations for accuracy, and consult experts or instructors if you have any questions or concerns.

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