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MLA Citation: 8th Edition  

This guide explains the rules for citation and formatting in 2016 update of MLA Style.
Last Updated: Aug 8, 2017 URL: http://infoguides.lccc.edu/mla Print Guide RSS Updates

Titles Print Page

A note on hanging indents

MLA style requires "hanging indents" for works cited entries:  the second and subsequent lines of each entry are indented 5 spaces past the first line.  

Examples in this guide do not show the hanging indent, because of the way that the guide displays across different screen sizes.  See the tab "hanging indents" for more information on hanging indents and how to create them.

In addition, example citations in this guide are shown in bold.  This formatting is used to help separate them from explanatory text.  Do not use bold type for the citations on your real works cited page. 


Italics or Quotation Marks?

In MLA, titles are placed either in quotation marks or italics, depending on the type of source.  Formatting titles in these ways helps the reader see that they are titles. 

Titles that go in Italics:

·         Books

·         Periodicals

·         Movies

·         Plays (and other stand-alone performances, like operas, ballets, etc.)

·         Television series

·         Entire web sites

·         Albums

·         Databases

·         Networks or streaming services

Titles that go in quotation marks:

·         Periodical articles

·         Poems and short stories

·         Television episodes

·         Web pages—specific documents within a web site

·         Songs


Contact Us!

We at Rothrock Library are happy to help you with your questions about research and citation!  You can:

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  • Give us a call:  610-799-1150

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Titles: Source and Container

Titles: Source and Container

MLA 8 talks about two kinds of titles:  the title of the “source” and the title of the “container.”  This is where it gets a little tricky, because whether something is a source or a container may depend on how you’re using it.  To get the idea, think about an article in a magazine or newspaper.  The title or headline of the article is what you’d put for the source title, and the title of the magazine or newspaper is the container.  Both need to be in the citation, because a reader is likely to need both in order to find the article. 

The container, then, is a larger thing of which the source is a part.  Some examples of sources and containers include:

·         An article in a periodical.

·         A piece in an anthology or edited collection.

·         A page or posting on a web site.

·         An entry in dictionary or encyclopedia.

·         An episode of a TV series.

·         A song on an album.

·         An issue in a comic book series.

One source title, one container title:

Sokoloff, Jason.  “Information Literacy in the Workplace:  Employer Expectations.”  Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship, vol. 17, 2012, pp. 1-17.

Here, the source is an article, and the container is a periodical.  In the next example, the source is a web page, and the container is a web site. 

Gibson, Angela. “URLs: Some Practical Advice.”  MLA Style Center, 2 Nov. 2016, style.mla.org/2016/11/02/urls-some-practical-advice/.

No container:

Some sources don’t have a container—or the container is the same thing as the source, depending on how you think about it.  Some examples of sources without containers include:

·         Most books (other than anthologies or edited collections).

·         Movies.

·         Entire websites, or websites that consist of only one page.

For a source without a container, simply put the source title and move on to the next element that the source does have. 

Goad, Tom W.  Information Literacy and Workplace Performance.  Quorum, 2002.

This source is a book, so it just has one title.  It also doesn’t have any other contributors, version, or number.  The next thing from the list of elements that it does have is a publisher, so that comes right after the title.  

Two or more containers:

Other times, a source may have more than one container:

·         An article in a periodical, which is in a database, like EBSCO or Project Muse.

·         A piece in an anthology or edited collection, which is part of an online collection like Google Books, or a database like Ebrary or Safari Books Online.

·         An episode of a TV series which is part of an online collection like Films on Demand or Netflix.

In this example, the source is a periodical article, the first container is a periodical, and the second container is a database.  Notice that all elements relating to the first container—the title, volume, issue, date, and page numbers, in this case—come before the second container.

“Sources and Searches: Resources for Media Literacy and Research.”  American Libraries, vol. 48, no. 5, May 2017, pp. 60-61.  EBSCOhost, 0 -search.ebscohost.com.wave.lccc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=a9h&AN=122898587&site=ehost-live.

Which container goes first?  If there are two (or more) containers, the first one should be the one that the source is most closely associated with, and that is most important for finding the source.  For instance, is an article is more closely associated with its periodical than to its database, because it’s common for the same periodical to appear in more than one database, but it’s much less common for an article to appear in more than one periodical.  Similarly, a TV episode is only part of one TV series (with very rare exceptions), but a series that streams through Netflix may also stream on Hulu or Amazon.


Formatting Titles

MLA Style's rules for formatting titles helps readers recognize that they are titles.  

Italics and Quotation Marks

The most important formatting rule is that titles are placed in either quotation marks or italics, depending on the type of source. The general rule is that italics are used for the title of a whole thing, like a book, while quotation marks are used for the title of part of a thing, like a short story or a periodical article. See the sidebar "Italics or Quotation Marks?" for examples of types of titles and how to format them. 

Punctuation and Capitalization

MLA also asks you to capitalize and punctuate titles in a standard way.  The rules are:

Capitalize the first letter of all important words.  Do not capitalize short words like articles, conjunctions, or prepositions.

Mintz, Anne P., editor.  Web of Deceit:  Misinformation and Manipulation in the Age of Social Media.  Cyberage, 2012.

Here, the words of, and, in, and the have not been capitalized, but all of the other words are.

Capitalize the first word of the title, no matter what it is. 

Moore, Sarah, et al.  The Ultimate Study Skills Workbook.  Open UP, 2010. 

Here, “The” is capitalized because it is the first word.

If the book has a subtitle, put a colon between it and the main title, and capitalize the first word of the subtitle, no matter what it is.

Coplin, Bill.  10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College: The Skills You Need to Succeed.  Revised, Ten Speed Press, 2012.

On the cover of this book, “The skills you need to succeed” is printed in smaller type than the rest of the title, showing that it is a subtitle.  Since MLA style does not use different type sizes, the colon is added to show where the main title ends and the subtitle starts.  In this example, “The” is capitalized because it is the first word of the subtitle.

Numbers in titles: If a title has a number in it, write the number the same way it appears on the source—as a numeral or a word.  In the previous example, “10” in the title is written as a numeral because that’s how it is on the book cover. 

Here’s an example where a title has a number written as a word:

Zapruder, Angela.  Twenty-Six Seconds:  A Personal History of the Zapruder Film, Twelve, 2016.  


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