The MLA format citation is generally prescribed for structuring essays and research papers in the fields of languages and literature, and for documenting the sources and references that have been used in a specially formatted MLA works cited page. Established and developed by the Modern Language Association, this style has been adopted by several English departments in high schools, colleges, and universities and is used by students, professors and scholarly writers alike in preparing their assignments or dissertations.
Also used by several scholarly publications, the MLA format citation is one of several commonly used styles for documenting sources and references. Your class, or your professor, may require a different citation style, such as APA citation style, which was developed by the American Psychological Association and fully explained in the APA Publication Manual. Whereas the MLA format citation is prescribed for topics in literature and the arts, the APA citation style, along with the APA format, is generally prescribed for use in several social science and other health-related fields, such as psychology, criminology, economics, business management, nursing, and medicine. If you are not sure which style to use, always consult with your instructor.
The MLA works cited page, which is called references in the APA format, is an organized and alphabetized list of all the citations that have been consulted and used in writing an essay or a research paper. Located at the end of a document, this list is double-spaced, and each citation entry is structured with a hanging indent. This means that that the second and succeeding lines of a citation entry are indented more than the first line, as in the following examples:
Bailey, Garrick and James Peoples. Introduction to Cultural Anthropology. Belmont,
CA: Thomson Wadsworth, 1999.
Ehrenzweig, Anton. The Hidden Order of Art. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.
As demonstrated in the above example, an MLA format citation has certain features that distinguish it from the APA citation and other styles. The titles of works that are being cited are underlined, rather than italicized. Important words in titles are typed using standard capitalization. For sources that were accessed or retrieved online, web addresses, or URLs, are included in the citation entry, and enclosed within angle brackets (<>).The complete names of authors are always used in the citation, and, if they are provided, their complete first and middle names are also used. However, it is also acceptable to use their initials if complete names are not available. If there is more than one author, as shown in the first example, the authors’ names are separated by commas, and the word “and” precedes the final name instead of an ampersand (&).