MLA style is a set of principles used to document sources and create citations and references. MLA style is most commonly used when citing references within the humanities. References are built on nine core elements, but individual references can look different depending on the source type.
Not all of the core elements will apply to every source type, and sometimes, elements may need to be recorded more than once for the various aspects of an item. For example, a print book does not have a container; however, a movie that has been posted to a website will require the listing of two containers (one for the production company of the movie, and one for the website). The concept of containers is central to building references in MLA Style.
The core elements of MLA Style:
Include all elements that apply to your source when creating a reference.
When using MLA Style to reference your work, you are required to credit your sources in two places:
A citation, or in-text citation, is a quotation from or reference to a resource that was used to research and write a paper. A citation is made within the body of text of an academic essay to inform the reader where the information originated.
A reference provides the necessary information required for a reader to locate any source you cite in the body of a paper. References appear at the end of an MLA style paper on a separate page in a list of "Works Cited." They must be listed in alphabetical order by author.
Both in-text citations and references must be used to credit your sources when using MLA style.
When you are writing a research paper it is important to clearly point the reader to the place that the information originated from in order to avoid plagiarism. Remember, plagiarism is theft, whether it is intentional or not.
Whenever you use, read, or borrow from any works or ideas which are not your own--including information, facts, statistics, opinions, hypotheses, graphics, etc.--you need to identify and give credit to those outside sources.
Outside sources might include:
Books, websites, magazines and newspapers, material from electronic databases, radio or television, films, plays, podcasts, Youtube, music, interviews, speeches, letters and correspondence (including emails), government sources, etc.
Your documentation of these sources must be thorough. It needs to be correctly placed within the body of your paper as well as in the list of references at the end.
Please note that this information was adapted from: Stern, L. What every student should know about avoiding plagiarism. Pearson, 2007.