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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

School of Global Learning

Research guide to help students successfully find resources for their written research paper.

MLA Style

The Modern Language Association, or MLA, maintains a style sheet called MLA Style, currently in its 7th edition. MLA Style provides guidelines for formatting documents and citing sources in text and in a works-cited list. MLA Style is typically used in humanities, language, and literature courses.

When to Cite

In your college career, you will be expected to cite all of the sources you use in your papers. Don’t just cite sources that you directly quote!

The only exception: commonly known facts. So what would be considered a “commonly known fact”? It depends on the audience of your research paper. If you read the same fact in multiple sources, then you wouldn’t have to cite it, since for your audience it would be commonly known. But when in doubt, cite it.

Steps to Citing

  1. Keep track of publication info as you read.
  2. Determine specifically what types of sources you have. Online or print articles? From a library database? Books with one author or more, or none? etc.
  3. Look up the format for those types of sources in your manual or web resource, using table of contents, index, or search tools.
  4. Follow the instructions precisely, paying close attention to punctuation and italicization. 

Why Use MLA?

  • Unified style of documentation, tone, formatting, etc. allows readers to focus on ideas rather than unfamiliar formatting.
  • Clear communication allows you to join an academic conversation--you want to speak the same language as everyone else to avoid confusion.
  • Documentation of sources gives credit where credit is due, establishes your credibility and your place in the conversation, and enables readers to go to the sources you used for further reading.
  • MLA is used primarily in the liberal arts and humanities fields.

In-Text Citation

Check out one of the resources on the left for more information on citing your sources. Click here to see a sample essay.


Author’s name in text:

Leki claims that “many international students believe deeply in the value, importance, and prestige of a good education” (65).

Authors’ names in reference:

Studies find that the eye often sees information that the mind filters out (Johnson, Wilson, and Smith 112-14).

Organization as source:

(Natl. Research Council 15).

Indirect sources

Samuel Johnson admitted that Edmund Burke was an “extraordinary man” (qtd. in Boswell 450).

Four or more authors:

Legal experts counter Smith, Yang, and Moore's argument by noting that the current spike in gun violence in America compels lawmakers to adjust gun laws (Jones et al. 4).

Works Cited

The list of sources at the end of your paper should be titled "Works Cited." Click here for a great sample essay. Check out the sources listed on the left to find out how to cite any kind of source. Here is an example works cited page that demonstrates appropriate layout and rules for creating a source list: