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Citation Basics in MLA 8: Citation in MLA 8 Format

Nine Core Elements of an MLA 8 Citation

MLA 8th Edition has several changes from MLA 7th Edition. To explore the major differences in greater detail, you can look at the MLA's What's New in the Eighth Edition page or click HERE for an SLS color-coded printable handout.

But here are the key things you need to know:

In order to accommodate the rapidly expanding number digital sources and formats, MLA 8th edition has moved away from citation formats for specific source types (e.g., a book, a magazine article, a web page, etc.).

Instead, MLA 8 requires writers to identify sources based on nine key properties, or Core Elements listed in the box below. The idea is that these nine features are common across different platforms and can be combined to identify any source type that you might run across.

The writer's job is to identify these elements and use them to create citations. This new approach requires students to recognize what these elements look like in different contexts.  I have color coded the nine elements in order to facilitate the process of identifying the elements across platforms and source types (DVDs, books, web pages, articles, videos, etc.).  You will see this color coding throughout this guide.

Note that many sources do not have all of the nine core elements while many online resources, such as articles found in GBS databases and television programs and documentaries watched on digital platforms like Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix, will use more than one instance of certain elements. See the other sections of the guide for specific information about citing different source types. 

Here is how the following web page article: Introducing Your New Cat to Other Pets can be broken down into its core elements:

Here's how to break down the Core Elements of the following article, "Burr Conspiracy", from the Encyclopedia of the New American Nation in the Gale Virtual Reference Library. Note that the encyclopedia is a container which is housed in a larger container, the Gale Virtual Reference Library:

Citation Basics



Citing a website

Citation format for basic web sources (single container):

Author’s Last Name, First Name. “Title of individual web page or article.” Title of Overall Web Site (Container).

              Publisher/Sponsor of the Site, (only needed if different from the title of the Web site or author.

              Never needed for online newspapers or magazines)  Publication dateLocation(URL).

Basic Web Sites (single container):

“Baseball Cards 1887 – 1914.” Library of Congress, 2 Aug. 1999, www.loc.gov/teachers/


“Builder.” I Can Has Cheezburger, 2016, builder.cheezburger.com/Builder.

King, Hope. "Microsoft is Giving Minecraft to Schools for Free -- Here's Why." CNNMoney, 9 June

               2016, money.cnn.com/2016/06/09/technology/minecraft-microsoft/index.html.

Wachter, Paul. “Recession Dashes Restaurant Hopes.” The Atlantic, 14 Sep. 2009, www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/09/recession-dashes-restaurant-hopes/246.

Citing a complex website

Works on the Web with complex details (includes print publication information) and/or more than one container (includes journal articles, government reports, television programs)

Include as many of the Core Elements as needed to help your readers locate and identify your source. Use the detailed examples listed below as guides.

General Citation Format for complex web sources:

Author’s Last Name, First Name“Title of individual web page or article.” Title of work/journal (Container), Other contributors (if applicable), Version (if applicable), Number (if applicable),  Publisher (if applicable), Publication date,  Location (pages) (if applicable), Title of Website/database (Container 2), Other contributors (if applicable) Publication date (if applicable), Location (URL or DOI).

Citing an academic journal (JSTOR etc) on the web

Academic Journal Articles on the Web:

Author’s last name, first name. “Article Title.” Title of Journal (Container), Volume. Issue number,  Publication date,  Location (Page numbers) [if applicable], Title of website/database/online container (Container 2), Location (use DOI if available, otherwise use URL).

Papachristos, Andrew V., et al. “More Coffee, Less Crime? The Relationship between Gentrification and Neighborhood Crime Rates in Chicago, 1991 to 2005.” City and Community, vol. 10, no. 17Aug. 2011, pp. 215-240. Wiley Online Library, doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6040.2011.01371.x.