Referencing Styles

A guide to the reference styles used at the University of St Andrews

About MLA

This guide describes the use of the 8th edition of the MLA, please check with your School if this is the correct version of MLA for you to use.

MLA is the reference style devised by the Modern Language Association.  The 8th edition takes a fresh look at referencing, dispensing with instructions for different formats of materials, and instead providing a universal set of guidelines which can be used for any source, regardless of format.

MLA uses a system of short in-text citation, and a list of cited works at the end which gives full details of the resource cited.

In-text citations

The in-text citation is a brief reference within parenthesis which indicates the source you have used, it is composed of the first element in the full reference (usually the author's name) and the page number you are referring to.

Where the author's name is mentioned within your text, there's no need to include this within the in-text citation.


"The term "realism" when applied to poetry is as slippery as it is when applied to the novel" (Whitmore 32)


Whitmore argues that "the term "realism" when applied to poetry is as slipperly when applied to the novel". (32)


Works cited list:

Contains the full bibliographical details of the sources you have cited.  Each item is made up of core elements, given in a specified order, and may also contain optional elements in some situations. Core elements are given in the order below, where a core element is not relevant to a work it is omitted, and punctuation should follow as given below, unless it represents the final element of a reference, in which case it is given as a full stop/period.

  • Author (s), given as Surname, First names. 
  • Title of source.
  • Title of container, (when thesource you are citing forms part of a larger whole, that whole is described as a container, e.g.a container may be a book which contains a collection of essays, or a journal which contains a collection of articles, or a website which contains a list of postings, etc).
  • Other contributors, (translators, etc)
  • Version,
  • Number,
  • Publisher,
  • Publication Date,
  • Location.


Whitmore, Michael H.  Reading Modernist Poetry. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, Chichester.

Items in the works cited list are listed alphabetically by the surname of the author(s).

Hanging indents are used where a reference is longer than a single line to make the list easier to scan.

Optional elements can be added to references at the writers discretion, based on whether they add important clarity to a reference, and the importance those elements play in your use of them.  Optional elements appear in various locations within the reference depending on what they are.  Optional elements can include:

  • Date of original publication - can be provided if a work has been republished.  You can add this if you think it will provide some context for the reader.  The date of original publication is placed after the source title, and is followed with a full-stop / period.
  • City of Publication - MLA recommends you include the city of publication if using a book published before 1900.  You would give the city of publication instead of the Publisher's name.
  • Total number of volumes in a multi-volume work.  If this is likely to help the reader find the source you are referencing you can give the number of volumes.  This comes after the full-stop at the end of the standard reference, and use the abbreviation of vols. 
  • Series - if the work is part of a series.  This comes after the full-stop at the end of the standard reference, and should include the volume number if applicable.  Do not italicise or place within quotations.
  • Format / type of work.  Where the format or type of work can be considered unsual, such as transcript of an interview, this comes after the full-stop at the end of the standard reference.
  • Previously published elsewhere/in another form - if something was previously published elsewhere, give the details of the original source after the full-stop at the end of the standard reference
  • Bill/Report/Resolution of the United States Congress - you can include the number and session of Congress, the document type and number.  This follows the full-stop at the end of the standard reference.
  • Date accessed - if a webpage is likely to be updated, and the date at which you accessed it may therefore be relevant, include the date accessed in the format Accessed Day Month Year.  This follows the full-stop at the end of the standard reference.