Introduction and general principles of MLA referencing

The MLA system is the referencing style used at UWE Bristol for English, Film and Literature programmes.

What is MLA referencing?

MLA is a referencing style published by the Modern Language Association (MLA). The guidelines for MLA are set out in the MLA handbook (8th edition) and the companion website, the MLA style centre.

How it works

You are expected to acknowledge all the resources you have used when completing your assignments. This is done by inserting a brief reference, known as a citation, in the body of your assignment; and producing a corresponding list of full references, know as the ‘works cited’ list, at the end of your work.

In-text citations

Citations must be placed in parenthesis (brackets), immediately next to the information or quotation that you are acknowledging, so it is clear to your reader that they are not your own ideas or words.

A citation contains two pieces of information:

  1. The first element given in the works cited list, usually the author.
  2. The location of the information you are citing, usually a page number.
Example type Example
Citation (Hawthorn 17)
Works cited entry Hawthorn, Jeremy. Studying The Novel. 7th ed., Bloomsbury, 2016.


Paraphrasing someone else’s ideas or words without acknowledgement is a form of plagiarism. When paraphrasing you must re-write the original language, change the sentence structure, and cite the source in your assignment and works cited list. If you retain a quotation or phrase, you must use quotation marks and cite the source.

Works Cited list

This quick guide to MLA referencing will show you how to format references for most types of information.

The Works Cited list should be alphabetical.


Refworks can be configured to format your references in MLA 8th edition style.

Core elements and punctuation

MLA has a set of core elements which can be applied to any information source. The elements are:

  1. Author.
  2. Title of source.
  3. Title of container,
  4. Other contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.

Note the punctuation which follows each element. Simply apply each element, where applicable, to the resource you are referencing.


Give the author's last name, followed by first name.

Brooker, Christopher. The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories. Continuum, 2005.

Title of source.

The source should be given in italics (e.g. for books or web pages) or quotation marks (e.g. for stories, journal articles, or songs)


Levy, Deborah. Hot Milk. Hamish Hamilton, 2016.

Title of container,

A container is the larger work in which the source is located, e.g. a poem (source) in an anthology (container) or television episode (source) in a series (container).

In the example below, "The Dead" (story) is the source, and Dubliners (book) is the container.

Joyce, James. "The Dead." 1914. Dubliners, Penguin, 1996, pp. 199-256.

In the example below, the episode “A Study in Pink” is the source, and Sherlock the series, is the container.

McGuigan, Paul. “A Study in Pink.” Sherlock, series one, episode one, BBC 1, 25 July 2010. Box of Broadcasts,

Other contributors,

Include other contributors, e.g. translators, illustrators.

Tolstoy, Leo. Anna Karenina. Translated by Aylmer and Louise Maude, Vintage, 2010.


Include edition or revision information.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. Making Waves: New Cinema of the 1960s. Revised and expanded ed. Bloomsbury, 2013.


If a source is part of a numbered sequence, e.g. a journal article, or one in a series of books, include this information.

Raitt, George. “Lost in Austen: Screen Adaptation in a Post-Feminist World.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 2, 2012, pp. 127-141.


The publisher can usually be found on the title or copyright pages of books.

Filler, Nathan. The Shock of the Fall. Borough Press, 2014.

Publication date,

If a source has been published twice, e.g. as a reprint, you may wish to include both dates.

Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss. 1880. Edited with an introduction by A. S. Byatt, Penguin, 2003.


You should give the specific location of the information you are citing.

For print materials, give the page, preceded by p. or pp. for a range of pages.

For web documents, give the DOI (digital object identifier) if provided, or the URL (web address), omitting http://

Additionally, give the date you found this information, using the format: Accessed DD Month Year.


Thomas, Dylan. “Fern Hill.” A Dylan Thomas Treasury: Poems, Stories and Broadcasts. Selected by Walford Davies, J. M. Dent, 1991, pp. 39-41.

Tempest, Kate. “Strange Light.” Kate Tempest. Accessed 15 August 2016.

Back to top