MLA Citation Guide for Internet Sources
You will be required to use MLA style more than once in high school and college, and not doing so properly can result in a lower grade (no matter how silly that seems). While you can probably “get by” without fully understanding the Modern Language Association’s standards and guidelines, being familiar and maybe even comfortable with MLA format will make completing assignments requiring it will seem much less daunting and save you time.
Look, this isn’t the most fun part of being in college, we know. We hope this guide helps, so you can get back to whatever is.
The bibliography is a list of the credible sources you used to support the points you made, typically found at the end of the assignment. The format in which they are listed is very important, and depends on the type of sources.
For example, here is the general format for citing a website:
Editor, author, or creator name (if available). “Title of article/page.” Name of Publisher, Mon. Day Year of resource creation, URL or DOI. Accessed, (Date of access).
Note: You no longer need to state the “medium of publication” if obvious.
Note: Mind your indenting! Each line after the first of your citation gets indented.
The editor/author/creator is pretty straightforward. The format should be “last name, first name” for the first author. If there are other authors you list them as “first name last name”, separating each new full name with a comma. If it is an article from a newspaper or magazine, it will almost always have an author listed on the page. On the other hand, organizational, government or non-profit websites are often the best sources of information available, but these webpages may not have a specific author listed as it is the organization providing the information.
Note: If there is no author listed, you may simply leave that out and provide the rest of the information in the standard format for your citation.
The title of the page should be in quotes. There should be a period at the end of the title within the quotes. Include the full title and follow the capitalization, punctuation, and format of the title on the webpage exactly.
Name of publisher should be in italics followed by the date of creation and URL or DOI, all separated by commas (not periods), as if to say “this publisher created the source, on this date, at this URL or DOI.” The name of the publisher can be the same as the name of the website, but will not always be, and that could cost you points if your teacher looks into the source. If you find a source where the name of the publisher is different than the name or title of the website, can you think of where you might locate the name of the organization that published the content on the website you want to cite?
Here are some examples:
- If the website you want to cite has an about page, you can usually determine what organization is affiliated with the website there if it is unclear on the page of the source. You may want to do this not only to determine the publisher, but also to examine whether or not you can consider the source credible.
- Even if there is no about page, you can usually discover the entity owning the website in the footer of the website, whether it be a private corporation, non-profit, etc. It will usually be found with the “Copyright” or “All rights reserved” text that is almost always found at the bottom of a website.
- As always, you could try searching the web for more information about the website or to clarify who the organization responsible for publishing the content is. If you are finding it is difficult to find more information or conclusively determine the publisher or credibility thereof, you may not want to use the source. As mentioned above, if a web source is truly credible, you should not have a hard time finding this information.
Date of creation, if available, would generally be easy to spot at the top or bottom of the content of the source. Similar to determining the author, the date of creation or publication is not always available.
Note: If there is no publisher or no date, you can use n.p. or n.d., respectively. For example: Writing Lab at Purdue, n.d. You can also state “n.p., n.d.” if there is no publisher and no date.
When it comes to credibility, web sources can be a little bit trickier than scholarly journals or books. If it’s a truly credible source, most of the required information will likely be available, but even in those cases it may not all be on the page you are citing from, so don’t be afraid to do a little digging to get the information necessary to properly cite the source.
There is actually some freedom from the rigid structure of the bibliography with in-text citations. Generally speaking, you need to include the last name of the author or title of the source (if there is no author) and the page number of the source from which you are citing (If there is no page number, you do not have to include anything else). You should reference whatever is at the very beginning of your citation on the bibliography page, which is always going to be either the authors name or the title of the source. If the author is available, you do NOT include the title – only when there is no author available will you include the title.
Note: If there is no author and you are using the title in a parenthetical citation, the title must be in quotes, just like it is in the bibliography citation.
We mentioned some flexibility with in-text citations, and that is because you don’t have to use parenthetical citations. You can also reference the author or title of the source in your statements and then include the page number in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. Here’s what that looks like:
- As stated by Author, information you are citing (page number).
As opposed to…
- There is research to support information you are citing (Author, page number).
With in-text citations, the most important thing is including the necessary information to determine which source from your bibliography you are referencing. This is why we include the first piece of information listed in the bibliography citation. The format for in-text is not as complex as the bibliography citations, but they are still important and could impact your grade if not done correctly. Here are some other things to look out for:
- If you are citing multiple pages from the same source, you can include the author and page in parenthesis after each one (mid-sentence, if necessary) or you can mention the author in your statements and just include the page number in parenthesis.
- If you are using two different sources whose authors have the same last name, include the first initial of the authors first name to distinguish between the two sources (example: (L. Miller) and (A. Miller), as opposed to (Miller) if there is only one author with that last name).
- If a source has less than 3 authors, you should list them all in your in-text citations. If a source has more than that, you can use the first authors name and “et al.” to avoid listing all of the names and make things a little easier to read. Either format should be acceptable.