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MLA 9th Edition Style Guide: Full Citation Basics


MLA 9 Citations revolve around three key concepts:

  • Containers
  • Core Elements
  • Supplemental Elements


A container is what holds the source, and it can be a journal, a book, a database, a website, etc.

Some sources may have more than 1 container. For instance, imagine an article that was originally published in a journal. The journal is the first container. It was then reprinted in a book. The book is the second container. The contents of the book were then placed in a database. The database is the third container.

Information about each container appears in the citation.

Core Elements

When citing a source, look for the core elements, and use the ones that are relevant to your source. 

Any of the core elements, except for Title of Source, may be skipped if not present.

  1. Author.
  2. Title of Source.
  3. Title of Container,
  4. Contributor,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication Date,
  9. Location.

Elements 3 - 9 should be repeated for multiple containers. (MLA 5.1)

Supplemental Elements

Supplemental Elements can appear in three possible places:

  1. Between the title of the source and the title of the container
  2. At the end of the entry after location.
  3. Occasionally, between containers if the information is relevant only to one container.

As the name implies, this is additional information that may be useful to your reader.

Between the title of the source and the title of the container is sometimes used for editors and translators of a particular work when they have not edited or translated the container.

End of the entry is the most frequently used point for supplemental elements. Some examples are:

  • Date of access. This is actually required for online works that do not have a publication date. Simply add the word Accessed and the date, e.g. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.
  • Medium of publication when it is otherwise ambiguous, e.g. Lecture.
  • Book series
  • Total # of volumes in a series
  • Vol. # and title of series when the individual volume has a separate title

(MLA 5.105 - 5.118)

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