MLA referencing elements
This page describes what to do when there are multiple or missing parts (elements) of an MLA list of works cited or in-text citation:
- Reference within a source (secondary source)
- 2+ authors
- Group author
- Government author
- Online handles
- No author
- Co publisher
- No publisher
- No year of publication
- Year of publication before 1900
- City of publication
- No page numbers
- DOI, URLs and permalinks
New to referencing? See the introduction to referencing.
Reference within a source (secondary source)
Many academic books and journal articles quote earlier books or articles on the same topic. If you cannot access the original source (it is out of print, or unavailable through the library), you can cite the secondary source instead. See secondary sources for the correct method to cite this.
When there are 2 authors, they are listed in the order they appear on the source's title page, and "and" is put before the final author's name. In-text citations look like this:
… in the play itself (Wallis and Shepherd 192).
As Wallis and Shepherd have noted (192), …
In the list of works cited, the second author is listed with the personal name (first name) before the surname (family name):
Wallis, Mick, and Simon Shepherd. Studying Plays. 2nd ed., Hodder Arnold, 2002.
If there are 3+ authors, all names beyond the first can optionally be replaced with "et al." in both the in-text citation and the list of works cited.
Sometimes a source may be written by a group or organisation. This is often true for collaborative or official works from corporations, organisations, and government departments.
In this case, use the group in the author position, both in the in-text citation and in the list of works cited. Initial articles (a, an, the) are omitted from author details:
…to support (Modern Language Association par. 2).
Modern Language Association. "Advice to Graduate Students: From Application to Career." Modern Language Association, 2012, www.mla.org/About-Us/Governance/Committees/Committee-Listings/Professional-Issues/Committee-on-Academic-Freedom-and-Professional-Rights-and-Responsibilities/Advice-to-Graduate-Students-From-Application-to-Career
When a non government entity is both author and publisher, you may omit the author element and begin with the title, listing only the publisher:
Report on the Consequences of Rapid Urbanisation in SubSaharan Africa. United Nations, 2021.
Generally, government publications can be cited as the author as it appears in the source:
Ministry of Health. Ministry of Health Annual Report of the Year Ended 30 June 2021. https://www.health.govt.nz/publication/ministry-health-annual-report-year-ended-30-june-2021.
If the author of the work is unclear, you can cite as author the government agency that issued the work, arranged from largest entity to smallest. You should begin with the name of the government, then the specific agency, department, or website.
New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa. "Find Funding." Creative NZ, http://www.creativenz.govt.nz/find-funding. Accessed 28 June 2011
United States, Congress, House. Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2016. Congress.gov, www.congress/gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bills/6394/text.
EndNote fields: If you are using Endnote, insert a comma at the end of group/corporate authors in the Endnote library to ensure it is displayed correctly.
For information on and help with Endnote see:
It is recommended to include online handles in square brackets after an author’s name:
Massey University Centre for Student Success [@MasseyuniCLS]. "How to create and view your turnitin report." Twitter, 8 Aug. 2018,https://twitter.com/MasseyUniCTL/status/1027030943163330560.
Any work (book, article, or website) that does not identify an author, corporate author, or government author is cited according to the title of the work:
The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki. Translated by Jesse L. Byock, Penguin, 1998.
"Tobacco Firms Targeting Weight-Conscious Girls." New Zealand Herald, 22 Oct. 2008, p. A10.
The source's title is used in place of the author. Write the source's title in full the first time you cite the source. You can shorten the title in subsequent citations.
If the title is in quotation marks in the list of works cited (i.e., it is part of container such as a chapter or article), it should also be in quotation marks in the in-text citation. If the title is italicised in the list of works cited, it should also be italicised in-text:
First citation: (The Saga of King Hrolf Karki 22)
Subsequent citations: According to Saga (22)…..
First citation: According to "Tobacco Firms Targeting Weight-Conscious Girls" (A10)….
Subsequent citations: …with respect to the change ("Tobacco Firms A10").
The publisher's name should not include legal or superfluous terms such as “inc.”, “co.”, “ltd.”, “press”, and “publishers”.
“University” is always shortened to “U”, and “University Press” is always shortened to “UP”:
If two independent publishers are given in a source and they seem equally responsible, cite both, separated with a forward slash:
Oxford UP/Random House.
Note: Do not include an imprint (a division with its own brand name of an existing publisher).
Massey Library's catalogue lists publisher names for each book in its collection.
You do not need to list a publisher for books published before 1900. See year of publication before 1900 for details.
No year of publication
Massey Library's catalogue lists publisher names for each book in its collection.
If no year of publication is indicated in the source, then you can either omit this detail or, if you can find the publication from another reliable source (such as the catalogue) then you can give the date in square brackets. Square brackets indicate the information does not come from the source.
If a publication date that you supply is only approximated, put it after "circa" (which means around):
If you are uncertain about the accuracy of the information, then add a question mark:
Year of publication before 1900
Because publisher details can be difficult to locate for books published before 1900, the publisher name does not need to be included in the list of works cited. If you can, include the city of original publication along with the publication date:
Darwin, Erasmus. The Botanic Garden. London, 1791.
City of publication
Generally, the city of publication is an unnecessary detail and does not need to be given. There are, however, exceptions. You may include the city of publication if a book is published before 1900. You can give the city of publication in the place of the publisher's name, although if both details are known, then you can give both.
Also, give the city of publication if the publisher has offices in more than one place and there is likely to be a difference between books published in these places (e.g. American and British spelling and vocabulary). You give the city with a comma, before the publisher's name.
No page numbers
Some sources, particularly web pages, do not have page numbers indicated. In these cases, no page number is included in the in-text citation. You can, optionally, include a paragraph number in the in-text citation if the location is fixed and the same across all versions of the source (e.g. in an e-book):
(Bartleby par. 4)
If a source does not have page numbers, simply omit this detail.
A DOI is preferable to both a permalink and URL and a permalink is preferable to a URL. This is because DOI and permalinks are more stable than a URL.
If the DOI is not preceeded by http:// or https://, then add https:// to your DOI. This will allow others to use a browser window to locate the source.
Avoid URL shortening services such as bit.ly. If your URL is longer than three lines, or is longer than the rest of the entry, then truncate it, retaining the host (the first part of the URL that gives the website or publisher). Generally, truncate to the second forward slash.
References and further reading
MLA Handbook. 9th ed. Modern Language Association, 2016. [Massey Library link]
The MLA Style Centre. Modern Language Association, 2018, https://style.mla.org/.
These pages are provided as a guide to proper referencing. Your course, department, school, or institute may prescribe specific conventions, and their recommendations supersede these instructions. If you have questions not covered here, check in the style guide listed above, ask your course coordinator, or ask at Academic Q+A.