Why College Education Is Important To Me Bibliography Template

The MLA Format
Avoiding Plagiarism and Documenting Sources

In this lesson, you will learn...

  • What the MLA Format is and why it is important
  • How to write a citation in the MLA format
  • How to cite sources in your paper

 This lesson consists of 3 parts:

  1. What is the MLA Format?
  2. Essentials of the MLA Format
  3. Citing Your Sources

Lesson Directions

This lesson takes approximately 1 hour to complete. If you need a score summary, you must respond to all 8 Self Check questions in one sitting. Your progress will not be saved if you exit the lesson. Each section of this lesson covers a different concept.

  1. Read each section.
  2. Some terms are in bold green letters. Hover your mouse over words like these for a text popper.
  3. This lesson also includes links to other web sites. Click on one of these links to learn more about a specific concept. The link will open in a new window. When you are ready to return to this lesson, close the window with the outside link.
  4. This online exercise includes 8 activities to help you understand the topic. Complete the activity as many times as you like.
  5. This online exercise also includes 8 Self Check question to test your knowledge. You can retry the question until you get the correct answer. You must get all Self Checks correct to receive credit for completing this exercise.
  6. After completing the lesson, enter your name and print your score summary.

System Requirements

  • Web Browser: Internet Explorer 5.5 or above, Netscape 6.x or above, Mozilla/Firefox, or Apple Safari 1.x or higher
  • Flash Player 8 or higher (free download)
  • Adobe Reader (free download)


What is the MLA Format?

The MLA format is a writing style established by the Modern Language Association that governs:

  • The Paper Format
  • Punctuation and Quotations
  • Documentation of Sources and Works Cited

It is used for research papers in many classes at Richland College, including English, but it is not the only research paper format. Examples of other paper formats include APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago, and Turabian.

You can learn more about the MLA Format in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, available at your library reference desk.

Why Is the MLA Format Important?

The MLA Format is important because it provides a consistent format for writing papers. It also guides us in documenting and citing our sources. You must cite your sources in order to...

  • Lend authority and credibility to your work
  • Allow your readers to cross-reference your sources
  • Acknowledge your academic debts
  • Avoid Plagiarism.

What is Plagiarism?

If you have not done so already, complete Acadia University's online plagiarism tutorial below. When given the chance to select a player, choose Maiko for situations similar to the ones you will encounter at Richland College.

"You Quote It, You Note it."

Activity: Plagiarism

Sort each given statement into the Plagiarism or Not Plagiarism pile.



Essentials of the MLA Format: Paper Format and The First Page

Paper Format

Always follow your instructor's directions!

  • One inch margins on all sides
  • Recomended font is 12-point Times New Roman
  • Double spaced
  • A header on each page in the upper right-hand corner, half (1/2) inch below the top edge that includes:
    • Your last name
    • The page number

Click here to see an example of a paper correctly formatted in the MLA Format


The First Page

  • No title page
  • In the upper left-hand corner provide:
    • Your name
    • Your instructor's name
    • The course
    • The date
  • Center the title of your paper in the next line

Your first page should look like the picture below. Click on the image for a larger view.

Self Check # 1

Test your knowledge by answering the question below.



Essentials of the MLA Format: The Works Cited Page

The Works Cited page lists all the sources you used (or cited) in your paper.

  • Begin "Works Cited" on a new sheet of paper
  • Title it Works Cited in the center of the first line
  • Arrange entries in alphabetical order
  • Begin each entry at the left margin and indent all additional lines of the entry by a half (1/2) inch. This is called Hanging Indentation. Each entry will look something like this:

Berg, Orley. Treasures in the Sand: What Archaeology Tells Us About the

Bible.New York: Pacific, 1993. Print.

Your Work Cited page should look like the picture below. Click on the image for a larger view.


Essentials of the MLA Format: Quotations and Punctuation

Short Quotations

When you use somebody else's words, you are quoting them. Short quotes must be inside quotation marks. For example:

Victor Hugo once said, "He who opens a school door, closes a prison."

Quoted in "Victor."*

Block Quotations

A quotation longer than 4 lines must be put into a block quote.

  • NO quotation marks
  • Start on a new line
  • Indent 1 inch from margin

For example:

W. E. B. DuBois emphasized education as a fundamental civil right :

Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental... The freedom to learn... has been bought by bitter sacrifice. And whatever we may think of the curtailment of other civil rights, we should fight to the last ditch to keep open the right to learn, the right to have examined in our schools not only what we believe, but what we do not believe; not only what our leaders say, but what the leaders of other groups and nations, and the leaders of other centuries have said. We must insist upon this to give our children the fairness of a start which will equip them with such an array of facts and such an attitude toward truth that they can have a real chance to judge what the world is and what its greater minds have thought it might be (230-231).


For a review of correct punctuation, visit Robert Harris' "Punctuation Reminders" at www.virtualsalt.com/punctu8.htm.


*See "Works Cited" for all citations used in this exercise.

Activity: Paper Format

Click on the DragNDrop Activity below to match the MLA guideline with the item it refers to.



Self Check #2


Citing Your Sources 

 Whenever you use somebody else's ideas in your research paper you must cite your sources by:

  1. Listing the complete source citation in your works cited list.
  2. Acknowledging the source in the text of your paper (in-text documentation).

You must cite your sources when...

  • Quoting any words that are not your own.
    Quoting means to repeat another source word for word, using quotation marks "".

  • Summarizing facts and ideas from a source.
    Summarizing means to take the key ideas from another source and shorten them, using your own words. For more about summarizing, visit How to Summarize.

  • Paraphrasing a source.
    Paraphrasing means to put somebody else's ideas into your own words. For more about how to paraphrase a source visit Paraphrase: Write it in Your Words.

  • When using factual information that is not common knowledge.

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge is information that appears in more than 5 sources.

Examples of information that is "common knowledge":

General Custer lost the battle at Little Big Horn.

Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States, was born in 1804 and died in 1869.

If in doubt, cite your source!

Activity: Quotes, Paraphrases, and Common Knowledge


Works Cited Page

At the end of your paper, you must provide a Works Cited page that lists all the sources you cited in your paper. Do not include sources that you did not cite in your paper. The MLA format requires that you provide information about the source so that somebody could find it. You must provide this information in a specific format based on the type and medium of the source.

Format of the Works Cited Page

If you need a reminder of the general MLA format, refer to "Essentials of the MLA Format."

  • Begin "Works Cited" on a new sheet of paper
  • Title it Works Cited in the center of the first line
  • Begin each entry at the left margin and indent all additional lines of the entry by a half (1/2) inch. This is called Hanging Indentation.
  • Arrange entries in alphabetical order
    • If no author is provided for a source, alphabetize the source by its title
    • If you use more than 1 source by the same author, only provide the author's name for the first source. For each additional source, use three dashes (- - -)in place of the author's name. Example:

McKibben, Bill. The End of Nature. New York: Anchor, 1989. Print.- - -.

- - -. "Happiness Is...." The Ecologist Feb. 2007: 32-39. Print.

Do not list sources that you did not use in your paper.

Self Check #3


Anatomy of a Citation

No matter the type or medium of the source, all citations in MLA format share the same basic elements: 

  • Author or editor
  • Title of part
  • Title of whole
  • Publication information (examples include publisher or sponsor, date of publication, and page numbers)
  • Medium: Print, Web, or other specific medium such as radio, television, or DVD.
  • Additional information, if needed (For example, you must provide date of access for web sources.)

Sample Citation 

An electronic book available from a library database:

Reiman, Alan, and Roy Edelfelt. Careers in Education. 4th ed. Chicago: VGM Career, 2004. VGM Professional

Careers Ser. NetLibrary. Web. 31 Oct. 2009.

  • Author or editor: Reiman, Alan, and Roy Edelfelt.
  • Title of part: Not provided.  If a field is not provided, skip it and continue to the next field.
  • Title of whole: Careers in Education
  • Publication information
    • Edition: 4th  
    • Imprint (city of publication: publisher, date): Chicago: VGM Career, 2004.
    • Series: VGM Professional Careers Ser.
    • Title of database: NetLibrary
  • Medium: Web
  • Additional information (date of access): 31 Oct. 2009

How To Cite Books

Information you will need about the book:

  • Author's (or Editors) name: For the first author, list the last name, then first name. List all authors first name first (Ex: Jones, Bob and Sally Smith).
  • Title of the part or selection of the book (in quotes)
  • Title of the book (in italics)
  • Name of the editor, translator, or compiler
  • Edition used
  • Number(s) of volume(s) used
  • Series name, if any is given
  • Imprint: city of publication, name of publisher, and year of publication
  • Title of database or website (for web books only)
  • Page numbers of the selection from the book. Do not give page numbers for reference book entries that arrangend in alphabetical order.
  • Medium: Print or Web
  • Additional information about the source (i.e., total number of volumes in a multi-volume work) and annotation when required

If a source doesn't provide one of these fields, skip it and continue to the next field.

Book Examples:

Article from a Typical Reference Book

Dinwiddie, Gniesha Y. "Education, USA." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. William A.

Darity. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008. Print.


A Typical Book

Friedman, Thomas. The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. New York: Farrar, 2005. Print


A Typical eBook

Reiman, Alan, and Roy Edelfelt. Careers in Education. 4th ed. Chicago: VGM Career, 2004. VGM Professional

Careers Ser. NetLibrary. Web. 31 Oct. 2009.


More Examples

See the Citation Guide for more examples.

Activity: Book Citation

Put citation fields in the correct order.


Self Check #4


How to Cite Periodicals

Periodicals include newspapers, magazines, and journals. Click this link to learn the difference between popular magazines and scholarly journals.

Information you will need about the periodical:

  • Author's name (if given)
  • Title of article in quotes
  • Title of the periodical (in italics)
  • Volume and issue number for journals only (Do not give volume and issue numbers for magazines or newspapers.)
  • Date of publication
  • Edition for newspapers
  • Page numbers of article (and section number for newspapers) Use "n. pag." if no page numbers are given.
  • Title of database or website for online periodicals (in italics)
  • Medium: Print or Web

Periodical Examples:

Typical Newspaper Article

DeShong, Rae. "Troops Sending Their Thanks for Girl Scout Cookie Donations." Dallas Morning News 15 Apr.

2005, Garland ed.: 2R. Print.

Journal Article with 2 Authors

Tebbs, Jeffery and Sarah Turner. "College Education for Low-Income Students." Change 37.4 (2005):

34-43. Print

Magazine Article from a Database

Madison, Gray. "Jobs Decline for Black Men Without a College Education." Crisis Sept.-Oct. 2006: 9.

Academic Search Premier. Web. 30 Mar. 2007


More Examples

See the Citation Guide for more examples.

Database Specific Examples

Click on one of the links below for examples of article citations from specific databases.

  • Our most popular databases: www.rlc.dcccd.edu/library/pdfs/dbcitations.pdf
  • Opposing Viewpoints: www.rlc.dcccd.edu/library/pdfs/oppos.pdf
  • Facts.com: www.rlc.dcccd.edu/library/pdfs/factscomcitations.pdf

Activity: Magazine Citation

Label the fields in the magazine citation below.



Self Check #5


How to Cite Web Pages

Information you will need about the source:

  • Author or editor (if given)
  • Title of article. essay, entry or project accessed  (in quotes)
  • Title of web site, database, periodical, or professional site (underlined)
  • Any additional information required for a comparable type of source
  • Publisher or organization sponsoring the Web site. Use "N.p." for no publisher, if not given.
  • Date of material (if given) or use "n.d." for no date (if not given)
  • Date you accessed the information
  • Only provide the URL (address of Web page) if the website is difficult to find (enclosed in brackets  <        >).

Many times you will have to consult a Web page other than the one you are viewing to identify author, date, and/or page publisher. Examine the home page or page just before the one you are viewing. You will usually not be able to find all of the information listed above.


Typical Web Page

Karper, Erin. "Creating a Thesis Statement." The OWL at Purdue. Purdue University, 28 Sept. 2006. Web.

31 Mar. 2007.

Web Page with No Author

"Alzheimer's Disease." MedlinePlus. U.S National Library of Medicine, 2007. Web. 2 Apr. 2007


No Author and No Date Given

"Cars, Trucks, & Air Pollution." Clean Vehicles. Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d. Web. 3 Aug. 2009.


Web Site Would be Difficult to Find Without URL

Eaves, Morris, Robert Essick, and Joseph Viscomi, eds. The William Blake Archive. Lib. Of Cong., 28 Sep. 2007.

Web. 20 Nov. 2008. <http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/>.


More Examples

See the Citation Guide for more examples.

Activity: Citing Web Pages



Self Check #6 


 Special Situations: More than 1 Author

2 or 3 Authors

Only invert the name of the first author.


Lester, James D., and James D. Lester, Jr.Writing Research Papers: A Complete Guide. 10th ed.

New York: Longman-Addison, 2002. Print.

Benton, Jeremy B.,Andrew N. Christopher, and Mark I. Walter. "Death Anxiety as a Function of

Aging Anxiety." Death Studies 31.4 (2007): 337-50. Print.

4 or More Authors

List only the first author. Add "et al.," Latin for "and others."


Wechsler, Henry, et al. "Trends in College Binge Drinking during a Period of Increased Prevention

Efforts." Journal of American College Health 50.5 (Mar. 2002): 203-18. Print.

Special Situations: Reprints

Reprint sources gather information from other sources and reprint the information as a collection. For example, a book in the Opposing Viewpoints Series may contain information that was originally published as a newspaper article, web page, and a speech transcript. When you cite reprints, you must provide information about the original source and the reprint source. The format depends on if the reprint changed the original title or not.

If the reprint article title has not been changed from the original source, begin with the original and end with the reprint.

If the reprint article title has been changed from the original source, begin with the reprint and end with the original.

Reprint Example 

Reprint Title Has Been Changed from Original

Impararto, Nicholas. "The Information Revolution Will Become More Competitive."The Information

Revolution. Ed. Laura K. Egendorf. Opposing Viewpoints Ser. San Diego: Greenhaven, 2004.

177-80. Rpt. of "Innoation Leadership Undone." N.p., 9 Mar. 1999.

<http://www.intelligententerprise.com>. Print.


Reprint Title Has Not Been Changed from Original

Berger, Gaston. "Existentialism and Literature in Action." The University of Buffalo Studies 18.4 (1948):

157-86. Rpt. in Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. Ed. Laurie DiMauro. Vol. 42. Detroit: Gale.

220-206. Print.

Other Types of Sources

Go to owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/09/ for examples of even more types of sources.

Activity: Special Situations

Match the special situation with its requirment.


Self Check #7


In-Text Documentation

In-text documentation is sometimes called parenthetical documentation because it requires the use of parentheses ( ). For every fact or idea you borrowed from another source, you must provide the author's last name and the page of the source. There are two ways you can do this:

  1. Begin the quote or paraphrase with the author's last name and end the borrowed information with the page number in parentheses. For example:
    According to Gary S. Becker, human capital, "the knowledge, information, ideas, skills, and health of individuals," is the greatest form of capital in the 21st century (3).
  2. Or, provide the author's last name and the page number inside parentheses at the end of the borrowed information. For example:
    Human capital, "the knowledge, information, ideas, skills, and health of individuals," is the greatest form of capital in the 21st century (Becker 3).

No Author

If the source you borrowed information from does not list the author's name, use the first significant word of the title. Use quotation marks and italics as apporopriate. For a review of when to italicize or use quotation marks for a title see www.docstyles.com/mlacrib.htm#Sec32.

For Example: The difference in earnings between the average American with just a high school diploma and the average American with a college degree has increased in the past twenty years, with most college graduates earning at least 23 percent more than those with just a high school diploma ("Rising" 35).

No Page Numbers

If the source does not have numbered pages, you are not required to provide a page number.

Example: Since 1998, our earth has experienced the five hottest years in recorded time, with the hottest year being 2005 (Choo).

However, you may provide the number of the paragraph, if possible. 

Example: The evidence clearly proves that the benefits of a college education to an individual and society prevail over the cost of earning a college degree (Porter par. 11).

More Than 1 Page Used

If the pages are continues, use a dash between the first and last page used.

Example: Maurice Holmes of Xerox Corp feels the only way the U.S. will gain a competitive edge is by utilizing information technology to "learn faster than the rest of the world" (qtd. in Imparato 179-80).

Additional Information

In some cases, you might need to provide additional information within your parenthetical documentation.

Author Has Two or More Works in the "Works Cited"

Place shortened titles within the citation whenever an author has two or more works listed in the "works cited."

Example: Some see climate change as an "opportunity for us to live happier, more fulfilling lives" (McKibben "Happiness" 33).

More than one author of a work.

For 2 or 3 authors, cite all names.

Example: "Since the late 1800's, the global average temperature has increased about 0.7 to 1.4º F" (Mastrandrea and Schneider 232).

For more than three authors, use the abbreviation "et al.", which means "and others."

Example: (Wechsler, et al. 209).

Use a double reference when one source quotes another.

Within the sentence, state the name of the original source. At the end of the sentence, begin the parenthetical documentation with the phrase "qtd. in." Then list your source.

Example: Maurice Holmesof Xerox Corp feels the only way the U.S. will gain a competitive edge is by utilizing information technology to "learn faster than the rest of the world" (qtd. inImparato 179-80).

Activity: In-Text Documentation


 Self Check #8 


Works Cited

Works cited for this lesson are below.


You have completed the online MLA lesson.

“Be sure to cite your sources.” “Give credit where credit is due.” “Don’t plagiarize.” It’s possible all teachers have said these things to students. But what do those directives mean to students who, in all reality, haven’t had to do much citing?  What does it even mean to cite your sources?  The first step in the process is for students to understand the purpose and importance of citations. We found this great resource outlining that information from The Write Direction.

One of the co-authors of this piece, Jessica Steege, is a middle school writing teacher. In her first year of teaching she did her best to explain the importance of citing her work. But somewhere along the way, the message got lost. When a student turned in a research project citing just one source—www.google.com – she felt defeated and wondered where she’d gone wrong.

She realized that teaching citations from a “handbook,” especially one that would quickly become outdated, wasn’t the best way to teach her tech savvy students. So she turned to electronic resources.

The Internet offers an abundance of online citation tools, from the extremely easy to use, to ones that require more research on the part of the user. We’d suggest teaching students about a few tools and let them decide which one to use to help them successfully cite their research.

Image via Flickr by Dan4th Nicholas

8 Tools that Make Citation a Breeze

Check out these 8 tech tools that will make citations and bibliographies manageable for students at any level.

1. EasyBib:

Easybib is great to use with students because the site doesn’t require you to create an account, but if you do, it will store all your projects in one place, and you can add to it over time–if you are using MLA.  Using Chicago or APA style citation requires a paid account. When you enter a book title on the site, many citation options come up and you simply choose one. It’s a very intuitive tool, and there are lots of cues along the way to help you out. EasyBib also offers an app for iOS and Android for citing sources on the go, and although the app is not connected to your account, it makes it easy to email the proper citations to yourself.  This site is best for students who are new to citing sources in MLA format because it’s hard to mess up the entry!

2. BibMe:

Another user-friendly citation tool is BibMe; it works with many source and formatting types. Once again, you type in the title of the source material, and pick the correct one from a list of options. You can copy and paste the generated citations right away, but you can’t save bibliographies unless you pay for a Pro account.  BibMe is great if you are prepared to copy and paste your work into another document while using the site.  The site is best for students who are at least familiar with bibliographies, as they still might require some guidance.

3. Otto Bib

OttoBib creates citations from ISBNs. Users can enter more than one ISBN at a time. It also comes a simple Google Chrome extension.  Although the site is super easy to use, there are a few downfalls. It’s only good for books with clearly visible ISBNs. OttoBib is best for students only using books for their sources.

4. Citation Machine

Parenthetical citations can be tricky. Citation Machine simplifies such citations with just a click of a button. Researchers can type in the name of their source and pick one from a list that matches what they need. The only downside is that you can’t create an account, so you have to copy and paste your citation while using the site. Citation Machine is best for students who have all their sources ready to go– they can put all of the entries in at once and save or print right away.

5. Cite this for Me

Big, colorful buttons makes this site very easy to use. You can “auto cite” if you have the full title of the source, or you can manually add a source. Without signing up for an account, your bibliography will be saved for a week before it disappears. A paid account will also let you check for plagiarism. This site also features a “share with group” button for group projects. A Google Chrome extension is available, if that’s your thing. This site is great for teachers who want to show their students an easy way to cite their work.

6. CiteFast

CiteFast is, indeed, fast. It’s also simple to use. Without leaving the homepage, students can cite works in APA, MLA, and Chicago style. The website walks you through two steps and creates the bibliography in the third step. The fourth step allows you to copy and paste the bibliography or to download it. Students can also create an account to save their bibliographies. Otherwise, documents will be saved for four days. CiteFast is best for students who are first-time bibliography writers.

7. Google Docs Bibliography Templates

On the upside, Google Docs templates are free, and many students are probably already using Google Docs for their writing. However, this method will require more work for you and your students. Some of the templates are charts that students can use to gather the correct information, and others are examples of bibliographies that others have compiled. If you have students find their own template, you might need to check first that they have selected the proper style. The Google Docs templates are best for teachers who want students to really learn the nuts and bolts of compiling a bibliography.

8. NoodleTools

This site offers encyclopedic information on citations, helping students reference video clips, maps, musical scores, and nearly everything else. Some of the features require a subscription, which also comes with iOS and Android apps. But students can create individual citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago style for free and then paste those into their documents. As students fill in each field to create a citation, NoodleTools provides windows with more guidance. NoodleTools is best for students using unconventional sources.

Which is the Best for Your Students?

All students need to know how to properly cite their sources. Each website or tool offers a variety of help and accommodations. Some sites will do most of the work for student while others require a little more understanding of the citation process. It’s important to tell students to cite everything. You may want to consider using one of the plagiarism detection tools that are available to show students how their work can be verified.

The tool that will work best for your students depends on what they’ll be researching and what format fits their research. Whatever the case, citing sources is a lesson students will continue to use in college and beyond.

Editor’s note: This article was originally written by Katie Lepi and ran on November 5th, 2012. We had two of our seasoned writers, Jessica Steege and Sarah Muthler, revise and update this article with all of the latest and greatest tools that have been developed since then.

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