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MLA Format

What is MLA Format?

MLA format is...
  • A citation format for citing sources in your papers
  • A style guide for formatting text, headings, title page, etc.
  • Published by the Modern Language Association (
  • Preferred (along with APA) by Lesley College
  • Used primarily by students and scholars of the humanities
  • Outlined in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th edition).

The current, 8th edition of the MLA Handbook contains a number of changes, many of which streamline the process of citing sources.  Please make sure that your handbook is up to date!

What is exactly is different about the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook?

Copies of the 8th edition are available at Sherrill and Moriarty desk.  As always, if you have questions, please Ask a Librarian!

Helpful MLA Links

Visit these links (to non-Lesley web sites) for handy and easy-to-access MLA guidelines.

MLA Style for Your Smart Phone

This handy web site is a great place to get oriented to the basics of MLA, and look up sample citations.

Why Do I Have to Cite?!

There is more than one way to cite your sources, and your choice of citation style will probably depend on several factors.  If you are submitting a paper for a class, your instructor is likely to ask you to use a particular style—usually the one that is standard for academic work in the field you are studying.  As noted above, the humanities department at Lesley requires students to use MLA format.  If you are taking a class in literature or another discipline in the humanities, you will want to become comfortable with MLA style!

When you cite your sources, you give credit where credit is due, to the authors whose ideas helped you shape your own.  You also enable your reader to track down and verify your sources, and show your knowledge of the scholarly literature on your topic.  You place your ideas in context with the ideas of other writers, thereby entering into a scholarly conversation. You also develop and display your personal and academic integrity, and you avoid the serious consequences that come of plagiarism.

When you use a citation style consistently and accurately—whether it is MLA, APA, Chicago, or something else—you make it easy for your reader to understand the type of source you are documenting—is it a book, a journal article, a film, a web site, a poem?—and to find the information they'll need if they want to track the source down themselves.  Learning the basics of MLA will also make it easier for you to know what you are seeing when you find a citation and want to track down the source—is it a book? A print journal article? A web-based source? You'll be able to easily recognize the publication format if you understand the basics of MLA style.

Check out the resources on this Libguide for help in learning the basics of MLA, and to find answers to your questions about how to format your citations.  And if you have any questions, just ask!

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