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Read a Citation

How to read citations in APA, MLA, and other formats.

How to Read an MLA Citation

This page will help you identify elements to distinguish one kind of MLA style citation from another. For example, what is the difference between a book and a journal citation?

MLA Style (8th Edition)

The citations below are in the MLA style (8th edition) and show the elements you should look out for including authors, editors, publication information, etc. These elements will be present in some form in most common citation styles.

MLA Journal Articles

The animation above shows an article cited in the MLA 8 format (view non-animated version). 

To distinguish an article from other kinds of sources, look for:

  • A journal-title in addition to an article title
  • Numbers for volume and/or issue, and sometimes issue dates or seasons (e.g. Winter 2017).
  • Page numbers
  • No place of publication or publisher name is listed

Citations for articles accessed online often list the article's stable URL at the end of the citation:

MLA Books

The animation above shows a book cited in the MLA 8 format (view non-animated version). 

To distinguish a book from other kinds of sources, look for:

  • Place of publication (e.g. Boston, MA)
  • Publisher name (e.g. Springer)
  • No dates, other than a year, are usually included

MLA Book Chapters

MLA Book Chapters

The animation above shows a single chapter from a book cited in the MLA 8 format (view non-animated version). 

To distinguish a book chapter from other kinds of sources, look for:

  • Chapter/essay title and book title
  • Author and editor name(s)
  • Page numbers for the chapter
  • Publisher name and place of publication

Other MLA Sources


Samenow, Jason, and Andrew Freedman. "Greenland ice sheet is in the throes of one of its greatest melting events ever recorded." Washington Post, 31 July 2019, n.p.

Look for:

  • Date for a specific day
  • Newspaper title in addition to article title
  • Page numbers that reflect newspaper sections (often a number and letter, e.g. 1A)

Government documents

United States, Congress. Public Law 115-16: Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act. Public and Private Laws, vol. 131, Feb. 2017, p. 11-12. U.S. Government Publishing Office,

Look for:

  • Governments and government agencies listed as authors (e.g. U.S. Congress)
  • Publishers that begin with federal or state names (e.g. U.S..., or Commonwealth of Massachusetts...)
  • Publication identifiers that don't necessarily follow volume/issue format (e.g. 19-MH-8066)


Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare Online, 29 Dec. 2011, Accessed 6 Aug. 2019.

Look for:

  • Full URL in the citation
  • An article and/or website title
  • Websites may often lack author names or specific publication dates
  • Tip: Go to the URL listed to confirm the kind of source. URLs may also be listed for journal articles retrieved from online databases, for example.

Create an MLA Citation

About this MLA Guide

This guide has been adapted for MSMU by Amy Sonnichsen from citation guides at Simmons University Libraries and UC Berkeley Library.

The content in this guide is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.