The following is a guide designed to introduce you to MLA (Modern Language Association) style. All of your assignments for this class, as well as some of your other courses at Concordia, should be submitted in MLA format.


What is MLA style?

MLA (Modern Language Association) style is a set of rules for formatting papers and essays, most commonly used to cite sources when writing about the humanities, especially language and literature.

You may be familiar with MLA style from high school or other undergraduate English and Writing courses. Also, you may have been exposed to APA (American Psychological Association) style in some of your other courses, which is typically used in the social sciences and related disciplines. While both MLA and APA are used in academic papers for the same reasons - to cite and quote outside sources - the rules for these two styles are quite unique and different.


Citations & reference lists

Citations are notations in the text which document the sources of quotations, paraphrases, summaries, and the like. A reference list is an alphabetical list of the sources cited in your paper. Sources can include books, periodicals, electronic sources, and websites, just to name a few.


Citations in the text of your paper

MLA style requires that you always cite the author and page number of a reference in the text of your paper. One or both of these elements may be in parentheses, depending on sentence structure. If you are more familiar with APA style, note that in MLA style, the publication year is not required for in-text citations.

No additional information is needed for in-text references; full citations will follow in the reference list at the end of your paper. Here are a few examples of how to credit and rephrase the same idea using in-text citations:

  • Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).
  • Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).
  • Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

For more examples and information about in-text citations, please refer to the Purdue Online Writing Lab's

APA In-Text Citations


Reference lists at the end of papers

The heading on the page of sources should always be References, and it should always be included on a separate page at the end of your papers. References should be in a hanging indent format, meaning that the first line of each reference is set flush (far) left and the following lines are indented (see below for examples).

Double-space the entire list of references. Alphabetize the list by the author’s last name (use the first author listed if a work is attributed to multiple authors). If there is no author given, start with the first significant word in the title. When writing out the titles of your references, capitalize only the first word of the title and subtitle, as well as proper nouns. Here are a few examples:

Beck, C. A. J., & Sales, B. D. (2001). Family mediation: Facts, myths, and future prospects. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Gibbs, J. T., & Huang, L. N. (Eds.). (1991). Children of color: Psychological interventions with minority youth. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Massaro, D. (1992). Broadening the domain of the fuzzy logical model of perception. In H.L. Pick Jr., P. van den Broek, & D. C. Knill (Eds.), Cognition: Conceptual and methodological issues (pp.51-84). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

For more examples and information about reference lists, refer to the documents linked below:

Examples of APA Style, 6th Edition

Citations for Print and Online Sources


Printing & page formatting guidelines

APA style also requires the following page formatting guidelines:

  • Margins should be one inch wide at the top, bottom, and both sides of the paper. Pages should always be left-justified.
  • Double-space the entire text, including headings and quotations AND the reference list.
  • Headings should be centered on the page. Subheadings should be italicized and kept at the left margin.
  • A short title and page number should appear in the upper right corner of each page.

To see an example of an entire paper (including a title page) that is formatted in APA style, click the link below:

Sample Paper in APA Format


Citation makers

There is a wide range of tools available to help you generate citations quickly, easily, and (mostly) accurately. Online citation makers provide forms where you can fill in information about your sources and have APA-formatted citations prepared for you automatically. Here are some links to online citation makers:


Citation Machine

You can also use Microsoft Word 2007 to help you create citations. Click here for a step-by-step guide.

Word 2007 Citation Tools

Other web sources for help with APA style

If you're still feeling confused about APA style, don't worry! Check out some of the following links for more information.

Academic Writing - APA Resources (from the Concordia Library)

APA Formatting and Style Guide (from the Purdue Online Writing Lab)

APA 6th Ed. Citation Tutorial

Introduction to literature reviews

As described above, literature reviews are evaluative surveys of scholarly articles and other sources that focus on a particular issue or area of research which should also be formatted in APA style. The purpose of a literature review is to provide an overview of important sources and information published about a specific topic. Most writers of scholarly articles include an introductory literature review to provide a broader context for their original research.

Literature reviews should be made up of the following components:

  • A subject-level overview of the issue you are researching/writing about
  • Objectives of your literature review (i.e., why you are writing - to provide context for research, etc.)
  • Grouping/categorization of the works you are reviewing (i.e., those taking one side of an argument/position or another)
  • Comparison and contrast, or a breakdown of differences and similarities, of works being reviewed
  • An evaluation of the quality of each source reviewed - which works are most valid, important, or crucial to this research?

As you are writing a literature review, you should evaluate the authors of the works you are assessing as well. Consider the following:

  • Credentials - who are the authors? What other studies and research have they participated in? Are their claims supported by evidence? What kind of evidence?
  • Objectivity - are there any obvious biases in the writing? Are contradictory viewpoints included/considered or ignored?
  • Persuasiveness - is the writing persuasive and convincing? Is it good writing?
  • Value - does the work significantly contribute to understanding a subject?

For more information on literature reviews, visit the following links:

The Literature Review - Deakin University

This link explains the purposes of a literature review in further detail and provides some useful links about research writing, critical analysis of scholarly resources, and managing references.

Breakdown of Literature Reviews - University of Wisconsin

This link provides helpful structural information on what should be included in the introduction, body, and conclusion of a literature review.

Literature Reviews - UNC at Chapel Hill

This site includes some tips about organizing and composing literature reviews, as well as important guidelines to keep in mind as you are evaluating and writing about your sources.

Click here to view a sample literature review in APA style.


This is by no means an exhaustive explanation of APA style or a complete collection of resources - these are just some tips and ideas to get you started.

Do some searching on your own if you need further help, and remember that the best way to master and fully understand these rules and guidelines is to practice them. Good luck!