One of the hardest things to do when writing term papers or thesis papers is citing the work of others. There are a million different ways to do so, but for my course of studies, we have to use the MLA style in the 7th edition. 

Citing other people’s work can be so confusing. Where does the page number go? What do I do when there are several authors? How about online sources? But fear not! In this post, I will summarize the basic ideas behind the MLA style for you. Please make sure to check back in with the MLA handbook or your professor if you are unsure how to cite a specific source. 

Quotations and in-text citations

When quoting a source, parentheses have to be added at the end of the quote. They need to include enough information for people to identify the source in your bibliography. It is thus necessary to provide the author’s surname and the page number, e.g. (XYZ 123). Include a short tile of the source when quoting several texts from one author. Keep in-text references as short as possible to avoid confusion. The first time you name an author in your text, use their full name.

On some occasions, you might want to include a citation contained within another source. To cite in-text quotations, include the name of the author and the name of the source, e.g. (ABC in XYZ 123). However, it is always better to find the text the original source is from and quote directly from that text. This way, you can ensure that the quotation is not taken out of context. 

Quotations are always indicated by double quotation marks (“….”) while references within quotes are indicated by single quotation marks (“….’….’….”). If additions, e.g. for syntactic reasons have to be added, indicate these with square brackets (“…. [….] ….”). When omitting text within a quotation, e.g. due to ellipsis, indicate the omitted passage with … and give an explanation in the parentheses. 

When quoting longer passages (i.e. longer than three lines), intend them by approximately 1.2 cm and put them in a single-spaced, free-standing text block. These quotations are not introduced by quotation marks, and they need a clear indication of the reference used. Usually, it is either given before the quote in an introductory phrase or by providing a full parentheses citation after the quote. 

List of Works Cited

At the end of the paper, a list of works cited should be added. In literature, a differentiation between primary and secondary literature is used. 


Author’s surname, first name. “Title of Article.” Name of Journal Volume, Issue (Year): Page numbers. Medium of publication consulted. 


Author’s Surname, First Name. Title. Place of publication: Publisher, Year. Medium of publication consulted. 

Book Sections:

Author’s Surname, First Name. “Title of Article.” Book Title. Ed. Editor’s first name, surname. Place of publication: Publisher, Year. Page numbers. Medium of publication consulted. 

Web Publications:

  1. Name of the author, compiler, director, editor, narrator, performer, or translator of the work Title of the work (italicized if the work is independent; in roman type and quotation marks if the work is part of a larger work) 
  2. Title of the overall Web site (italicized), if distinct from item 2 
  3. Version or edition used 
  4. Publisher or sponsor of the site; if not available, use N.p. 
  5. Date of publication (day, month, and year, as available); if nothing is available, use  n.d. 
  6. Medium of publication (Web) 
  7. Date of access (day, month, and year) 
  8. URL (if the instructor requires it) 


Title. Director. Distributor, Year of release. Medium consulted. (If relevant you may include additional information on the actors, editors, script writers etc. between the title and the distributor.) 


“Title.” Title of program or series. Name of network. Call letters and city of local station (if applicable). Broadcast date. Medium of reception. Supplementary information. 

The easiest way to cite is to do it correctly from the very beginning on. It can be hard to add quotations after you have finished writing your text. Stay focused and by adding your citations right away.

Additionally, you might want to look into different citation software. Citavi (only available for windows) and Zotero are very helpful and offer a variety of different options of styles.

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