Skip to main content

Thesis & Research Papers: MLA 8th Edition

Help for Junior Students doing English III Thesis (including Honors III) : Research, Citation, Plagiarism, Writing, Forming Arguments, Etc.

Element 1: Author

AUTHOR - Element 1

The main person or group responsible for the creation of your source. If unknown, leave blank.

For some media types, this field is used for the person whose contribution to the source is most relevant to your research.

Format: 

  1. One Author: Lastname, Firstname. 
    • ex.   Knowles, Beyoncé.
  2. Two Authors:  Lastname, Firstname, and Firstname Lastname.
    • ex. Feist, Leslie, and Emily Haines.
  3. Three+ Authors: Lastname,Firstname [of first listed author], et. al.
    • ex. Spearin, Charles, et al.

Punctuation:  ends with a period.

Element 2: Title of Source

Title of Source - Element 2

The full, exact, title of your specific source, except it uses standardized capitalization for titles  (first word and all main words are capitalized).  If there is no title given, you provide a description of what the source is.

Format:

  1. Put the title in quotation marks when the source is a part of something else: an article in a periodical, a chapter in a book, a poem or short story in an anthology, a web page on a web site, an episode of a television show,  etc. 
    • ex. "Very Like a Whale."  (a poem)
  2. Use Italics when the work is self-contained, like a novel, or entire book, or movie.
    • La Casa en Mango Street.   (a novel)
  3. Use regular text when providing a description for a source with no title.
    • Letter from my grandfather.

Punctuation:  ends in a period

 

Element 3: Title of Container

Title of Container - Element 3

A "Container" is a larger work that your source is part of, or the particular "Thing" that your source is "in". 

For example the poem "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Sheley could have been found in an 1818 issue of The Examiner magazine, online at Bartleby.com, or in a copy of The Norton Anthology book.  Same "Source" (the poem) but different "Containers".

Container is important, because it tells your audience where you encountered the source which helps them follow your footsteps.

Examples of things that are commonly containers:

  • Books, Anthologies
  • Websites
  • Periodicals (Newspapers, Magazines, Academic Journals)
  • Library Databases

IMPORTANT NOTE:   A Source can be in a container, which is itself in a container.  See the notes on "multiple containers" in this guide.

Format: Container level works are nearly always in Italics.

Punctuation: Unless it is a self-contained source, the container is followed by a comma ",".

Element 4: Other Contributors

Other Contributors - Element 4

These are other people who made a significant (to your research) contribution to the container your source is in, or the source. People like an editor, translator, director, performer, illustrator, etc.  

Format:  [thing done (lowercase, no abbreviations)] by [Firstname Lastname],   

  • edited by Bob Deleter,
  • illustrated by Rebecca Guay,
  • directed by Patty Jenkins,

Punctuation: all "Other Contributors" are separated by a comma.

Element 5: Version

Version - Element 5

Version is used to describe the specific version or edition of your container. This could be a numbered edition (like the 8th ed. of the MLA Handbook) or a descriptive version (like the director's cut of a movie),  The Bible is a good example of a source with a variety of different versions.  Not every container has a "Version" identified.

Format: examples

  • 7th ed.  ("ed." is the accepted abbreviation for "edition)
  • version 1.2.1
  • extended edition,
  • Authorized King James Version

Punctuation: comma.

Element 6: Number

Number - Element 6

If your Container is something that comes in parts or pieces, use this field to identify the specific part, like  the number in a series, or the volume number of an encyclopedia, or an episode in a season, or so on, or the issue number of a comic book series, or the volume number of an academic journal.

Format: Examples...

  • an Academic Journal:   vol. 5, no. 9,    ("vol."  and "no." are the accepted abbreviations for "volume" and "number")
  • TV Series  :   season 2, episode 8,

Punctuation: commas,

Element 7: Publisher

Publisher - Element 7

The Publisher is the group or organization that produced, or otherwise made available, the container or source you are using. For books, the title page is usually the best place to look.

Important Abbreviations and exclusions:

  • U   for the word "University"
  • P   for the word "Press" if it is an academic Institution.
  • do not include  these words or abreviations
    • "Company" (Co.)
    • "Corporation" (Corp.)
    • "Limited" (Ltd.)
    • "Incorporate" (Inc.)

You can skip it IF it doesn't exist, or:

  • it's a Web site where the title would be basically the same as the publisher.
  • it's a Web site that isn't involved in producing the content (ex. YouTube, WordPress, most Databases).
  • self-published works  (published by the Author or Editor)
  • Periodicals (magazine, scholarly journal, newspaper)

Format/examples:   

  • Oxford UP,    (single publisher is "Oxford University Press")
  • U of Minnesota / Shambhala Press,  (two equally responsible publishers,  "University of Minnesota" and "Shambhalla Press")
  • Twentieth Century Fox  (a film studio)

Punctuation: ends in a comma

NOTE: Publisher can be hard to determine because of things like "Divisions" and "Imprints" etc.  See pages 108-109 of the MLA Handbook for more information.    In general:  cite the "Division" over the Parent Company;  cite the "Publisher" over the "Imprint".

Element 8: Publication Date

Publication Date -  Element 8

The date the container of your source was published, NOT the date your source was published (or aired, or occurred).  If there are multiple dates pick the one most relevant to your research. 

Format:  1-2 digit Day   Abbreviated Month  4-digit Year    [ ## Mon. ####] -- include only what is presented

  • 1979,
  • Oct. 1990,
  • 15 Apr. 1985,

Punctuation: comma  (unless it's the last element, then a period)

Element 9: Location (in container)

Location - Element 9

This is the specific location of your source within the container you are citing. It is NOT where you would note material type, this is NOT location of the publisher.   Locations could include:  page numbers, URLs (webpage addresses), disc number, theater or museum name, DOI numbers.

Format: depends on the medium of the container.

  • Webpage URL: everything AFTER the "http://"  
    • libguides.centralcatholichigh.org/thesis/mla8.
  • Page in a print source:  "p." is the abbreviation for "page",  "pp." is the abbreviation for "pages"
    • p.79.
    • pp.3-37.

Punctuation:  always ends in a Period.

Note for sources found in databases:

The "Location" field for online sources is usually a URL.  For items for which a Subscription Database is one of the containers, the URL can often be long and messy, which makes them hard to read, and they can also change, which makes them an unreliable way to get back to a source. 

Look on the page of your source for a "Bookmark " link (Gale) or "Permalink" (EBSCO), which is a shorter, stable, version of the link. Use that whenever possible as your "Location". For databases, avoid Copy-and-Pasting URLs from your browser's URL bar.

See the "Special Note for Citing Gale Databases" box for a special note on citing sources found in Gale Databases.

(Element 10: Optional Elements)

Optional Elements

These elements are only used in certain circumstances. For the most part they appear after the period the closes your main citation. They are considered "Optional" because they do not apply to every kind of source, or are not always needed, even if known and available.

  • Date of Access is used for websites,  as they can change over time, to note when the paper's Author last viewed the information in that source.
    • format:   Accessed 15 Jan. 2017.  (at very end of citation)
  • Date of Original Publication used when the original publication date of the source is also relevant  (remembering that element 8  "Date of Publication" is for the container of the source)
    • ‚Äčformat:   15 Jan. 1965. (after the Title of Source).
  • Unexpected or Unconventional Format is used when it's not a normal (i.e. book, web page, article, periodical, etc).
    • ex:  Cereal Box.  Billboard.  Lecture.  Transcript.  etc.  
  • City of Publication is only listed if it is relevant to your use of the source  (like  you have the British Harry Potter).
    • format:   City Name, placed before element 7 "Publisher"
  • Government Document information is used for bills, documents, or reports from the U.S. Congress, and includes the Session Number of the Congress, Document Type, and Document number.
    • ex.   115th Congress,  2nd Session, H.R. 1.    (the "Tax Cut and Job Act of 2107")
  • Information about Prior Publication is primarily used with reprinted material* like an article from a periodical or chapter from a book that you encountered as a reprint in an anthology or other collection.  In that case, your citation would look something like this:
    • Author. "Title of Source (chapter/article)". Container you found it in, [citation information about that container]. Originally Published in Original Container, [citation information about the original container].
    • NOTE: This is not the same structure as finding an article or journal in a Database (though it is possible to have a Reprinted article in a source that is in a database... that's some next-level citation.
    • NOTE:  this is a flip-flop from the old way of doing it.
    • *This situation happens most frequently in the Literature Criticism paper.

Multiple "Containers"

A "Source" can be nested in more than one container.  In cases like this, simply create a citation [elements 3-9, where applicable] for the additional container after the first.

Examples of multiple containers:

an article ("Source") from a scholarly journal (Container 1) that is stored in a library database (Container 2).

a book chapter ("Source") from a book (Container 1) available on a Web site (Container 2).

 

Helpful Hints

Things you don't need to do anymore:
  • Describe the material type unless it is very out of the ordinary.
  • List the City of Publication unless it is really important
  • Put angle-brackets "< >" around URLS.
  • Use punctuation other than periods and commas to separate elements of the citation.
Other Hints:

"Commas are for Containers":  Commas are used to separate elements within a "container". Other elements end in a Period.

When your "Title of Source" is the exact same as "Title of Container", you can omit the "Title of Container".  The "Title of Source" ends in a Period.

For More Information...

Special Note for GALE Databases

SPECIAL NOTE on citing GALE Databases.

Even though it is not, strictly speaking a "DOI", the English Department will accept a "GALE Document Number" in place of a URL in the "Location Field."  You will have to change this manually as you are checking their citations if you copy theirs.

Use this format: "Gale Document Number: GALE|A461155607."

The Document Number can be found on the Article in the database.

It is also buried in the URL:

http://ic.galegroup.com/ic/ovic/NewsDetailsPage/NewsDetailsWindowdisableHighlighting=true&displayGroupName=News&currPage=&scanId=&query=&prodId=OVIC&search_within_results=&p=OVIC%3AGIC&mode=view&catId=&limiter=&displayquery=&displayGroups=&contentModules=&action=e&sortBy=&documentId=GALE%7CA461155607&windowstate=normal&activityType=&failOverType=&commentary=true&source=Bookmark&u=centcath&jsid=8d60bfeee4f5e4255d0cca85197ae91a

Where GALE|A461155607 is the "Gale Document Number".  (The "%7C"  just means the "|" character).

To use the document number to re-find a document. Go to the Database, use "Advanced Search" and select "Document ID".