MLA Referencing – How to Cite a Book
  • 3-minute read
  • 4th August 2016

MLA Referencing – How to Cite a Book

MLA referencing, as developed by the Modern Language Association, is a way of citing sources in academic writing, commonly used within the liberal arts and humanities. Books, on the other hand, are papery things with pages that live in libraries. They’re usually full of words, sometimes with a few pictures.

You probably knew that already, but we thought it was best to clarify.

Now that’s settled, in today’s blog post, we explain how to reference a book with MLA citations, which is an essential skill if your college uses this referencing system.

In-Text Citations

MLA referencing uses parenthetical citations, but the format differs slightly from the “author–date” system you might know if you’ve used APA or Harvard citations before.

The only things you need to give in an MLA citation are the author’s surname and the relevant page number(s) for the passage you’re referencing:

Geographical latitude is a “major determinant” of growing conditions (Diamond 189).

If the author is named in the text, simply give page numbers after the relevant passage:

According to Diamond, latitude is a “major determinant” of growing conditions (189).

When citing two books by the same author, moreover, you’ll need to differentiate between different sources. To do this in MLA, give a shortened title in the citation alongside the other information:

According to Diamond, latitude is a “major determinant” of growing conditions (Guns, Germs & Steel 189). This effects how societies rise and fall (Diamond, Collapse 44-45).

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Note that there’s a comma between the author name and shortened title when both are given in parentheses. You should also italicize book titles in citations, just in the main text.

Reference List/Works Cited

MLA referencing requires all cited sources to be added to a “Works Cited” page at the end of your document. The information to include here for a print book is as follows:

Surname, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Year of Publication.

In the case of the book cited above, Guns, Germs & Steel, this would appear as:

Diamond, Jared. Guns, Germs & Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years. Vintage Books, 1997.

The names here are reversed so that sources can be listed alphabetically by author surname. If a book written by more than one person, you only need to reverse the first author’s names.

When citing multiple books by the same author, order them alphabetically by title, but only give the author’s names for the first entry, using three hyphens and a period for subsequent sources:

Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin, 2006.

– – -. Guns, Germs & Steel: A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years. Vintage Books, 1997.

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