Citing a Book in MLA Format

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11887

There are so many types of sources to cite in different ways, someone could write a book about them! Happily, the MLA has! You will learn the rules for properly citing a book in your Works Cited page!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio: Image - Button Play
Image - Lession Started Image - Button Start

Wouldn't you know it! Citing different types of sources require different formats. No problem! Let's start with citing books!

One type of source that you may work with while doing research is books.

If you missed or would like to review the first of the Related Lessons in our MLA Works Cited Page series, found in the right-hand sidebar, now's the time to check it out.

Until the past several decades, books were the primary source of research along with print periodicals, including newspapers, magazines, and journals. Even though much research can be conducted over the Internet, books still play an important part in research, so it is necessary to know how to cite them on the Works Cited page.

  • Can you think of a situation where using a book for research is necessary or the preferred mode for finding information?

old books

The eighth edition of the MLA Handbook was printed in 2016. This newest update to the standards for citing in the MLA format changed the way sources are cited on the Works Cited page.

Therefore, if you've ever encountered MLA citation formatting in the past, you may need to learn the newer, updated citation format. Also, if you search for information on MLA citations on your own, make sure the source is referring to the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook, so you are learning about the correct version of MLA citation formatting

(Note: This lesson was published in 2017, so check to see if a more recent edition is available).

When searching for information on MLA citations, do not use online software that claims to create correct MLA citations, because most are unreliable and are created for older, outdated editions of MLA.

Most auto-formatting software algorithms can't correctly process the nuances in the information needed for citations, and many software programs have basic formatting errors that will show up in the finished citation.

It is easier and faster to learn to create the citation on your own; then you will know it is correctly formatted.

A reputable source for learning about the eighth edition of the MLA format is MLA Formatting and Style Guide from the OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab.

The Purdue OWL, as the website is more commonly known, provides information about both MLA and APA styles of citation and the general writing and research process. You can add this website to your personal bookmarks if you keep them on a web browser so you can have a reliable source of MLA formatting easily available.

The eighth edition of MLA differs from earlier editions because, instead of providing specific formats for every conceivable type of source, it provides a list of steps a person should follow in the citation process.

Some steps are more relevant to certain types of sources than other steps, so it is important to know what type of source you are citing, so you know which steps in the citation process are more applicable to the source you are citing.

The general steps for all citations on the Works Cited page in MLA are:

  1. author
  2. title of source
  3. title of container
  4. other contributors
  5. version
  6. number
  7. publisher
  8. publication date
  9. location

Review the nine steps again.

  • Can you guess which ones are more applicable to citing a book on the Works Cited page?

The information you are most likely to use when citing a book is author, title of the source, other contributors, version, publisher, and publication date — Steps 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 8.

You may also want to write these pieces of information down in the correct order on a notecard so you can use it as a guide to help you when you are collecting information from sources when conducting research. If you take notes on the information in the same order as it will be written in the reference page citation, it makes it easier to create the citation.

To learn how to cite a book using these steps, print the Citing a Book in MLA Format handout found in Downloadable Resources in the right-hand sidebar. When you have finished reading the notes, think about where you are likely to find this information for a book.

  • Did you say the title and copyright pages in a book?

Good! The title page of a book, located at the beginning of a book, often contains the most important information about the text, including the author's name, the title of the book, the editor if there was one, the edition number if there is one, and the publishing house's name.

The year can sometimes be located on the title page, or it can be located on the back of the title page, which is called the copyright page.

The publisher's name might sometimes be on the copyright page instead of the title page. You may have to do some sleuthing when looking for citation information in a book because each publisher has its own conventions about where to place the book's identifying information.

Now that you know more about how to cite a book, move on to the Got It? section to watch citations being created, and practice creating book citations in MLA format.

Image - Button Next