MLA Documentation Using Microsoft Word

by Gary Enns, Cerro Coso Community College




When you quote or paraphrase a source in your writing, you must give your source credit. For this purpose, MLA (  has created a documentation format based on common sense. This lecture will guide your through the steps of MLA documentation using the popular word processing program MS Word. This lecture is not all-inclusive. For a full understanding of MLA source documentation, see your textbook chapter on the subject.


What source info. do I need to know?


In order to document a source effectively, you need to know as much of the following information as is available:

  1. The full name of the author of your source if given.

  2. The title of the specific piece you are quoting. Your source may be an essay in an anthology, an article in a newspaper, a page on a website, a poem, a novel, etc.

  3. The title of the source in which you found the piece. This may be a book or anthology, newspaper, web site, journal, magazine, encyclopedia, etc.

  4. Volume or issue numbers if given.

  5. The full web address.

  6. The date of publication.

  7. The city of publication.

  8. The name of the publishing house.

  9. Page numbers you are using.

The easiest way to keep track of this information is to keep what is known as a working bibliography. To keep a working bibliography, simply write down the information above for each source you might use as you come across it.


How do I site sources in the body of my text?


If your source lists an author: In the body of your paper, directly after you quote a source, provide your readers with the last name of the author of the source and the page number/s in which you found the material in a parenthetical citation. If your readers wish to look up the information for themselves, all they have to do is flip to your Works Cited page and find the source listed by the author's last name.

According to many historians, the credit for Ancient Rome's incredible success "goes chiefly to Augustus--man of the year" (Casson 7).

If the author's name is clear in your sentence: If you make clear in your own sentence the name of the author, then you should omit the last name in your parenthetical citation.

According to Lionel Casson, the credit for Ancient Rome's incredible success "goes chiefly to Augustus--man of the year" (7).

If your source does not list an author: Use the title of the piece instead:

According to many historians, the credit for Ancient Rome's incredible success "goes chiefly to Augustus--man of the year" ("In the Year One" 7).

If your source is an Internet Site: Internet or online database materials have no stable page numbers. Simply refer to the author's name or the title of the piece if no author is given:

According to many historians, the credit for Ancient Rome's incredible success "goes chiefly to Augustus--man of the year" (Casson).

How do I create my Works Cited page?


A Works Cited list is a list of all of the sources you have either quoted or paraphrased in your essay. This is not a list of all of the works you have consulted throughout the course of your research. (If you wish to cite works consulted but not quoted, then you need to create an additional page called Works Consulted.)


Formatting Each Citation: Each kind of source has its own way of being cited on a Works Cited page. See the MLA section of your textbook for specifics on each kind of source.


Ordering citations: The citations on a Works Cited page are listed alphabetically by the authors' last names. If an author's name is unknown, then the citation is listed by the title of the piece.


How the page looks:

(Image from the Capital Community College Library)

Creating hanging indents using Microsoft Word: To indent your citations properly, follow these directions.

  1. First, write out all of your citations without any indentation at all.

  2. Then, select all of your citations by dragging your cursor over them while holding down the right button of your mouse. This should black out the text.

  3. Pull down the "format" menu and click on "paragraph."

  4. Under "indentation" you will see a "special" window; select "hanging" in this window.

  5. Click "OK" to activate the change and close.

Page Break: You should also create a page break for your Works Cited page to avoid formatting problems. After you create a page break, your Works Cited page will always be treated as a separate page within your document. To do this in Microsoft Word:

  1. First, close up any spaces between the final sentence of your essay and your Works Cited.

  2. Then, place your cursor a the left of your Works Cited title.

  3. Pull down the "insert" menu.

  4. Select "break."

  5. In the "break" window, make sure "page break" is selected

  6. Click "OK" to activate the change and close.

To Wrap Up


Correct formatting and documenting is a minimum requirement of any research writing assignment. You owe it to your sources to document them correctly. Read the appropriate chapter on source documentation in your textbook, and send your instructor an early draft of your essay so that she or he can comment on your format and documentation style. Get this right for your final draft to add professionalism to your presentation.