LEARN HOW TO REFERENCE MLA JOURNALS

This page details everything you need to know about how to cite a journal in MLA. It has been compiled by our referencing experts, and the information comes from the most recent version of the MLA Handbook (8th Edition).

WHAT ARE PERIODICALS AND JOURNALS?

“Periodicals” are any kind of publication that comes out at regular intervals, that is, periodically. They are published less frequently than newspapers, which typically come out every day or every week. Periodicals generally appear once a month or once a quarter.

“Journals” are periodicals that are focused on scholarly topics. They are often highly specialised, using technical language and targeting researchers. They are distinguished from “magazines,” which are periodicals with a popular focus.

HOW DO I REFERENCE A JOURNAL ARTICLE?

MLA journal referencing is pretty simple. A reference for an article involves the following information:

  • Author Surname, First Name and/or Initial(s).
  • “Title of Article in Quotation Marks with Important Words Capitalised.”
  • Title of Journal in Italics with Important Words Capitalised,
  • Volume Number, Issue Number,
  • Abbreviated Month or Season (if applicable) and Year of Publication,
  • Page Numbers.
  • For online sources: the Online Database in Italics, followed by a DOI if available or a URL in the form: www.URL…

You should lay these details out in the following format:

Author Surname, Author First Name and/or Initial(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, vol., no., Publication Month or Season and Year, pp. pages. Online Database, DOI or URL (if applicable).

For example: 

Flowerdew, John. “The Linguistic Disadvantage of Scholars Who Write in English as an Additional Language: Myth or Reality.” Language Teaching, vol. 52, no. 2, Apr. 2019, pp. 249-260.

Note that, as this reference is for a work in print, it does not include an online database, nor does it include a DOI or a URL.

Note also that this is only one part of an academic reference. The other part is an in-text reference, which occurs in your essay when you mention the source. For this you should include the author’s surname and a page number in round brackets, like so: (Flowerdew 181). Please see our MLA in-text page for more information on this.

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PRINT AND ONLINE ARTICLES

The only major difference between a reference for an article in print as opposed to one published online is that the online version will list the database or the website where the source is located, as well as a DOI or a URL. Many articles nowadays are published both in print and online, in which case the reference you use will depend on how you accessed the material. For example, the source referred to above is also available to view via the online database, Cambridge Core. As such, the reference for the online version is as follows:

Flowerdew, John. “The Linguistic Disadvantage of Scholars Who Write in English as an Additional Language: Myth or Reality.” Language Teaching, vol. 52, no. 2, Apr. 2019, pp. 249-60. Cambridge Core, doi:10.1017/S0261444819000041.

In deciding between online and print sources, remember that one of the purposes of including references is to help your reader locate the sources you’ve accessed. So, if you know that an electronic copy of your source exists, you may wish to reference the online version.

WHAT ARE DOIS AND URLS? WHEN SHOULD I USE THEM?

DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier. DOIs are considered more stable than URLs because they are permanently attached to a source. This means that, even if the source’s URL changes, it will still be accessible via the same DOI. For this reason, most online articles will include a DOI, which you should reference instead of the URL. Note also that the DOI is typed out, rather than linked as a web address.

WHERE TO FIND INFORMATION ABOUT A SOURCE

All of the information about a source that you need for a reference is generally contained in the source’s header. The following image shows where you can typically locate all of the details for an online source.

Fig. 1. “Where to find information for an online source.” Annotated screenshot taken from Cambridge Core

DIFFERENT KINDS OF ARTICLES

While the above example provides the basic format for referencing a journal article with a single author, there are many different kinds of sources that you may wish to reference. In what follows, we provide examples for some of the main types of sources that you are likely to come across. 

WORKS WITH TWO AUTHORS

If a source has two authors, you should include both of their names in your reference. The first name and surname of the first author are reversed. The names of the second author appear in their normal order, like so:

Bortolotti, Gary R., and Linda Hutcheon. “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and ‘Success’—Biologically.” New Literary History, vol. 38, no. 3, Summer 2007, pp. 443-58.

Note that this periodical lists a season for its time of publication, which is quite common. This replaces the abbreviated month and is placed alongside the publication year.

WORKS WITH THREE OR MORE AUTHORS

If a source has three or more authors, you should include the first author’s names (in reverse), followed by “et al.” (which means “and the rest”).

Ippen, Chandra Ghosh, et al. “Traumatic and Stressful Events in Early Childhood: Can Treatment Help Those at Highest Risk?” Child Abuse and Neglect, vol. 35, no. 7, July 2011, pp. 504-13. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.03.009.

WORKS IN TRANSLATION

Translators play a key role in the interpretation and dissemination of a scholarly text, so you should include them as an additional contributor after the title of the source, like so:

Derrida, Jacques. “What Is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” Translated by Lawrence Venuti. Critical Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 2, Winter 2001, pp. 174-200.

WORKS PRINTED IN SPECIAL ISSUES

Special issues of periodicals are curated by a specific editor around a dedicated theme. They are therefore slightly different from the typical publications that come out at regular intervals. While it is not essential to include information about a special issue, you may wish to highlight it if it is connected to an important theme in your research. If this is the case, you should include the special issue’s title and the phrase “special issue of” before the title of the journal. You might also want include details about the editor, like so:

Weiser, Frans. “Contextualizing History-as-Adaptation: An Interdisciplinary Comparison of Historical Revisionism.” Adaptation and History, special issue of Adaptation, edited by Jeremy Strong, vol. 12, no. 2, Aug. 2019, pp. 105-117. Oxford Academic, doi:10.1093/adaptation/apx009. 

WORKS REPUBLISHED IN BOOKS

If you read an article in a book that was originally published in a periodical, you should include the title and publication details of the book, followed by a note listing where the source was originally published. For example:

Jameson, Fredric. “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.” Signatures of the Visible. Routledge, 1992, pp. 11-46. Originally published in Social Text, no. 1, Winter 1979, pp. 130-48.

WORKS CITED

Bortolotti, Gary R., and Linda Hutcheon. “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and ‘Success’—Biologically.” New Literary History, vol. 38, no. 3, Summer 2007, pp. 443-58.

Derrida, Jacques. “What Is a ‘Relevant’ Translation?” Translated by Lawrence Venuti. Critical Inquiry, vol. 27, no. 2, Winter 2001, pp. 174-200.

Flowerdew, John. “The Linguistic Disadvantage of Scholars Who Write in English as an Additional Language: Myth or Reality.” Language Teaching, vol. 52, no. 2, Apr. 2019, pp. 249-60. Cambridge Core, doi:10.1017/S0261444819000041.

Jameson, Fredric. “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.” Signatures of the Visible. Routledge, 1992, pp. 11-46. Originally published in Social Text, no. 1, Winter 1979, pp. 130-48.

Ippen, Chandra Ghosh, et al. “Traumatic and Stressful Events in Early Childhood: Can Treatment Help Those at Highest Risk?” Child Abuse and Neglect, vol. 35, no. 7, July 2011, pp. 504-13. ScienceDirect, doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2011.03.009.

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Weiser, Frans. “Contextualizing History-as-Adaptation: An Interdisciplinary Comparison of Historical Revisionism.” Adaptation and History, special issue of Adaptation, edited by Jeremy Strong, vol. 12, no. 2, Aug. 2019, pp. 105-17. Oxford Academic, doi:10.1093/adaptation/apx009. 

Tomas Elliott (MA)

Tomas Elliott is completing a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has taught academic writing, research methodologies, and referencing.