Learn and Generate Bibliographies, Citations, and Works Cited

Citing Scholarly Journal Articles in MLA Works Cited

Using scholarly journal articles in your MLA 8 essay is a good way to find authoritative sources to back up your thesis statement. Depending on their content, journal articles can be primary or secondary sources. When searching for relevant articles, read the abstract first. This will help you determine whether the article will be a useful addition for your paper.

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Using Journal Article Databases

Most scholarly journals are also published in paid databases, such as ProQuest, and EBSCO. Generally, your school or library may provide access to these subscription databases. If you’re unfamiliar with how to search within these databases, you may attend classes to learn how to do so. It is a good idea to learn how to research using databases to prepare for writing college essays.

Searching for Journal Articles

While searching for scholarly journal articles, you may start to feel overwhelmed at the amount of data. As you learn to identify primary and secondary sources, this task will become easier for you. Follow these two quick steps to find out if an article is a good source for your research:

1. Read the Abstract

The abstract summarizes the article’s content. As you read the abstract, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Does it have original research conducted by the author(s)?
  • If not, does it still have value as a secondary source?

2. Scroll to the Bibliography, Reference List or Works Cited

The bibliography, reference list or works cited at the end of the article can be a great source of additional research material. Before you proceed, ask these two questions:

  •   Do the bibliographic entries have current dates (last five years)?
  •   Do the article titles appear relevant to your topic?

With more research, you may start to notice that certain authors and researchers appear regularly in a certain field or area of study. Once you identify the primary researchers in the subject, you can try searching for journal articles by author name.

Creating Works Cited Entries for Journal Articles

Students citing scholarly journal articles in MLA

Scholarly journals are periodicals, which means they are published on a regular basis. The publication process is shorter than a book, so the material is typically more current. Newspaper and magazine articles are published quickly, but they often do not offer the same depth as journal articles or books.

Use the same MLA 8 container system to collect data for all nine core elements of a works cited entry.

Nine Core Elements of MLA Works Cited

Format your citation entry exactly as shown for your MLA works cited list. Double check your punctuation. And, make sure each citation is formatted with a hanging indent, if there are two lines or more. Note that core elements 3 to 9 are within the container.

  1. Author.
  2. Title of Source,
  3. Title of Container,
  4. Other Contributors,
  5. Version,
  6. Number,
  7. Publisher,
  8. Publication date,
  9. Location.


Vasquez, Jessica M.  “Ethnic Identity and Chicano literature: How Ethnicity Affects Reading and Reading Affects Ethnic Consciousness.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 28, 2005, pp. 903-904.

Note: Add the DOI or URL, if needed.


If the journal article you’re citing doesn’t continue on consecutive pages, do not include a page range in your citation. Instead, add the plus sign after the first page number with no space.


Acosta, Curtis. “Developing Critical Consciousness: Resistance Literature in a Chicano Literature Class.” The English Journal, vol. 97, 2007, pp. 36+.

Bolster Your MLA Paper

As you start college classes, you will write essays and research papers regularly. Learning how to research and use scholarly journal articles correctly in your school papers is an invaluable skill to have. Citing articles in your MLA format paper is easy once you understand the container system and remember the nine core elements. 

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