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MLA 9 Style Guide: Title of Source

Updated for the 2021 9th edition

What It Is

MLA works cited entry core elements template with Title of Source field highlightedThe Title of Source is what the Author created. It is usually prominently displayed near the Author's name and easy to find for most sources.

However, some sources, such as memes or a TikTok, do not have a given title. When there is no given title, briefly describe the source in your own words to create a title.

The Title of Source is the second most important Core Element for your works cited entry. It becomes the start of the entry when there is no Author named. When Title of Source starts the entry, the entry is placed in alphabetical order by it. Make sure to ignore leading articles such as The, A, and An when alphabetizing by Title of Source.


Some works have subtitles that explain or describe the the title. The subtitle is usually the part after a colon [ : ] or a dash [ -- ]. Include the subtitle in the works cited entry.

Stand Alone vs. In a Container

Some sources stand alone while others are part of a larger whole, which in MLA speak is called being inside a Container. Knowing if your source stands alone or is in a container determines how you will style the Title of Source in the works cited entry.

Does it stand alone?

Some examples: Books. Plays. Films.

Is it inside a Container (part of a larger whole)?

Some examples: "Article on a Website." "Video on YouTube." "Journal Article." "Story on a News Site."

Where to Find It

Look near the top of the source and near the author's name.

How to Style It

The Title of Source is its own sentence.

  1. Write the Title.
    1. Is your source part of a larger whole? Is it inside a Container? Put the title inside quotation marks.
      • Examples of sources inside containers are article on websites, videos on YouTube, and journal articles.
    2. Does your source stand alone? Italicize it.
      • Examples of stand-alone sources are books, plays, and films.
  2. End with a period.

Title Case

No matter how the title is appears on the source itself, it should be put in title case on the works cited list.

Title Case refers to capitalizing all the major words in the title. Each citation style has its own particulars, and MLA's are found in section 2.90 - 2.98 in the manual. 

YES: This Is Written in Title Case.
NO: This is sentence case, not title case.


Sources that stand alone, such as a book or a movie, are italicized.

This Source Stands Alone.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.

Quotation Marks

Sources contained in a larger work, such as an article in a journal or a story on a news site, should be placed inside quotation marks. The period is also inside.

"This Source Is Part of a Bigger Whole: It Has a Container."
"The Human Side of Fracking."
"Economic Regulation and Rural America."



These examples show where the Title of Source element fits within the bigger works cited entry

Author. "Title of Source." Title of Container, contributor, numbers, Publisher, date, location. Second Container, location.
Roiphe, Katie. "16 Things to Remember at College."  The Atlantic, 6 Aug. 2021,
Goldberg, Shari L., and Mawn, Barbara E. “Predictors of Food Insecurity among Older Adults in the United States.” Public Health Nursing, vol. 32, no. 5, Sep.-Oct. 2015, pp. 397-407. Wiley Online Library, Accessed 10 Aug. 2021. 
"Stress in Childhood." MedlinePlus, updated by Neil K. Kaneshiro, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 27 May 2020,
Taia, Abdellah. A Country for Dying, translated by Emma Ramadan, Seven Stories Press.

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