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MLA Encyclopedia Citation

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How to cite an encyclopedia/dictionary entry in a bibliography using MLA

The most basic entry for an encyclopedia/dictionary consists of the author’s name(s), entry title, encyclopedia/dictionary name, publisher name, date published, and location details (page number, website URL, etc.)

Place the full entry title within double quotation marks. Unless there is punctuation that ends the entry title, place a period after the title within the quotations. After the entry title, include the encyclopedia/dictionary name, capitalizing and italicizing it, followed by a period.

With an Author Name

Last Name, First Name. “Entry Title.” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Name, Publisher, Date Published, pp.#-#.

Smith, John. “Iron.” Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Pearson Publishing, 2009, pp. 40-55.

Reverse the first author’s name, with a comma after the last name and a period after the first name (or any middle name). Do not abbreviate the name and write it exactly as it appears in the encyclopedia/dictionary. Titles and affiliations associated with the author should generally be omitted. A suffix, such as a roman numeral or Jr./Sr. should appear after the author’s given name, preceded by a comma.

Two Authors

For an entry with two or more authors, list them in the order they appear in the encyclopedia/dictionary. Reverse only the first author’s name and write the other in normal order. Separate author names by a comma, and place the word “and” between the first author’s name and the second author’s name.

Smith, John, and Jane Doe. “Iron.” Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Pearson Publishing, 2009, pp. 40-55.

Three or More Authors

For entries with three or more author names, only include the first author’s name, followed by a comma and the abbreviation “et al.”

Smith, John, et al. “Iron.” Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Pearson Publishing, 2009, pp. 40-55.

Without an Author Name

If there are no authors for the article, begin the citation with the entry title instead.

“Entry Title.” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Name, Publisher, Date Published, pp.#-#.

“Iron.” Encyclopedia of Chemistry, Pearson Publishing, 2009, pp. 40-55.

Edition

If the book is a revised edition or an edition that includes substantial new content, include the number, name, or year of the edition and the abbreviation “ed.” (e.g., 9th ed.) after the reference book title and the period that follows that title. Abbreviate “Revised edition” as “Rev. ed.” and “Abridged edition” as “Abr. ed.” You will usually find edition details, including the date, on the title page or the copyright page.

Smith, John. “Internet.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 8th ed., Oxford UP, 2009.

Volume and Location

If the encyclopedia/dictionary arranges articles alphabetically, do not cite the page number(s) or the number of volumes. If articles are not arranged alphabetically, you may want to include the page number(s) and/or volume number, preceded by the abbreviation “vol.” Include the volume name or number after the encyclopedia/dictionary name (or edition), and before any publication information.

After the publication year, include the page numbers on which the article appears, along with a period. Cite all inclusive page numbers – if the article spans pages that are not consecutive, cite only the first page, followed by a plus sign. After the publication year, include the location details such as page(s) or website address information (DOI, permalink, URL).  Include “p.” before single pages and “pp.” before multiple page numbers. End with a period. Cite all inclusive page numbers – if the article spans pages that are not consecutive, cite only the first page, followed by a plus sign.

Smith, John. “BibMe.” Web Application Encyclopedia, 8th ed., vol. 15, Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 21-33.

Smith, John. “BibMe.” Web Application Encyclopedia, 8th ed., vol. 15, Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 21+.

Online Sources

For online publications, include the website name and, if a publication or post date isn’t available, also include the date on which you accessed the entry. Capitalize and italicize the website name and follow it with the web address details. According to MLA’s 9th edition updated in 2021, you may usually leave out http:// or https:// from URLs unless you want to hyperlink them or unless instructed otherwise. When in doubt, ask your instructor. If a DOI is available, use that instead of the URL. For DOIs, use http:// or https:// before the DOI: https://doi.org/xx.xxxx/xxx.xxxx.xxxx. Use a period after the DOI.

If a publication or posting date isn’t available, include the accessed date after the location. Format the date using the international format of day-month-year. Follow the access date with a period. For an entry found in a database, cite it the same way you would an article published online: cite the location with the database name in italics, followed by a comma, a DOI or URL, and ending with a period.

Smith, John. “BibMe.” Web Application Encyclopedia, 8th ed., 2009. Proquest Database, www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/studies/docview/745668798. Accessed 21 Feb. 2009.

If you are citing a dictionary definition and need to specify a certain definition, place the abbreviation “Def.”, the definition number/letter, and a period between the entry title and the dictionary name.

“Scofflaw.” Def. 2. Webster’s English Dictionary, 5th ed., 2009.

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