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How to Cite Database in MLA Style

Databases are crucial resources for academic research, providing access to a wide range of scholarly articles and documents. Citing databases in MLA style requires specific elements: author’s name, article title, database name, URL, and access date. These components are necessary for both in-text citations and Works Cited entries. Proper citation of database sources ensures credit to authors and maintains academic integrity in research papers.

Commonly Used Databases in Research

Researchers frequently use various databases to gather information. Some well-known databases include JSTOR, ProQuest, PubMed, and Google Scholar. Each of these databases houses a vast array of academic articles, journals, and other scholarly resources. Understanding how to cite sources from these databases in MLA style ensures that your references are clear and comprehensive.

Essential Elements of a Database Citation

Author Name(s)

The author’s name is a critical component of any citation. In MLA style, the author’s last name comes first, followed by the first name. For instance, “Smith, John.” If there are multiple authors, you should list them in the order they appear in the source, separating each name with commas and placing “and” before the last author’s name.

Title of the Source

The title of the source refers to the specific article or work you are citing. It should be placed in quotation marks. For example, “The Impact of Climate Change on Arctic Wildlife.”

Title of the Container

The container title is the larger whole that houses the source. This could be a journal, a database, or a website. The title of the container should be italicized. For example,

JSTOR or ProQuest.

Version and Number

Some sources have versions and numbers, such as volumes and issues for journals. These details are important for accurately identifying the source. For example, “vol. 5, no. 3.”


The publisher is the organization responsible for making the source available. This might be the academic journal or the database itself. For example, “Oxford University Press.”

Publication Date

The publication date is essential for locating the source. MLA format typically uses the day-month-year format. For example, “15 Mar. 2021.”

Location (URL or DOI)

The location element refers to where the source can be found online, often a URL or a DOI (Digital Object Identifier). For example,

“” or “doi:10.1234/abcd.efgh.”

Formatting the Author’s Name

Single Author vs. Multiple Authors

For a single author, the format is straightforward: “Smith, John.” For multiple authors, list them in the order they appear in the source: “Smith, John, and Jane Doe.” For more than three authors, you can list the first author followed by “et al.”

No Author: What to Do

When no author is provided, start the citation with the title of the source. For instance, “The Effects of Global Warming” instead of an author’s name.

Corporate Authors

Corporate authors are organizations that author a work. List the organization’s name as the author: “World Health Organization.”

Crafting the Title Section

Titles of Articles

Article titles should be placed in quotation marks. Capitalize the major words, for example, “Exploring the Depths of the Ocean.”

Titles of Databases and Containers

The titles of databases and containers should be italicized. For instance, ScienceDirect.

Handling Italics and Quotation Marks

Use italics for container titles and quotation marks for source titles. For example, JSTOR for the database and “The Role of Photosynthesis” for the article.

Version, Number, and Other Details

Identifying the Version and Edition

If a source specifies a version or edition, include this in your citation. For example, “2nd ed.”

Volume and Issue Numbers

For journal articles, include volume and issue numbers. For example, “vol. 14, no. 2.”

Special Cases

If there is no version or number, omit this part from the citation.

Publication Information

Publisher Details

Include the name of the publisher, such as “Cambridge University Press.”

Publication Date Formatting

Use the day-month-year format for dates. For example, “12 Jan. 2018.”

Handling Multiple Publication Dates

If multiple publication dates are provided, use the most relevant one, typically the most recent.

Locating and Citing URLs and DOIs

When to Use a URL

Use a URL when a DOI is not available. Ensure the URL is stable and leads directly to the source.

The Importance of DOIs

DOIs are preferred because they provide a permanent link to the source. Always use the DOI if available.

Formatting URLs and DOIs

Place the URL or DOI at the end of the citation, preceded by a comma. For example,

“doi:10.1234/abcd.efgh” or “”

Examples of Database Citations in MLA Style

Example with a Single Author

“Smith, John. “The Impact of Climate Change on Arctic Wildlife.” JSTOR, vol. 5, no. 3, 2021, doi:10.1234/abcd.efgh.”

Example with Multiple Authors

“Smith, John, and Jane Doe. “The Evolution of Solar Energy.” ProQuest, vol. 12, no. 4, 2020,”

Example with No Author

“The Effects of Global Warming.” ScienceDirect, vol. 7, no. 2, 2019, doi:10.5678/scidir.efgh.”

Example of a Corporate Author

World Health Organization. “Global Health Initiatives.” PubMed, 2018, doi:10.9876/”

Example with Missing Elements

“Smith, John. “Exploring Renewable Energy.” Google Scholar, 2017,”

Tips for Accurate Database Citations

For precise citations, consider using WriterBuddy’s MLA Database Citation tool, which provides automated and accurate citations, saving time and reducing errors. 


How do I cite a source with no author in MLA style?

When there is no author, start the citation with the title of the source in quotation marks, followed by the rest of the citation elements.

What is the difference between using a URL and a DOI in citations?

A DOI provides a permanent, stable link to the source and is preferred over a URL, which may change or become inactive over time.

How should I format the titles of articles and databases in MLA citations?

Article titles should be in quotation marks, while database and container titles should be italicized to distinguish between the two.

Why is it important to include the container title in a citation?

The container title provides context and helps readers understand where the source is housed, making it easier to locate the original work.


The MLA Database Citation process involves including author information, article details, database name, and digital access information. Following these guidelines helps properly attribute ideas and provides readers with the necessary source information to locate the original content.

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