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How to Cite Encyclopedia in MLA Style

Citing encyclopedias in MLA style requires specific elements: author’s name (if available), entry title, encyclopedia name, edition, publisher, publication year, and page numbers or URL for online versions. These details apply to both in-text citations and Works Cited entries.

General Format for Encyclopedia Citations in MLA

Key Elements of a Citation

An MLA citation for an encyclopedia entry typically includes the following elements: the author’s name, the title of the entry, the title of the encyclopedia, the edition, the volume number, the publisher, the year of publication, and the page numbers.

The Role of the Author’s Name

When the entry is authored, start with the author’s last name followed by a comma and the first name. If no author is listed, begin with the title of the entry. For example,

“Smith, John.”

Understanding Title Capitalization

Capitalize the first word and all principal words of the title and subtitle. Articles, prepositions, and conjunctions are not capitalized unless they are the first word. For instance,

“The History of Renaissance Art” and “Art in the Middle Ages.”

The Significance of Publication Details

Publication details such as the publisher, edition, and year are crucial. They help identify the specific source you are referencing, especially for works that have multiple editions or volumes. Always include the most precise information available.

Citing Print Encyclopedias

How to Format the Author’s Name

For a print encyclopedia with an author, format it as follows:

Smith, John. “Renaissance Art.” Encyclopedia of Art, edited by Jane Doe, 2nd ed., vol. 3, Art Publishers, 2020, pp. 45-67.

Properly Listing the Encyclopedia Title

Italicize the title of the encyclopedia. If the entry is part of a larger work edited by someone else, include “edited by” followed by the editor’s name.

Including Edition and Volume Information

Specify the edition and volume number right after the title of the encyclopedia. For example, “2nd ed., vol. 3.”

Detailing the Publisher and Publication Year

List the publisher followed by the year of publication. This information should come at the end of the citation entry.

Citing Online Encyclopedias

Citing Online Articles Without an Author

When citing an online encyclopedia article without an author, start with the title of the entry. Follow it with the name of the encyclopedia, the publisher, the publication date, the URL, and the access date. For example:

“Renaissance Art.” Encyclopedia of Art Online, Art Publishers, 2020, Accessed 5 Mar. 2024.

Formatting for Multiple Authors

When there are multiple authors, list the first author followed by “et al.” For example:

Smith, John, et al. “Modern Architecture.” Encyclopedia of Architecture, 3rd ed., vol. 4, Architecture Publishers, 2021, Accessed 10 Apr. 2024.

How to Include URL and Access Date

Always include the full URL of the online article and the date you accessed the material. This ensures that readers can find the exact source you used.

Special Considerations for Digital Encyclopedias

Digital encyclopedias often update their content regularly. Therefore, it’s crucial to note the version or edition if available and always include the access date.

Handling Special Cases

Citing Encyclopedias with No Author

When no author is listed, start the citation with the title of the entry. For instance:

“Quantum Mechanics.” Physics Encyclopedia, edited by James Doe, 3rd ed., vol. 1, Science Publishers, 2018, pp. 12-35.

How to Cite Encyclopedias with Multiple Editors

When an encyclopedia has multiple editors, list them after the title of the entry and include “editors” after their names. For example:

“Genetic Engineering.” Biology Encyclopedia, edited by Jane Doe and John Smith, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Bio Publishers, 2019, pp. 56-78.

Addressing Entries Without a Specific Publication Date

If no publication date is provided, use “n.d.” (no date) in place of the year. For example:

“Ancient Civilizations.” World History Encyclopedia, n.d., Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Dealing with Multiple Editions

For encyclopedias with multiple editions, always specify which edition you used. This is critical for sources that have been significantly updated over time.

Practical Tips for Accurate MLA Citations

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Avoid common mistakes such as missing authors, incorrect formatting of titles, and incomplete publication details. Ensure that every part of the citation is accurate and in the correct order.

Tools and Resources for MLA Citations

Accurate citations can be challenging, but WriterBuddy can help. It provides comprehensive assistance for MLA Encyclopedia Citation and other citation styles. Using WriterBuddy ensures your citations are precise and formatted correctly, saving you time and effort.

Verifying Citation Accuracy

Double-check each citation for accuracy. Cross-reference with the source to confirm that all information is correct and complete. This attention to detail will prevent errors in your bibliography.

Maintaining Consistency in Your Bibliography

Consistency is key in your bibliography. Ensure that all entries follow the same format and style guidelines. This not only looks professional but also makes it easier for readers to locate sources.


How do you cite an online encyclopedia article without an author in MLA style?

Begin with the title of the entry, followed by the encyclopedia name, publisher, publication date, URL, and access date, ensuring all details are correctly formatted.

What should you do if the encyclopedia entry has no publication date?

Use “n.d.” in place of the year to indicate no date is provided, and include the access date for online sources.

How do you handle multiple editors in an encyclopedia citation?

List the editors’ names after the title of the entry, followed by “editors,” and include all relevant publication details such as edition and volume number.

Why is it important to maintain consistency in your bibliography?

Consistency ensures a professional appearance and makes it easier for readers to locate and verify sources, enhancing the credibility of your work.


MLA Encyclopedia Citation process involves including author information (when available), entry details, publication information, and location specifics. Following these guidelines helps properly attribute reference material and provides readers with necessary information to locate the original source.

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