Chat with a Librarian
Skip to Main Content
ask a librarian email questions

MLA Guide

This guide contains information to help you cite your sources in MLA format.

MLA Containers

MLA format uses containers as a way to format citations. A container is a work that contains another work; the container is the place that a source is found.

Container Examples

  • An academic journal contains articles
  • A book contains short stories
  • An album contains songs

You can think about containers like Russian Nesting Dolls. A source is "contained" or is "inside" of another source.

Picture of two Russian Nesting Dolls with the smaller one labeled "Article" and the larger one labeled "Journal"

Can a Source have Multiple Containers?

Sometimes sources can have multiple containers.

  • An article is contained in a journal which is contained in a database.
  • A song is contained on an album which is contained in an app.

3 Russian Nesting dolls with the smallest doll labeled "Article," the middle doll labelled "Journal," and the largest doll labeled "Database."

Does Every Source have a Container?

Keep in mind, not every source will have a container. For example, if you wanted to cite an entire book you read in print, the book would have no container, since you are not citing a part of the book and it was not contained anywhere (like a database).

Where are Containers in MLA Citations?

In MLA format, the container follows the name of its containee. See the example below (bold added for emphasis).

Example: Fallows, James. “Throwing Like a Girl.” The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook, 5th ed., W. W. Norton, 2019, pp. 137-41.

In this example, The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook is the container for "Throwing Like a Girl."

What if the Source has Multiple Containers?

If a source has multiple containers, the containers go after their containees. See the example below (bold added for emphasis).

Example: Godwin, John. "Wallace’s 'Jest'." Explicator, vol. 61, no. 2, 2003, pp. 122-24. General OneFile.

In this example, Explicator (Container 1) is the container for "Wallace's 'Jest'" and General OneFile (Container 2) is the container for Explicator.

Practice with Containers

The below worksheet offers help with MLA Containers. Fill out each box in the worksheet with the information from the source in order to see the different containers and pieces of the citation.