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MLA Citations (9th ed.): Publication Date

This guide will help you format your paper and cite resources according to MLA citation style.

Publication Date Basics

The Publication Date element tells your reader when the version of the work you are citing was published. (p. 173)

The Publication Date element may include one or more of the following components:

  • a year
  • a day and month
  • a season
  • a time stamp
  • a range of dates or years

Sources--especially those published online--may be associated with more than one publication date. When a source carries more than one date, cite the date that is most meaningful or most relevant to your use of the source. (p. 174)

Books and eBooks

When documenting a book, look for the date of publication on the title page. If the title page lacks a date, check the book's copyright page. If more than one date appears on the copyright page, select the most recent one. 

Here is an example:

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Vintage Books, 1995.

Later editions of a book may contain dates of all the editions. Cite the date of the edition you used.

Do not take the publication dates of books from an outside resource--such as a bibliography, an online catalog, or a bookseller like Amazon--since the information there may be inaccurate. (pp. 174-175)

For the publication date of an eBook, the copyright page may include a month and a year. In your entry, give the year only. (p. 176)

Crystal, David. Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation. E-book ed., St. Martin's Press, 2015.

Periodicals

An issue of a periodical (journal, magazine, newspaper) usually carries a date on its cover or title page. Periodicals vary in their publication schedules: issues may appear every year, season, month, week, or day. (p. 178)

Here are some examples: 

Baron, Naomi S. "Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media." PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193-200.

Belton, John. "Painting by the Numbers: The Digital Intermediate." Film Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 3, spring 2008, pp. 58-65.

Kafka, Ben. "The Demon of Writing: Paperwork, Public Safety, and the Reign of Terror." Representations, no. 98, 2007, pp. 1-24.

Articles on the Web

Many kinds of articles on the web plainly carry dates of publication. 

Here is an example:

Hollmichel, Stefanie. "The Reading Brain: Differences between Digital and Print." So Many Books, 25 Apr. 2013, somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/the-reading-brain-differences-between-digital-and-print/.

Article on Web Site of News Organization

If you consult an article on the web site of a news organization that also publishes its articles in print, the date of online publication may appear at the site along with the date when the article appeared in print. Since you consulted only the online version, ignore the date of the print publication. (p. 177)

Deresiewicz, William. "The Death of the Artist--and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur." The Atlantic, 28 Dec. 2014, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/01/the-death-of-the-artist-and-the-birth-of-the-creative-entrepreneur/383497/.

A reader of the print version would find only one date of publication in the source and would produce the following entry:

Deresiewicz, William. "The Death of the Artist--and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur." The Atlantic, Jan.-Feb. 2015, pp.92-97.

Video on a Web Site

An entry for a video on a web site includes the date when the video was posted there. 

Here is an example:

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Unaired Pilot 1996." YouTube, uploaded by Brian Stowe, 28 Jan. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR3J-v7QXXw.

Comments on Web Pages

Comments posted on a web page are usually dated. If an article, a comment, or another source on the web includes a time when the work was posted or last modified, include the time along with the date. (p. 185)

Here is an example:

Jeane. Comment on "The Reading Brain: Differences between Digital and Print." So Many Books, 25 Apr. 2013, 10:30 p.m., somanybooksblog.com/2013/04/25/the-reading-brain-differences-between-digital-and-print/#comment-83030.

Web Projects

When you document a web project as a whole, cite a range of dates if the project was developed over time. 

When documenting a non periodical work that is ongoing, leave a space after the en dash that follows the beginning date. (p. 186)

Here are two examples:

Caro, Robert A. The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Vintage Books, 1982–.

Eaves, Morris, et al., editors. The William Blake Archive. 1996-2014, www.blakearchive.org/blake/.

Episode of a Television Series

If you are documenting an episode of a television series, the year of its original release may suffice. (p. 184)

Here is an example:

"Hush." Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, Mutant Enemy, 1999.

HOWEVER, if you are discussing, say, the historical context in which the episode originally aired, you may want to supply the month and day along with the year.

Here is an example:

"Hush." Buffy the Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, season 4, episode 10, WB Television Network, 14 Dec. 1999.

NOTE: "Mutant Enemy" from the first example is replaced with "WB Television Network" (on which the episode originally aired) in the second example in keeping with the decision to specify the date of airing.

DVD Sets

If you are exploring features of a television episode found on the seasons' DVD set, your entry will be about the discs and thus will include the date of their release. 

Here is an example:

"Hush." 1999. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Fourth Season, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, episode 10, Twentieth Century Fox, 2003, disc 3.

Music

The publication date for an audio recording in a physical format, like a vinyl album or CD, is usually found on the cover, on the album itself, or in an accompanying booklet.

The information provided about a song or album listened to on a website, app, or streaming service can be supplied in various places. (pp. 180-181)

Odetta. One Grain of Sand. Vanguard Recording Society, 1963. Vinyl.

Odetta. "Sail Away, Ladies." One Grain of Sand, Vanguard Records, 1 Jan. 2006. Spotify app.