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How to Cite US Government Documents in MLA, APA Citation Style: MLA 7th ed.

MLA Citation Style

Please note: MLA documentation style uses brief parenthetical citations in the text that lead to the list of works cited. Many government documents do not conform well to MLA standards for brief parenthetical citations and the Handbook does not include extensive lists of examples for various types of government publications.

The MLA Handbook refers to The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation for more in-depth guidelines on citing legal and legislative materials. The information below is derived from the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed., 2009, in conjunction with The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. 18th ed., 2005.

Legislative Documents in the MLA, Works Cited List

MLA Style - Legislative documents in the List of Works Cited:

The MLA Handbook refers to the formats used for print government documents: "Citing NonPeriodical Print Publications, A Government Publication" section 5.5.20, beginning on page 174.

Legislative references (including documents originating from the US Congress) should begin with the

  1. name of the government entity, e.g. "U.S. Cong."
  2. followed by the name of the legislative body and committee (when appropriate), e.g., "Senate,"
  3. followed by the title of the publication in italics, including report or bill numbers, and their location in the official published compendium, when available.

On the web, or in a database? The MLA Handbook refers users to Section 5.6.2 c.,  "Instead of concluding with Print as the medium of publication, record the following information in sequence:

1. Title of the database or Web site (italicized)
2. Medium of publications consulted (Web)
3. Date of access (day, month, and year) " (MLA Handbook 187)

United States. Cong. House. Committee on House Administration. Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001. 107th Cong. 1st sess. H. Rept. 131, pt. 1. Washington: GPO, 2001. The Library of Congress. Thomas. Web. 12 January 2012.

Note: If you have multiple citations to different types of Congressional documents, you can replace the repeated elements with a double-dash. In the examples below, the double-dashes take the place of repeated elements, United States. Cong.

Citing Government Documents in the Body of the Paper (Parenthetical Citations)

MLA Style -- References in the body of the paper

MLA documentation style uses brief parenthetical citations in the text that lead to the list of works cited. To cite government documents in parenthetical references, the MLA Handbook refers users to page 224, Section 6.4.5. Citing a Work by a Corporate Author.

Following MLA Style guidelines, the first element in a parenthetical reference (generally, the author) should correspond to the first element in the List of Works Cited.

If you are referencing a number of legislative documents, you will need to include enough information in the parenthetical reference to direct the reader to the correct reference in the List of Works Cited.

"When giving the name of a corporate author in parentheses, shorten terms that are commonly abbreviated...." (MLA Handbook 224) e.g., (U.S. Cong. House. Comm. on House Administration).

As you can see, even with the abbreviations, this makes for a fairly long reference and may make your paper more difficult to read. One alternative is to include the reference in a sentence.

"In 2001, the United States Congressional Committee on House Administration published their report on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 (House Rept. 131).  In the report, ..."

If you need to reference a number of legislative or legal documents throughout the body of your paper, you may wish to use another citation style, such as the Chicago numbered note style or APA style. You will need to choose the citation style that best fits your needs (and approved by your instructor) and use it consistently throughout the paper.