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MLA Style Guide: Government Docs

Guide for using the Modern Language Association (MLA) style manual.

Citing Government Documents

You will generally cite in text the same way you would create a parenthetical citation for a work by a corporate author. See MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed., Section 6.4.5.

Helpful Tips and Examples:

  • Use the author's name followed by a page reference.

(United Nations, Economic Commission for Africa 79-86)

  • It is better to include a long name in the text so the parenthetical reference is shorter.

In 1963 the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa predicted that Africa would evolve into an advanced industrial economy within fifty years (1-2, 4-6).

  • Shorten terms that are commonly abbreviated.

(Natl. Research Council 15)


Government publications come from many sources and present special challenges when trying to cite these sources. It is best to consult the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th ed., Sections 5.5.20, 5.6 (online gov't docs), and 5.7.14 (legal sources).

Helpful Tips and Examples:

  • If the author of the document is unknown, cite the issuing government agency as author. State the name of the government first, followed by the name of the agency. Use an abbreviation if the context makes it clear.

United States. Cong. House.

  • If the author is known, begin the entry with the author name or, if the agency comes first, follow the title with the word "by" or an abbreviation (e.g. ed. or comp.).

Poore, Benjamin Perley, comp. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Government Publications of the United States, September 5, 1774-March 4, 1881. US 48th Cong., 2nd sess. Misc. Doc. 67. Washington: GPO, 1885.

  • Italicize the title of the publication.
  • The Congressional Record (Cong. Rec.) should include the date, page numbers, and medium of publication that you consulted (i.e. Print, Web. Access Date. <URL> when needed).

Cong. Rec. 7 Feb. 1973: 3831-51. Print.

  • Other congressional documents should inlude such information as the number and session of Congress, the house (S = Senate; HR = House of Representatives), the type and number of the publication (i.e. bills, resolutions, reports, documents).
  • Include the usual publication information (i.e. place, publisher, date, and medium of publication consulted).
  • When citing two or more works issued by the same government, use three hyphens for the name in each entry after the first. If citing more than one work by the same government agency, use an additional three hypens in place of the agency in the second entry and each subsequent one.

United States. Cong. House. Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Al-Qaeda: The Many Faces of an Islamist Extremist Threat. 109th Cong., 2nd sess. H. Rept. 615. Washington: GPO, 2006. Print.

---. ---. Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack. Hearings. 79th Cong., 1st and 2nd sess. 32 vols. Washington: GPO, 1946. Print.

---. Dept. of Labor. Child Care: A Workforce Issue. Washington: GPO, 1988. print.

---. Dept. of Labor. Citizens' Report: FY 2008 Summary of Performance and Financial Results. Web. 4 Sept. 2013.

  • Most U.S. federal publications are published by the Government Printing Office (GPO) in Washington, DC.