How to Cite a YouTube Video in MLA Referencing

How to Cite a YouTube Video in MLA Referencing

As Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are a-changin’. And while Bob was referring to the political climate in the 1960s, the statement also applies to referencing sources in an essay. These days, for example, you can cite YouTube videos in your work alongside books and journal articles.

We're sure Bob would have sang about it if YouTube had been a thing in the '60s.
We’re sure Bob would have sang about it if YouTube had been a thing in the ’60s, though.

But how do you do this exactly? In this post, we’ll look at how to cite YouTube and other online videos using the MLA referencing system, including both in-text citations and the Works Cited list entry.

In-Text Citations for YouTube Video

In MLA referencing, you cite print sources by giving the author’s surname and a page number. This isn’t possible for a video, as there are no page numbers to cite! What you do have is a time code or stamp. This is the point in the video you want to cite, given in hours, minutes, and seconds.

For example, we could cite a video like this:

Defamiliarisation is a key aspect of literature (Rugnetta 00:07:40).

In this case, we’re citing a moment 7 minutes and 40 seconds into a video by Mike Rugnetta. And if a reader wanted to see this themselves, they’d simply have to look up the video and skip to the moment shown.

Sometimes, it might not be easy to tell who to cite as the creator. In this case, we’ve used the writer/presenter of the video, but in others you may want to cite a director or producer. The most important thing is to use the same name in citations as you do in the Works Cited list.

Adding Online Videos to the Works Cited List

The basic format for an online video in an MLA Works Cited list is as follows:

Author Surname, First Name. ‘Title of Video’. Platform/Website, uploaded by Username/Organisation, date of upload, URL.

In practice, then, we would reference the video cited above like this:

Rugnetta, Mike. ‘BUT WAIT: Is Bob Dylan’s Work Really Literature?’ YouTube, uploaded by PBS Idea Channel, 2 November 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF7m44ORlRM.

As shown above, you do not need to include the ‘http://’ bit of the URL here.

Missing Source Information

You may sometimes find it difficult to find source information for an online video. If this occurs, simply include as much detail as possible so that the reader can identify the video based on your Works Cited list.

If you cannot find a name for the author of a video, for example, you could use the uploader’s name instead, while also making sure to provide a valid URL in the full reference. And if you’d like an expert to check the clarity and consistency of your referencing, we can help.

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