How to Cite a Biography in MLA or APA Format

When using information from a biography in your academic writing, it is important to cite the biography just like any other resource. In most cases, you will use MLA or APA biography format. Keep reading to learn how to use each of these two straightforward methods to cite a biography.

Using the Standard MLA Biography Format

MLA citation style follows the customs of the Modern Language Association. Usually, you will need to use MLA style when writing about the humanities. This includes, but is not limited to, English, literature, history, cultural studies, or anthropology. MLA biography citations must include enough information for readers to find the biography themselves. 

Step One: Create the Parenthetical Citations

First, create the parenthetical citations for the biography. You must place a parenthetical citation immediately after the content you have quoted or paraphrased from the biography.

Tip: Making parenthetical citations early will save you valuable time later in the writing process.

In parentheses, write the author’s full last name, then a space, and then the page number or numbers where you found the specific quote or piece of information.

For example, let’s say you are using a quote from page 200 of Steve Jobs, a biography by Walter Isaacson. Immediately after using the quote in your paper, insert the following citation:

(Isaacson 200).

Repeat the process for any other quotes or paraphrases using the source.

Step Two: Create the Bibliography Entry

Once all parenthetical citations for the biography are in place, it is time to enter the biography in your paper’s bibliography. This entry will include all other information about the biography which is necessary for a reader to find the work themselves.

Follow the below steps to create the bibliography entry with the proper formatting.

  1. Create the bibliography heading. In MLA style, the bibliography is called the “Works cited” section. Write “Works cited” in bold, then move down two lines to begin writing the bibliography entry.
  2. List the author of the biography. Write the author’s last name, then a comma, then their first name, then a period (for example, “Isaacson, Walter.”)
  3. List the biography’s title. Write the title of the bibliography in italics, then a period. (for example, “Steve Jobs.”)
  4. List the biography’s publisher. Write the name of the publisher’s city. Follow this by a colon, then the name of the publishing company. Add a comma, then the year of publication. Finish this section with a period. (for example, “New York City: Simon and Schuster, 2011.”)
  5. List the biography’s medium of publication. If the biography is a print book, add “Print” followed by a period.

Once the citation is complete, your bibliography should look like this:

Works cited

Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York City: Simon and Schuster, 2011. Print.

Using the Standard APA Biography Format

APA citation style follows guidelines from the American Psychological Association. You will typically use APA biography style when writing about the life and social sciences, such as biology, psychology, communications, social studies, or public health. Just as with MLA style, APA biography format must include enough information so that the reader can find the biography themselves.

Step One: Create Parenthetical Citations

APA biography format requires parenthetical citations immediately following every instance you quote or paraphrase the biography.

Open a pair of parentheses. Write the author’s last name, then a comma. After the comma, write the biography’s publication year. 

If you are citing a specific quote from the biography, include the page number where you found the quote in your citation. Close the parentheses, then finish your sentence as normal.

Let’s say that you are using a quote from page 55 of Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs. Your parenthetical citation should look like this:

(Isaacson, 2011, p. 55)

Repeat the process for any other quotes or paraphrases using the source.

Step Two: Create the Bibliography Entry

Once all necessary parenthetical citations are in place, follow the below steps to create a bibliography entry in proper APA format.

  1. Create the bibliography heading. In APA style, the bibliography is called the “References” section. Write “References” in bold, then move down two lines to begin writing the bibliography entry.
  2. List the author of the biography. Write the author’s last name, then a comma. Write the first letter of their first name, then finish with a period (for example, “Isaacson, W.”)
  3. List the year the biography was published. The year should be in parentheses, with a period afterward; for example, “(2011).”
  4. List the biography’s title. Write the title of the bibliography, followed by a period (for example, “Steve Jobs.”)
  5. List the biography’s publisher. Write the name of the publisher’s city, followed by a colon. Next, write the name of the publishing company. Finish the APA bio bibliography citation with a period (for example, “New York City: Simon and Schuster.”)

Once the citation is complete, your bibliography should look like this:

References

Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. New York City: Simon and Schuster.

MLA and APA Format for Biography Citation

Making citations using MLA and APA biography format is simple and straightforward. You must use parenthetical citations to cite the biography in-text, then include a bibliography citation at the end of your writing. It is important to follow your teacher or supervisor’s directions to determine which format you must use.

Leave a Comment