If I have two works with identical titles and no authors in my works-cited list, how do I distinguish between them in my parenthetical citations?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
Writers sometimes need to cite anonymous sources with identical titles, such as articles in reference works. Since in MLA style works without authors are cited parenthetically by title, you need to provide additional information in your in-text citation to distinguish the sources.
For example, let’s say you have in your works-cited list two articles without authors titled “Harry Houdini,” one from Encyclopedia.com and one from Wikipedia:
“Harry Houdini.” Encyclopedia.com, 2016, www.encyclopedia.com/
“Harry Houdini.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Feb. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Houdini.
In your parenthetical citations, provide the title of the article and then add in brackets additional information to clarify which source you are using—usually, the first unique piece of information. In this case, that information is the title of the website:
As one source notes, “No one before or since has so completely defined the art of escape as Harry Houdini, magician, actor, and stage personality” (“Harry Houdini” [Encyclopedia.com]).
Houdini “tried to escape from special handcuffs commissioned by London’s Daily Mirror,” while the spectators remained “in suspense for an hour” (“Harry Houdini” [Wikipedia]).
For more on differentiating between sources with the same title in your in-text citations, see our previous post. For tips on how to distinguish between them when you are discussing the works in your prose, see here.