7 Tips for Citing an App in MLA Format

Clay Shirky famously pointed out that the problem in the information landscape today isn’t necessarily that there is too much information but that our filters aren’t any good. Students feel this problem acutely due to their perpetual crunch for time and lack of nuanced Google skills. So where does a responsible student go for reliable information she can use in an academic context?


That was the question I asked my students this fall and the answer I got surprised me.

  • Students increasingly aren’t going to the premium information services we’ve set up for them through our school library.
  • They might not even be inclined to go elsewhere on the Web.
  • Instead they often turn to Apps for their information.

From The Elements to NASA, from National Geographic to the National Science Foundation there is a wealth of credible content in the App Store, but if students are using this information in an academic setting how do we help them correctly document and cite these sources?


“This is a case of technology being ahead of the Modern Language Association,” said my colleague Stephen Freeborn, longtime English teacher, but together with our school librarian we found a work-around hack that gets the job done.


Although the Modern Language Association doesn’t specifically have citation guidelines for apps, it does provide a format for ‘software found on the internet’ which describes apps quite accurately.

Here I am creating a citation for The Elements using EasyBib:


And here are my 7 tips for creating a MLA citation for an app:

  1. Use the free online tool EasyBib to cite ‘software found on the internet’
  2. Get the software title and version number from the App Store
  3. If the app doesn’t list an author for the specific content you are using leave it blank
  4. Use ‘Apple App Store’ for Website Title
  5. Enter the app publisher name in Publisher / Sponsor, this information is available in the App Store
  6. Copy and paste the iTunes link for the App into the URL field (you can get this link by right clicking (or control+click) on any app in the iTunes store on your computer and choosing ‘Copy Link’)
  7. The publish or update date is clearly listed in the App Store

“The purpose of citation is to allow a teacher to find the same information a student found,” says Freeborn, so by listing the App Store clearly along with the link to download the app we are creating a clear trail to the source of the information.  Note: according to EasyBib, MLA 7 suggests you leave out the URL ‘unless the source cannot be located without it.’ In this case I recommend including the URL to avoid any confusion that might arise if there are apps in the App Store with similar names.


Here is the resulting citation:



What do you think? Is this an effective way to allow students to use information from apps in an academic context?


Are you a MLA guru and want to weigh in on this issue? Please let us know in the comments!

Hans Mundahl

Director of Technology Integration at New Hampton School

I've been an educator since 1995 when I first stepped into the classroom as a Fulbright exchange teacher in the former East Germany. Since then I've been an Outward Bound instructor, a teacher, tutor, admission officer, house head, evening administrator on duty and I ran the experiential learning program at New Hampton School for almost ten years. Today I focus on technology integration centered on values-driven technology integration and 1:1 iPad initiatives. Recently I had the chance to help New Hampton School become an Apple Distinguished School and I co-authored the iBook Teaching with the iPad (available on the iBookstore). Now I'm the founder of a scrappy little company (one employee!) called Hans Mundahl and Associates, inc a digital strategy consultancy for schools and non-profits. My free time is usually spent with my family but I'm also passionate about the outdoors and protecting the environment. I'm on the Board of Trustees at the Newfound Lake Region Association and when I have the chance I'm an active hiker, climber, and paddler. My writing appears on EdSocialMedia.com and I speak frequently at technology and education conferences.