Skip to Main Content
Lemieux Library
Lemieux Library

Citing Your Sources Guide

MLA In-text Citations - The Basics

In MLA, referring to the works of others within text of your paper is done using parenthetical citations. This means placing relevant source information in parentheses whenever a sentence uses a quotation or paraphrase. Usually, the simplest way is to put all of the source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence (i.e., just before the period). However, as seen below, there are situations where it makes sense to put the parenthetical elsewhere in the sentence, or even to leave information out.

General Guidelines

  • The source information required in a parenthetical citation depends on:
    • upon the source medium (e.g. print, web, DVD)
    • upon the source’s entry on the Works Cited page.
  • Any source information that you provide in-text must correspond to the source information on the Works Cited page. More specifically, whatever signal word or phrase you provide to your readers in the text must be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of the corresponding entry on the Works Cited page. This is so your reader can connect your in-text citation to the right line in your Works cited page.
  • Be sure to check the full selection of examples for in-text citations below, they vary slightly depending on the type of source you are citing.

MLA in-text citations

MLA format follows the author-page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the page number(s) from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a complete reference should appear on your Works Cited page. The author's name may appear either in the sentence itself or in parentheses following the quotation or paraphrase, but the page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of your sentence. For example:

  • Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).
  • Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).
  • Wordsworth extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

 

Both citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), tell readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can turn to the Works Cited page, where, under the name of Wordsworth, they would find the following information:

  • Wordsworth, William. Lyrical Ballads. Oxford UP, 1967.

While the above is the general rule, there are some variations depending on the source of the quote or paraphrase. Here are a few examples, but please review the MLA Manual of Style for more detailed and specific information about in-text citations.

In-text citations by type

For print sources like books, magazines, scholarly journal articles, and newspapers, provide a signal word or phrase (usually the author’s last name) and a page number. If you provide the signal word/phrase in the sentence, you do not need to include it in the parenthetical citation.

  • Human beings have been described by Kenneth Burke as "symbol-using animals" (3).
  • Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Burke 3).

These examples must correspond to an entry that begins with Burke, which will be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of an entry on the Works Cited page:

  • Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. University of California Press, 1966.

When a source has a corporate author, it is acceptable to use the name of the corporation followed by the page number for the in-text citation. You should also use abbreviations (e.g., nat'l for national) where appropriate, so as to avoid interrupting the flow of reading with overly long parenthetical citations.

  • Climate change is now "an important factor in developing new engineering systems" (EPA 321).
  • The EPA has stated in a recent study, Climate change is now " an important factor in developing new engineering systems" (321). 

When a source has no known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name, following these guidelines.

  1. Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work (such as an article), or italicize it if it's a longer work (e.g. plays, books, television shows, entire Web sites) and provide a page number if it is available.

Titles that are longer than a standard noun phrase should be shortened into a noun phrase by excluding articles. For example, To the Lighthouse would be shortened to just Lighthouse.

If the title cannot be easily shortened into a noun phrase, the title should be cut after the first clause, phrase, or punctuation:

  • The world needs to act to reverse climate change, because it "is here, and it’s causing a wide range of impacts that will affect virtually every human on Earth in increasingly severe ways. . . ." ("Climate Impacts").

In this example, since the reader does not know the author of the article, an abbreviated title appears in the parenthetical citation, and the full title of the article appears first at the left-hand margin of its respective entry on the Works Cited page. Thus, the writer includes the title in quotation marks as the signal phrase in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader directly to the source on the Works Cited page. The Works Cited entry appears as follows:

  • "Climate Impacts." Union of Concerned Scientists. 2022. www.ucsusa.org/climate/impacts. Accessed 24 Mar. 2022.

If the title of the work begins with a quotation mark, such as a title that refers to another work, that quote or quoted title can be used as the shortened title. The single quotation marks must be included in the parenthetical, rather than the double quotation.

Page numbers are always required, but additional information can help literary scholars, who may have a different edition of a classic work, like Marx and Engels's The Communist Manifesto.

In these cases, give the page number from your edition (making sure the edition is listed in your Works Cited page, of course) followed by a semicolon, and then the appropriate abbreviations for volume (vol.), book (bk.), part (pt.), chapter (ch.), section (sec.), or paragraph (par.). For example:

  • Marx and Engels described human history as marked by class struggles (79; ch. 1).

When you cite a work that appears inside a larger source (for instance, an article in a periodical or an essay in a collection), cite the author of the internal source (i.e., the article or essay). For example, to cite Albert Einstein's article "A Brief Outline of the Theory of Relativity," which was published in Nature in 1921, you might write something like this:

  • Relativity's theoretical foundations can be traced to earlier work by Faraday and Maxwell (Einstein 782).

For a source with two authors, list the authors’ last names in the text or in the parenthetical citation:

  • Best and Marcus argue that one should read a text for what it says on its surface, rather than looking for some hidden meaning (9).
  • The authors claim that surface reading looks at what is “evident, perceptible, apprehensible in texts” (Best and Marcus 9).

For a source with three or more authors, list only the first author’s last name, and replace the additional names with et al (which means "and others")

  • According to Franck et al., “Current agricultural policies in the U.S. are contributing to the poor health of Americans” (327).
  • The authors claim that one cause of obesity in the United States is government-funded farm subsidies (Franck et al. 327).

If you cite more than one work by an author, include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from the others. Put short titles of books in italics and short titles of articles in quotation marks.

Citing two articles by the same author:

  • Lightenor has argued that computers are not useful tools for small children ("Too Soon" 38), though he has acknowledged elsewhere that early exposure to computer games does lead to better small motor skill development in a child's second and third year ("Hand-Eye Development" 17).

Citing two books by the same author:

  • Murray states that writing is "a process" that "varies with our thinking style" (Write to Learn 6). Additionally, Murray argues that the purpose of writing is to "carry ideas and information from the mind of one person into the mind of another" (A Writer Teaches Writing 3).

**Additionally, if the author's name is not mentioned in the sentence, format your citation with the author's name followed by a comma, followed by a shortened title of the work, and, when appropriate, the page number(s):

  • Visual studies, because it is such a new discipline, may be "too easy" (Elkins, "Visual Studies" 63).

If you cite from different volumes of a multivolume work, always include the volume number followed by a colon. Put a space after the colon, then provide the page number(s). (If you only cite from one volume, provide only the page number in parentheses.)

  • . . . as Quintilian wrote in Institutio Oratoria (1: 14-17).

In your first parenthetical citation referencing the bible, you want to make clear which bible you're using (and underline or italicize the title), as each version varies in its translation, followed by book (do not italicize or underline), chapter, and verse. For example:

  • Ezekiel saw "what seemed to be four living creatures," each with faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (New Jerusalem Bible, Ezek. 1.5-10).

If future references are to the same edition of the bible you’re using, list only the book, chapter, and verse in the parenthetical citation:

  • John of Patmos echoes this passage when describing his vision (Rev. 4.6-8).

For electronic and Internet sources, follow the following guidelines:

  • Include in the text the first item that appears in the Work Cited entry that corresponds to the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name, film name).
  • Do not provide paragraph numbers or page numbers based on your Web browser’s print preview function.
  • Unless you must list the Web site name in the signal phrase in order to get the reader to the appropriate entry, do not include URLs in-text. Only provide partial URLs such as when the name of the site includes, for example, a domain name, like CNN.com or Forbes.com, as opposed to writing out http://www.cnn.com or http://www.forbes.com.
  • One online film critic stated that Fitzcarraldo "has become notorious for its near-failure and many obstacles" (Taylor, “Fitzcarraldo”)

Get Research Help

chat loading...

Student Engagement Librarian