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MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (9 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Guidelines for referring to the works of others in your text using MLA style are covered throughout the  MLA Handbook  and in chapter 7 of the  MLA Style Manual . Both books provide extensive examples, so it's a good idea to consult them if you want to become even more familiar with MLA guidelines or if you have a particular reference question.

Basic in-text citation rules

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

General Guidelines

In-text citations: Author-page style

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:

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.

In-text citations for print sources with known author

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.

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.

In-text citations for print sources by a corporate author

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.

In-text citations for sources with non-standard labeling systems

If a source uses a labeling or numbering system other than page numbers, such as a script or poetry, precede the citation with said label. When citing a poem, for instance, the parenthetical would begin with the word “line”, and then the line number or range. For example, the examination of William Blake’s poem “The Tyger” would be cited as such:

The speaker makes an ardent call for the exploration of the connection between the violence of nature and the divinity of creation. “In what distant deeps or skies. / Burnt the fire of thine eyes," they ask in reference to the tiger as they attempt to reconcile their intimidation with their relationship to creationism (lines 5-6).

Longer labels, such as chapters (ch.) and scenes (sc.), should be abbreviated.

In-text citations for print sources with no known author

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

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 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 Lighthouse .

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

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:

"The Impact of Global Warming in North America." Global Warming: Early Signs . 1999. www.climatehotmap.org/. Accessed 23 Mar. 2009.

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.

Parenthetical citations and Works Cited pages, used in conjunction, allow readers to know which sources you consulted in writing your essay, so that they can either verify your interpretation of the sources or use them in their own scholarly work.

Author-page citation for classic and literary works with multiple editions

Page numbers are always required, but additional citation information can help literary scholars, who may have a different edition of a classic work, like Marx and Engels's  The Communist Manifesto . In such cases, give the page number of 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:

Author-page citation for works in an anthology, periodical, or collection

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:

See also our page on documenting periodicals in the Works Cited .

Citing authors with same last names

Sometimes more information is necessary to identify the source from which a quotation is taken. For instance, if two or more authors have the same last name, provide both authors' first initials (or even the authors' full name if different authors share initials) in your citation. For example:

Citing a work by multiple authors

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

Corresponding Works Cited entry:

Best, David, and Sharon Marcus. “Surface Reading: An Introduction.” Representations , vol. 108, no. 1, Fall 2009, pp. 1-21. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rep.2009.108.1.1

For a source with three or more authors, list only the first author’s last name, and replace the additional names with et al.

Franck, Caroline, et al. “Agricultural Subsidies and the American Obesity Epidemic.” American Journal of Preventative Medicine , vol. 45, no. 3, Sept. 2013, pp. 327-333.

Citing multiple works by the same author

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 :

Citing two books by the same author :

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):

Citing multivolume works

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.)

Citing the Bible

In your first parenthetical citation, 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:

If future references employ 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).

Citing indirect sources

Sometimes you may have to use an indirect source. An indirect source is a source cited within another source. For such indirect quotations, use "qtd. in" to indicate the source you actually consulted. For example:

Note that, in most cases, a responsible researcher will attempt to find the original source, rather than citing an indirect source.

Citing transcripts, plays, or screenplays

Sources that take the form of a dialogue involving two or more participants have special guidelines for their quotation and citation. Each line of dialogue should begin with the speaker's name written in all capitals and indented half an inch. A period follows the name (e.g., JAMES.) . After the period, write the dialogue. Each successive line after the first should receive an additional indentation. When another person begins speaking, start a new line with that person's name indented only half an inch. Repeat this pattern each time the speaker changes. You can include stage directions in the quote if they appear in the original source.

Conclude with a parenthetical that explains where to find the excerpt in the source. Usually, the author and title of the source can be given in a signal phrase before quoting the excerpt, so the concluding parenthetical will often just contain location information like page numbers or act/scene indicators.

Here is an example from O'Neill's  The Iceman Cometh.

WILLIE. (Pleadingly) Give me a drink, Rocky. Harry said it was all right. God, I need a drink.

ROCKY. Den grab it. It's right under your nose.

WILLIE. (Avidly) Thanks. (He takes the bottle with both twitching hands and tilts it to his lips and gulps down the whiskey in big swallows.) (1.1)

Citing non-print or sources from the Internet

With more and more scholarly work published on the Internet, you may have to cite sources you found in digital environments. While many sources on the Internet should not be used for scholarly work (reference the OWL's  Evaluating Sources of Information  resource), some Web sources are perfectly acceptable for research. When creating in-text citations for electronic, film, or Internet sources, remember that your citation must reference the source on your Works Cited page.

Sometimes writers are confused with how to craft parenthetical citations for electronic sources because of the absence of page numbers. However, these sorts of entries often do not require a page number in the parenthetical citation. For electronic and Internet sources, follow the following guidelines:

Miscellaneous non-print sources

Two types of non-print sources you may encounter are films and lectures/presentations:

In the two examples above “Herzog” (a film’s director) and “Yates” (a presentor) lead the reader to the first item in each citation’s respective entry on the Works Cited page:

Herzog, Werner, dir. Fitzcarraldo . Perf. Klaus Kinski. Filmverlag der Autoren, 1982.

Yates, Jane. "Invention in Rhetoric and Composition." Gaps Addressed: Future Work in Rhetoric and Composition, CCCC, Palmer House Hilton, 2002. Address.

Electronic sources

Electronic sources may include web pages and online news or magazine articles:

In the first example (an online magazine article), the writer has chosen not to include the author name in-text; however, two entries from the same author appear in the Works Cited. Thus, the writer includes both the author’s last name and the article title in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader to the appropriate entry on the Works Cited page (see below).

In the second example (a web page), a parenthetical citation is not necessary because the page does not list an author, and the title of the article, “MLA Formatting and Style Guide,” is used as a signal phrase within the sentence. If the title of the article was not named in the sentence, an abbreviated version would appear in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. Both corresponding Works Cited entries are as follows:

Taylor, Rumsey. "Fitzcarraldo." Slant , 13 Jun. 2003, www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/fitzcarraldo/. Accessed 29 Sep. 2009. 

"MLA Formatting and Style Guide." The Purdue OWL , 2 Aug. 2016, owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/. Accessed 2 April 2018.

Multiple citations

To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations by a semi-colon:

Time-based media sources

When creating in-text citations for media that has a runtime, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes and seconds you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).

When a citation is not needed

Common sense and ethics should determine your need for documenting sources. You do not need to give sources for familiar proverbs, well-known quotations, or common knowledge (For example, it is expected that U.S. citizens know that George Washington was the first President.). Remember that citing sources is a rhetorical task, and, as such, can vary based on your audience. If you’re writing for an expert audience of a scholarly journal, for example, you may need to deal with expectations of what constitutes “common knowledge” that differ from common norms.

Other Sources

The MLA Handbook describes how to cite many different kinds of authors and content creators. However, you may occasionally encounter a source or author category that the handbook does not describe, making the best way to proceed can be unclear.

In these cases, it's typically acceptable to apply the general principles of MLA citation to the new kind of source in a way that's consistent and sensible. A good way to do this is to simply use the standard MLA directions for a type of source that resembles the source you want to cite.

You may also want to investigate whether a third-party organization has provided directions for how to cite this kind of source. For example, Norquest College provides guidelines for citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers⁠ —an author category that does not appear in the MLA Handbook . In cases like this, however, it's a good idea to ask your instructor or supervisor whether using third-party citation guidelines might present problems.

MLA In-Text Citation Quiz

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Why did William Tyndale translate the Bible into English?

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In each of the following sentences, identify the voice of the verb by writing above it A for active or P for passive .

Example 1 . The ballad was sung ‾ P \overset{\textit{\color{#c34632}{P}}}{{\underline{\text{was sung}}}} was sung ​ P ​ by Tiffany.

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Draw a vertical line between the subject and predicate of given sentence. Underline each noun. Circle each verb. Label each participle P P P , each gerund G G G , and each infinitive I I I . Miki is putting together an album of pictures to show her biology class.

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Mla quick citation guide.

Using In-text Citation

Include an in-text citation when you refer to, summarize, paraphrase, or quote from another source. For every in-text citation in your paper, there must be a corresponding entry in your reference list.

MLA in-text citation style uses the author's last name and the page number from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken, for example: (Smith 163). If the source does not use page numbers, do not include a number in the parenthetical citation: (Smith).

For more information on in-text citation, see the MLA Style Center .

Example paragraph with in-text citation

A few researchers in the linguistics field have developed training programs designed to improve native speakers' ability to understand accented speech (Derwing et al. 246; Thomas 15). Their training techniques are based on the research described above indicating that comprehension improves with exposure to non-native speech. Derwing and others conducted their training with students preparing to be social workers, but note that other professionals who work with non-native speakers could benefit from a similar program (258).

Derwing, Tracey M., et al. "Teaching Native Speakers to Listen to Foreign-accented Speech." Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, vol. 23, no. 4, 2002, pp. 245-259.

Thomas, Holly K.  Training Strategies for Improving Listeners' Comprehension of Foreign-accented Speech. University of Colorado, Boulder, 2004.

Citing Web Pages In Text

Cite web pages in text as you would any other source, using the author if known. If the author is not known, use the title as the in-text citation.

Your in-text citation should lead your reader to the corresponding entry in the reference list. Below are examples of using in-text citation with web pages.

Entire website with author: In-text citation Parents play an important role in helping children learn techniques for coping with bullying (Kraizer).

Reference entry Kraizer, Sherryll. Safe Child. Coalition for Children, 2011, www.safechild.org.

Web page with no author: In-text citation The term Nittany Lion was coined by Penn State football player Joe Mason in 1904 ("All Things Nittany").

Reference entry "All Things Nittany." About Penn State. Penn State University, 2006, www.psu.edu/ur/about/nittanymascot.html.

General Guidelines

In MLA style the author's name can be included either in the narrative text of your paper, or in parentheses following the reference to the source.

Author's name part of narrative:

Gass and Varonis found that the most important element in comprehending non-native speech is familiarity with the topic (163).

Author's name in parentheses:

One study found that the most important element in comprehending non-native speech is familiarity with the topic (Gass and Varonis 163).

Group as author: (American Psychological Association 123)

Multiple works: (separate each work with semi-colons)

Research shows that listening to a particular accent improves comprehension of accented speech in general (Gass and Varonis 143; Thomas 24).

Direct quote:

One study found that “the listener's familiarity with the topic of discourse greatly facilitates the interpretation of the entire message” (Gass and Varonis 85).

Gass and Varonis found that “the listener’s familiarity with the topic of discourse greatly facilitates the interpretation of the entire message” (85).

Note: For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, display quotations as an indented block of text (one inch from left margin) and omit quotation marks. Place your parenthetical citation at the end of the block of text, after the final punctuation mark.

In addition to awareness-raising, practicing listening to accented speech has been shown to improve listening comprehension. This article recommends developing listening training programs for library faculty and staff, based on research from the linguistics and language teaching fields. Even brief exposure to accented speech can help listeners improve their comprehension, thereby improving the level of service to international patrons. (O'Malley 19)

Works by Multiple Authors

When citing works by multiple authors, always spell out the word "and." When a source has three or more authors, only the first one shown in the source is normally given followed by et al.

One author: (Field 399)

Works Cited entry: Field, John. "Intelligibility and the Listener: The Role of Lexical Stress." TESOL Quarterly , vol. 39, no. 3, 2005, pp. 399-423.

Two authors: (Gass and Varonis 67)

Works Cited entry: Gass, Susan, and Evangeline M. Varonis. "The Effect of Familiarity on the Comprehensibility of Nonnative Speech." Language Learning , vol. 34, no. 1, 1984, pp. 65-89.

Three or more authors: (Munro et al. 70)

Works Cited entry: Munro, Murray J., et al. "Salient Accents, Covert Attitudes: Consciousness-raising for Pre-service Second Language Teachers." Prospect , vol. 21, no. 1, 2006, pp. 67-79.

MLA In-text Citations Trivia Questions! Quiz

Settings

For review, after looking at the OWL at Purdue and other sources for in-text documentation.

Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." (Wordsworth 263)

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).

Both B and C.

We see so many global warming hotspots in North America likely because this region has “more readily accessible climatic data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change . . . ” (“Impact of Global Warming” 6).

According to “Impact", we see so many global warming hotspots in North America likely because this region has “more readily accessible climatic data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change . . . ”

We see so many global warming hotspots in North America likely because this region has “more readily accessible climatic data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change . . . ” (www.GLOBALWARMING.com).

Both A and B

“His love of talk had grown with age and sickness” (Achebe 25).

“His love of talk had grown with age and sickness” (Achebe, 25)

“His love of talk had grown with age and sickness” (Achebe 25; ch. 3).

“His love of talk had grown with age and sickness.” (Achebe p. 25)

Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as "social service centers, and they don't do that well" (Weisman et al. 259).

Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as "social service centers, and they don't do that well" (qtd. in Weisman 259).

So the reader can see where you got the information that you are borrowing.

So you don't plagiarize by not giving credit to other people for their ideas or words.

Because your teacher says so.

Both A and B are correct

There is no trail.

In-text citation to the exact source

In-text citation to works cited page to the exact source

When you paraphrase someone else's ideas

When you summarize someone else's ideas

When you use the exact words of someone else

All of the above

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  1. MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics - Purdue OWL® - Purdue ...

    In-text citations: Author-page style 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.

  2. Library Guides: MLA Quick Citation Guide: MLA Style Quiz

    This guide contains examples of common citation formats in MLA (Modern Language Association) Style. Overview. In-text Citation. Citing Web Pages and Social Media. Citing Articles. Citing Books. Other formats.

  3. MLA In-text Citation Quiz Flashcards | Quizlet

    MLA In-text Citation Quiz Flashcards | Quizlet MLA In-text Citation Quiz Term 1 / 6 Select the entry that correctly uses MLA (2016) style for in-text documentation: a) According to a 2008 study ("Stuck on You"), drivers with bumper stickers on their cars are much more likely to display road rage.

  4. MLA In-Text Citation Quiz Flashcards | Quizlet

    MLA In-Text Citation Quiz Term 1 / 8 True or False: Signal word or phrase must be the first thing to appear on the left-hand margin of the corresponding entry on the Works Cited page. Click the card to flip 👆 Definition 1 / 8 True Click the card to flip 👆 Flashcards Learn Test Match Created by JPWinstanley Terms in this set (8)

  5. MLA In-Text Citations | Other Quiz - Quizizz

    What do you include in an in-text citation? answer choices author's last name and page number book title and page number author's last name and book title author's first and last name Question 4 30 seconds Q. You put your in-text citation inside of... answer choices "quotation marks" (parentheses) [brackets] $dollar signs$ Question 5 30 seconds Q.

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    What does a MLA in-text citation include in parentheses when the source is quoted directly and the author's name is not mentioned in the text? ? Author and publication year: (Doe, 2007) ? Author, publication year, and page number (preceded by p. ): (Doe, 2007, p. 25) ? Author and page number separated by a comma: (Doe, 25) ?

  7. Library Guides: MLA Quick Citation Guide: In-text Citation

    MLA in-text citation style uses the author's last name and the page number from which the quotation or paraphrase is taken, for example: (Smith 163). If the source does not use page numbers, do not include a number in the parenthetical citation: (Smith). For more information on in-text citation, see the MLA Style Center.

  8. MLA In-text Citations Trivia Questions! Quiz - ProProfs Quiz

    In-text citation to works cited page to the exact source 9. The first time you use an author in a signal phrase you use the author's last name. A. True B. False 10. Quotation marks must go around the exact words that were borrowed from someone else. A. True B. False 11. When do you use in-text citations? A. When you paraphrase someone else's ideas

  9. MLA In-Text Citation Practice | Grammar Quiz - Quizizz

    The four parts of an in-text citation are... answer choices open parenteses, author's last name, page number, and close parentheses open parentheses, author's first name, page number, and close parentheses open parentheses, author's last name, a comma, the page number, and a close parentheses parentheses, quote, comma, author's last name