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Home » Student Writing Assistance » MLA Format – Overview » MLA Format – In-Text Citations and Quotations

MLA Format – In-Text Citations and Quotations

A. Basic rules

  • MLA style calls referring to the works of others in one’s own paper parenthetical citations (This is generally the same idea as an in-text citation in APA style)
  • The information required in a parenthetical citation depends on the following:
    • The type of source being used (e.g. print, web, interview, etc.)
    • The source’s entry on the Works Cited (bibliography) page
  • Any source that is referenced in-text must also be referenced on the Works Cite page
  • To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical citation, place a semi-colon between the sources to separate them properly 
    • (Williams 8; Becker 165)

B. “Author-page” style

  • Whenever referencing a quotation or idea from another’s work, the author’s last name and page number(s) from which the reference came must appear in the text (along with a complete reference in the Works Cited page)
  • The author’s name may either appear in the sentence itself, or in parentheses following the quotation/paraphrase
  • The page number(s) should always appear in the parentheses, not in the text of the sentence.

    See below for some examples:

Example 1: Author’s Last Name stated that “insert quotation here” (page number).

Example 2: Insert paraphrase here (Author’s Last Name page number).

Example 3: Author’s last name followed by paraphrase (page number). 

C. In-text citations: Print sources

  • Print sources include books, scholarly journal articles, newspapers, etc.
  • To cite print sources in-text, provide a signal word or phrase (usually the author’s last name) and a page number
    • Remember: If the signal word/phrase is provided in the sentence, it is not necessary to include it in the parenthetical citation
  • Example:

Insert information here by Author’s Last Name (page number).

“Insert quotation here” (Author’s Last Name page number).

Author’s Last Name asserted that . . . (page number).

  • Some sources, such as organizations or corporations, have a corporate author
    • In these cases, it is okay to use the name of the corporation (instead of the author’s last name, as is usually the case) followed by the page number in the in-text citation
    • Use abbreviations (e.g. “nat’l” for national) whenever appropriate – this avoids interrupting the flow of the paper with lengthy citations
  • If a source does not have a known author, use a shortened title of the work instead of the author’s last name followed by a page number
    • If the title is short (such as an article), place the title in quotation marks
    • If the title is long (such as a literary work), italicize the title
    • Whenever a title is used in the parenthetical citation, it will also be used in place of the author’s name in the Works Cited
  • When classic and literary works have multiple editions, which include additional information to help identify the work, the following information is needed:
    • Give the page number of the edition being cited, followed by a semicolon, followed be the appropriate abbreviations for volume (vol.), book (bk.), part (pt.), chapter (ch.), section (sec.), or paragraph (par.). Example:

Author’s Last Name insert information here (page number; vol. number).

  • When a work has multiple volumes (this is different from editions!), include the following:
    • The volume number, followed by a colon, then the page number(s). See below for an example:

Author’s Last Name insert information here (volume number: page numbers). 

D. In-text citations: Non-print and electronic sources

  • Before utilizing any information found on the Internet, be sure to evaluate the work, which ensures that it is a credible source
    • Citing work from websites that do not provide the correct information can be extremely detrimental to validating the argument of the paper
  • Non-print and electronic sources often lack page numbers, so do not worry if one cannot be found in the source
  • For electronic and Internet sources, be sure to follow these guidelines in the parenthetical citation:
    • The text in the first item that appears in the Works Cited entry (author name, article name, website name, etc.) – this information depends on what is available from the source
    • Unless it is essential to list the website name in the signal phrase in-text, do not include URLs in-text.
      • If it is necessary to provide the URL, make it a partial URL (e.g. com rather than http://www.cnn.com/)

E. In-text citations: Miscellaneous information and sources

  • Sometimes, authors of a source (e.g. a scholarly journal article) have the same last name
    • In these cases, more information is necessary to identify the source:
      • Provide both authors’ first initials (or first names, if they share the same initials as well) in the in-text citation. Example:

Insert information here (A. Author page number), insert more information here (B. Author page number).

  • Sometimes, one work will have multiple authors contributing to it
    • In this case, make sure to follow the listed guidelines, as the in-text citations are formatted differently depending on number of authors
      • For a source with three or fewer authors, list the authors’ last names in the text or parenthetical citation:

Authorone, Authortwo, and Authorthree state “insert quotation here” (page number).

  • For a source with more than three authors, use the work’s bibliographic information as a guide (provide the first author’s name followed by et al., or list all of the names):

Authorone et al. summarized that…(page number).

  • If a paper cites multiple works by the same author, include a shortened title for the particular work that is being referenced (this will distinguish each work from the others)
    • Short titles of books are placed in italics
    • Short titles of articles are placed in quotation marks
    • Example: Doe argues that . . . (“Short Title” page number), which is further proven in . . . (“Other Short Title” page number).
      • This is an example of citing the same author of two journal articles; books would be formatted the same way, except the titles would be italicized rather than placed in quotation marks
    • Note: the author’s name does not have to be mentioned in the sentence
      • If the author’s name is placed in parentheses with the rest of the citation, begin with the author’s last name, the shortened title, then page range
      • Example: “Insert quotation here” (Doe, Shortened Title page number).
  • Sometimes, when providing clarity or piecing together information from multiple sources, there may be more than one source in the same parenthetical citation
    • To cite multiple sources in one in-text citation, separate the citations by a semi-colon. Example:

Insert information (Authorone page number; Authortwo page number). 

  • It is okay to occasionally cite an indirect source, which is a source that is cited within another source
    • For indirect quotations, use the abbreviation “qtd. in” to indicate the source that the quotation is actually from
    • Example: Doe argues that . . . “insert quotation from indirect source here” (qtd. in Author page number).
    • While this is okay to do very occasionally, it is highly suggested that a large attempt it made to find the original source, rather than citing an indirect source (this establishes credibility as a researcher)
  • Be careful when determining if a citation is not needed for a source
    • A general rule of MLA format is that familiar proverbs, well-known quotes, and common knowledge do not require an in-text citation/reference in the Works Cited
    • However, depending on audience, this could be a form of plagiarism – remember, it is better to cite the author(s) than to be flagged for plagiarism!

F. Formatting quotations

  • There are different formats for directly quoting another’s work, all of which depend on how long the quotation is:
    • For short quotations (no more than four typed lines) in the text, enclose the quotation with double quotation marks, and provide the author and specific page citation
      • Punctuation marks (e.g. commas, periods, etc.) should appear after the parenthetical citation
      • Question marks/exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are part of the quote, but after the parenthetical citation if they are not.
      • See below for a few examples:

“Insert quotation here” (Author Last Name page number).

“Insert quotation here!” (Author Last name page numbers).

“Insert quotation here” (Author Last Name page number)!

  • If using short quotations from poetry (no more than three lines of verse), mark breaks in the verse with a slash ( / ) at the end of each line of verse (See below):

“Insert first verse / Insert second verse / Insert third verse” (Author Last Name page number).

  • If a quotation is more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (for poetry), utilize a free-standing block of text, without quotation marks
    • Start the quotation on a new line
    • The entire quotation should be indented one inch from the left margin
    • Maintain double-spacing
    • Only indent the first line of the quotation by an additional quarter inch if multiple paragraphs are cited
    • Parenthetical citation comes after the closing punctuation mark
    • If quoting a long verse (poetry), maintain original line breaks
  • If a word(s) is/are being added in a quotation, place the added word(s) in a bracket (this indicates that the word(s) is/are not part of the original text)
    • Adding a word/adding words can be necessary in order to provide the audience with clarity
  • If a word is being omitted from a quotation, indicate the deleted word(s) by using ellipsis marks, three periods ( . . . ), which are preceded and followed by a space
    • Note: Brackets are not needed around ellipses unless adding brackets would clarify the use of the ellipses to the audience
    • When omitting words from poetry quotations, use the standard three-period ellipses
    • When omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem (Example below):

Line 1 of poem
Line 2 of poem
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Line 4 of poem