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MLA Citation Guide

In-text citations explained

In-text citations are brief credits in the body of a paper.  In-text citations direct readers to the works cited list at the end of the paper for complete information about the sources used.

For more information on citing sources in the text of your paper see chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook  OR  visit the MLA Style Center  https://style.mla.org/in-text-citations-overview/

In-text citations (Using author & page number)

  • The elements of an in-text citation are put in parenthesis ( )
  • Do not use p. or pp. in in-text citations

The simplest in-text citation includes the last name (i.e. surname) of the author and the page number(s) from the source. 

For example:
Reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (Baron 194).

Alternately, the author’s name can be woven into the text of the paper.  Only the page number is in parenthesis.

For example:
According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (194).

In-Text Citations & the Works Cited List

Notice how the in-text citations refer the reader of the paper to the full citation in the works cited list:

Baron, Naomi S. “Redefining Reading: The Impact of Digital Communication Media.” PMLA, vol. 128, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 193–200.

In-text citations (Using title & page number)

  • The elements of an in-text citation are put in parenthesis ( )
  • Do not use p. or pp. in in-text citations

In some instances an entry in a works cited list begins with the title of the source.

For example:
Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America. National Endowment for the Arts, June 2004.

The title and the page number(s) are used in the in-text citation.  Shorten the title for readability.

For example:
Despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (Reading 3).

Alternately, the title can be woven into the prose of the paper. (Only the page number is in parenthesis).

For example:
Reading at Risk notes that despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (3).

Notice how the in-text citations refer the reader to the entries in the works cited list.

Examples of parenthetical citations in-text

The following table presents some common types of parenthetical citations.  (In a parenthetical citation all of the information about a source cited in-text is included in the parenthesis).

For more information and a complete list of examples see chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook.

  Rule Example
Two authors Connect surnames with  and (Popoff and Jones 4-5)
Three or more authors

Surname of first author and et al.

(Singh et al. 135)
Corporate author Shorten the name to a noun phrase

(National Academy 9)

full name is National Academy of Sciences

Multiple works by same author(s)

Include the title
(in italics or quotation marks as appropriate)

(Atwood, Testaments, 50-51)

Poems and plays

(Verse works)

Cite by division

(such as act, scene, canto, book, part or line)

(Hamlet 1.5.35-37)
(Beowulf, lines 145-46)

Numbered parts

(paragraphs, lines, chapters, sections)

Give a label and the number(s)

(par. or pars. for paragraph(s))

(Smith, par. 5)
(Smith, lines 10-12)
Works without numbered pages or paragraphs No number is given (Smith)

Citations in prose (In-text)

The MLA Handbook provides detailed description and numerous examples of “citations in prose” style of in-text citations.  This is when information about a source is woven into the text of a paper.

  • Example 1:  Author’s name

Incorporate the author's name into your prose.  For example:

According to Naomi Baron, reading is “just half of literacy. The other half is writing” (194).

  • Example 2:  Title

Incorporate the title of a source into the prose of your paper.  For example:

Reading at Risk notes that despite an apparent decline in reading during the same period, “the number of people doing creative writing—of any genre, not exclusively literary works—increased substantially between 1982 and 2002” (3).

See chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook for more information.

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