In-Text Citations

Basic In-Text Citation Rules

When a paper quotes, summarizes, or paraphrases an outside source, it should cite this source. In MLA style, use parenthetical (in-text) citations to refer to the works of others. These in-text citations direct your reader to the full citation in the Works Cited page at the end of the paper.

General Guidelines

A typical in-text citation is composed of...

  • The element that comes first in the entry in the works-cited list (usually the author's name). 
  • The location of the cited material in the work (usually a page number). Location depends on the source medium (e.g. Print, Web, DVD). 

Parenthetical vs. Citations in Prose

In-text citations can be formatted in two ways: parenthetical and citations in prose.

  • For citations in prose, the author name is incorporated into the actual text of the paper. The location of the cited material is placed in parentheses at the end of the sentence. 

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

  • In parenthetical citations, the author last name(s) and the location of the cited material appear in parentheses at the end of the sentence. 

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

  • For parenthetical citations of a corporate author or work with an unknown author, shorten the corporate author name or title of the unknown work to a noun phrase. A citation of a study by the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society would look like...

According to one study of climate change, the "speed of warming is more than ten times that at the end of an ice age" (National Academy 9).

Multiple Authors, Group Authors, and Unknown Authors

Author Type Parenthetical Citation Citation in Prose
One author (Smith 37). Adrian Smith writes...(37).
Two authors (Smith and Jones 37). Adrian Smith and Latimer Jones suggest...(37).
Three or more Authors (Smith et al. 37). Adrian Smith and colleagues' study reveals...(37).
Corporate Author (National Academy 9). According to the National Academy of Sciences and Royal Society...(9).
Unknown Author ("Mower's Lament" 12). In the unsigned poem "Mower's Lament"...(6).

Citing Parts of a Source

For parts of sources that are not pages, include a comma after the author, label the type of part you are citing then provide the part number or range. When a source has no page numbers or part numbers, no number should be given in a parenthetical citation. Do not count unnumbered paragraphs or other parts.

Type of Part Citing Parenthetical Citation Example
Document with no numbered parts (ex: web article) (Hobbes).
Page (Baron 194).
Page range (Baron 194-197).
Multiple, non-consecutive pages (Baron 195, 198, 293).
Citing more than one volume in a multi-volume work (Marx, 3: 127). [Author, volume #: page #]
Paragraph (Berry, par. 3).
Lines (Whitman, lines 24-29).
Timestamps  (Lucas 00:03:16-18). 
Parts of different works by different authors in the same sentence (Morrison 57; DeLillo 375).