What is an MLA In-Text Citation? 

An in-text citation is a citation within your writing that shows where you found your information, facts, quotes, and research. All MLA in-text citations require the same basic information:

  • Author's last name (no first names or initials)
  • Page number (if available)

To see how to format APA in-text citations or Chicago Style citations,  see these guides.

How do I format an MLA In-Text Citation?

1. Put all the citation information at the end of the sentence:

citation information image

2. Include author name as part of the sentence (if author name unavailable, include title of work):

include author image

Each source cited in-text must also be listed on your Works Cited page.

If you are quoting from a work, you will need to include the author’s last name and the page number (if available).

If the author is not mentioned as part of your sentence, place the author's last name and the page number in parentheses after the quotation. If there are no page numbers, then this can be omitted from the citation.

For example:

The author notes, “The systematic development of literacy and schooling meant a new division in society, between the educated and the uneducated” (Cook-Gumperz 27).

As observed by the writer, “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence” (Carr).

Always frame the quotation with a signal verb before and an interpretation after.

If you reference the author’s name as you introduce a quote, the parenthetical citation only needs to contain the page number. If the author’s name is stated as you introduce a work that does not contain page numbers, no parenthetical citation is required.

For example:

According to the Cook-Gumperz, “The systematic development of literacy and schooling meant a new division in society, between the educated and the uneducated” (27). In other words, access to learning created yet another social hierarchy.

Carr is keen to note that, “As we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.” In short, we run the risk of limiting our knowledge depth by trusting our devices to do so much for us.

If you are paraphrasing or summarizing information from a source, still cite the author’s last name and the page where this information can be found in a text (if there are page numbers available).

For example:

Some educational theorists suggest that schooling and a focus on teaching literacy divided society into educated and uneducated classes (Cook-Gumperz 27).

Some argue that relying too much on the Internet for information might hinder our mental capacities and our ability to read books and other long pieces (Carr).

When quoting an eBook that has page numbers, treat is as a standard in-text citation (author name and page number).

If the eBook does not have explicit page numbers, your in-text citation will include only the author’s last name.

For example:

“Adult development focuses on the scientific study of changes in behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that occur throughout adulthood” (Mossler).

Only if the work is divided into chapter or section numbers that are consistent across all mediums (Kindle, Nook, PDF, etc.) would you cite the location, such as volume (vol.), chapter (ch.), or paragraph (par.).

“Adult development focuses on the scientific study of changes in behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that occur throughout adulthood” (Mossler, ch. 1).

“Twins reared apart report similar feelings” (Palfrey, pars. 6-7).

A web page is cited the same way as any other source, including the author name and page number. If there are no page numbers, it is only required to include the author name. However, you may include the paragraph numbers if they are explicitly labeled. Never count paragraphs on your own.

When citing a web page, determine if the author is a person or an organization. You may cite the organization if no author name is provided. As a guide, whatever word(s) appear first in your Works Cited entry should be the same as what you place in your parenthetical citation.

Author is an Individual

...(Dunn).

If you can’t find an individual author, but you can find an organization or group that is responsible for the content of a web page, then cite that group, organization, corporation, university, government agency, or association as the author.

Author is an Organization/Company/University/Agency

...(United States Coast Guard).

No Author

If your web page does not include any author, include a shortened version of the article title within quotation marks (""). Omit articles such as the, a, or an. Be sure, however, that the key words you select for your in-text citation match the Works Cited entry, so that your reader can easily distinguish which sources you are citing. If there is no clear article title, include the web page title within quotation marks (“”):

...("Policies and Procedures" 3).

If your text does not include an author, include the web page or article title within quotation marks (" "):

A collapse of the main ramp into the San Jose mine leaves 33 miners trapped 2,300 feet underground for two months ("All 33 Chile Miners").

If you are citing a book or eBook with no author, include the book title in italics:

Andragogy is the method and practice of teaching adult learners (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary).

When a group or an organization creates a work, that organization, corporation, university, government agency, or association can be treated as the author. In this case, include the full name of the group as the author:

(San Diego State University 4)

Again, just be sure the content of your parenthetical citation matches the first few words of your Works Cited entry.

2 Authors

 

When your source has 2 authors, use “and” for both your end-of-sentence citation and when the last names are a part of your sentence:

...(Jones and Fraenza 3).

In their article, Jones and Fraenza stated that... (3).

3 or More Authors

When you have three or more authors, include only the last name of the first author listed, followed by “et al.”:

...(Lekkerkerk et al. 2).

Lekkerkerk et al. discussed that... (2).

If your list of works cited includes two or more works by the same author, then your citation must reflect the specific text in addition to the author’s name. Give the title either in the text or in a parenthetical citation. In a parenthetical citation, give the full title only if it is brief; shorten the title to the first two or three main words (excluding a, an, or the).

For example:

At about age seven, children begin to use appropriate gestures with their stories (Gardner, Arts 144-145).

According to Art Through the Ages, children begin to use appropriate gestures with their stories at about age seven (Gardner 144-145).

 

If you use a single parenthetical citation to refer to more than one work, separate the references with a semicolon.

Two recent articles point out that a computer badly used can be less efficient than no computer at all (Gough and Hall 201; Richards 162).

A secondary source (or indirect source) is a source that cites or quotes another source.

For example, if you read an article by Brown and that author quotes the earlier work of Smith, Brown is the secondary or indirect source (because it was written later) and Smith is considered the direct or original source (because it was written first).

To cite a source you found in another source, state the original author (direct source) within your sentence and state "qtd. in" followed by the last name and year of the secondary source. For example:

According to Smith, students need faculty and staff support to succeed (qtd. in Brown).

Generally speaking, it is best to seek out the original source when possible.

For poems that are not divided into larger sections, you can omit page number and supply the line number(s). To prevent confusion with page numbers, precede the numbers with “line” or “lines” in the first citation; you may use only numbers after that.

In Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, the speaker identifies with the trees of late autumn, noting, “Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang” (line 4). But he turns toward aging when he continues, “In me though seest the glowing of such fire / That on the ashes of his youth doth lie” (9-10).

For verse plays or poems divided into parts, omit the page number and cite the act and scene (or parts) plus the line numbers. Use Arabic numerals unless your instructor specifically asks for Roman numerals.

Later in King Lear, Shakespeare has the disguised Edward say, “The prince of darkness is a gentleman” (3.4.147).

Finally, for prose plays, provide the page number followed by the act and scene, if any.

In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman

, the most poignant defense of Willie Loman comes from his wife Linda, who argues, “He’s not the finest character that ever lived. But he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog” (56; act 1).

 

When citing a media source that lacks page numbers but includes time stamps (such as a video, speech, or interview), you may put the range of time you are citing in a parenthetical citation:

According to Stevenson, “In 1972 there were 300,000 people in jails and prisons; today, there are 2.3 million” (05:52-05:58).

Abbreviate the name of the book or section if it is longer than four letters (“Gen.” for Genesis, “Rev.” for Revelations, etc.) and then provide the chapter and verse in Arabic numerals.

According to the Bible, at Babel God “did… confound the language of all the earth” (Gen. 11.9).