MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics

MLA stands for Modern Language Association. MLA provides guidelines in formatting research papers in the studies of the humanities and general education. It is considered to be simpler and more concise than other styles and is widely used in secondary schools, colleges, and universities. The style utilizes parenthetical references, which are text references placed within parentheses. The parenthetical references correspond to an alphabetical listing of items you refer to on the Works Cited page, which appears on a separate page titled “Works Cited”, at the end of the paper. The 7th edition is the most recent publication. Below are the basics for in-text citations.

  • General Guidelines

The content of the in-text citation is dependent upon: (1) the source medium, in other words Print, Web, DVD, etc., and (2) the corresponding item on the Works Cited page.

The key word or phrase provided as an in-text citation must be the first word or phrase that appears for the entry on the Works Cited page.

  • Kinds of In-text Citations:

Author-page style – where the author’s last name is followed by the page number(s) where the paraphrase or quotation is taken from appear in the text. In the examples below, the information within the parenthetical citation tells the reader what page to find the information being provided in the sentence, quote, or paragraph. The author’s name lets the reader know the first word for the bibliographical item on the Works Cited page.

  • Author stated that “quote provided” (264).
  • A sentence containing “a short quote” (Author 264).
  • Author is directly mentioned in-text and his words paraphrased (264).

Unknown author of print-based style – when the author of an article, literary work, or a Web site is not known, then use the title (shortened, if too long) of the work instead of the author’s name and provide the page number for the information being cited. Place the title within quotation marks for short works and italicize the title if it is for a longer work. In the example below, we have the name of the short work and the page number in the work from which the information comes.

  • A sentence containing “a short quote” (“Title of Short Work” 264).“Title of Short
  • Work” is directly mentioned in-text and the information from the source paraphrased (264).

Author-page citation for works with multiple editions is used when different editions of the same work exist. In that case, the edition should be added to the page number being cited: follow the page number with a semicolon; the appropriate abbreviations are: paragraph – par., section – sec., chapter – ch., part – pt., book – bk., and volume – vol.. Example:

Sophocles states that . . . (264; ch. 1).

Citing authors with the same last name necessitates providing each author’s first initial along with the last name. If the authors share the same first initial as well as the same last name, then use the first name.

Citing a work by multiple authors

In this case, list each author’s last name in the text or in the bracketed citation. For example:

(last name, last name, and last name 265).

If there are three authors or more, provide the last name of the first author mentioned for the entry followed by et al. on the Works Cited page. For example:

(last name et al., 265).

These are some of the basic rules for in-text citations in MLA format.
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