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MLA Citation Guide: In-Text Citations

In-Text Citations - Ground Rules

When you provide a reference within the text of your research papers, you must also provide a corresponding citation in your "Works Cited" list.

For example, in this sentence from a hypothetical research paper:

Among philosophers, there is an argument that a person's use of puns is indicative of their high level of intelligence (Brainard 165-82).

The in-text citation "(Brainard 165-82)" would point readers to the following book,  referenced in the research paper's list of works cited:

Brainard, Blair. Punning and Punditry. Radford UP, 2004.


When the AUTHOR is named in the text:

  • Brainard argues this point (165-82).

When the AUTHOR is named only in the text's citation:

  • Others argue a different point of view (Brainard 165-82).


  • Cleary and Sandy say that a "Jamaica sandwich" (38) is a type of pun.

Adding / Omitting Words from Quotations

If you ADD a word or words in a quotation, you should put square brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text.


Jan Harold Brunvand, in an essay on urban legends, states: "some individuals [who retell urban legends] make a point of learning every rumor or tale" (78).

If you OMIT a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using three spaced dots.


In an essay on urban legends, Jan Harold Brunvand notes that "some individuals make a point of learning every recent rumor or tale ... and in a short time a lively exchange of details occurs" (78).

Short Quotations

To indicate short quotations (fewer than 4 typed lines of prose or 3 lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quote within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page citation (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the text, and include a complete reference in the 'Works Cited' list. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation. Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.


  • According to some, dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184).
  • According to Foulkes, dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (184).
  • Is it possible that dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184)?

Long Quotations

Place quotations longer than four typed lines in a free-standing block of typewritten lines, and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented one inch from the left margin, and maintain double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.


Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration:

They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Brontë 78)

In her poem "Sources," Adrienne Rich explores the roles of women in shaping their world:

The faithful drudging child

the child at the oak desk whose penmanship,

hard work, style will win her prizes

becomes the woman with a mission, not to win prizes

                                but to change the laws of history. (23)