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MLA Citation Guide: In-Text Citations

The MLA Handbook instructs you to cite every source whose ideas influenced your work. Regardless of whether you directly quote, paraphrase, summarize, adapt a chart, table or image, theory or model, or just refer to an author's idea, make sure to provide appropriate documentation. This begins by inserting a short citation in the text to indicate where you used another's work. The information on this page will help you write your in-text citations.

Anatomy of an In-Text Citation: (Author, Locator)

An in-text citation in MLA style requires 2 parts: The name of the author(s), and the locator--often a page, page range, or paragraph number. You may include this information parenthetically at the end of a sentence, write the information into your text, or employ a combination of both methods. For example:

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).

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

AUTHOR TYPE IN-TEXT

One author

(Qubein 28)
Two authors (Qubein and Erb 28)
Three or more authors (Qubein et al. 28)

Group author (with abbreviation)

First citation:

Subsequent citations:

(High Point University [HPU] 94)

(HPU 94)

Group author (no abbreviation) (Bonner Foundation 63)

No author listed (use first few words of title instead of author)

Book: (Leading Schools 57)

Article: ("Leading Schools" 57)

Single fact or idea attributed to more than one source (Qubein 194; Bauer 55)

Quoting, Paraphrasing, Summarizing...

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

Example:

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)

 

Summarizing & Paraphrasing

Even if you summarize or paraphrase an author's ideas (i.e., put the main idea or a passage in your own words or "rephrase" it) you still must cite the source.

Example:

Guided imagery was first examined in a psychological context in the 1960s, when the behavior theorist Joseph Wolpe helped pioneer the use of relaxation techniques such as aversive imagery, exposure, and imaginal flooding in behavior therapy (Achterberg; Utay and Miller).

Although the student wrote the sentence, they cited two sources from which they gathered this information.

Locators:

In addition to the author, you may also need to provide direction to the specific part of the source where you got the information (always do so for direct quotes). Parts can include:

  • pages: (Jones 50)
  • page ranges: (155-60)
  • paragraph numbers: (par. 4) or (pars. 4-5)
  • chapters: (Jones and Smith, ch. 3)
  • sections: (Jones and Smith, sec. 3)
  • tables or figures: (table 1)
  • presentation slides: (slide 7)
  • time stamps for video or audio sources: ("Buffy" 00:03:16-17)
  • measures from a musical score: (mm. 237-45)

Think of the in-text citation itself as a pointer--it must point to a corresponding full reference in the list at the end of your paper, which contains all the information your reader will need to track down your source. 


Adding or Omitting Words from Quotations

 

Adding

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.

Example:

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).

 

Omitting

If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using three spaced dots (also called an ellipsis).

Example:

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).


Citations for Indirect Sources

MLA advises using materials from the original source, not a secondhand one. However, when citing an indirect source, you may follow the primary source quotation with the abbreviation qtd. in ("quoted in") and the source you used. Only your source (not the original) needs to be referenced in the Works Cited list.

Example:

Samuel Johnson admitted that Edmund Burke was an "extraordinary man" (qtd. in Boswell 2: 450).