MLA In- Text Citations: The Basics

Chapter 6 of the MLA Handbook and chapter 7 of the MLA style Manual are put forth to aid writers in referring to works of others in one’s text using the MLA style. They provide a wide range of examples and it is advisable for one to be continuously consulting them so as to become elite with MLA guidelines or referring to a specific question.

Basic in-text citation rules.

It is critical to understand the fact that when referring to someone’s work in MLA style then one is required to use parenthetical citation. It details putting a relevant source information in parentheses after a quote or a paraphrase.

General Guidelines.

  • There are several elements that guide the source information that is required in parenthetical citation. (1) the source medium is key; meaning whether it is from a print, Web, DVD. And (2) it depends on the source’s entry on the Works Cited (bibliography) page.
  • One should consider the fact that the source information that one provides in-text must relate to the source information on the Works Cited page. To be more clear, it is essential that any signal word or phrase you provide in the text should appear as the first thing on the left margin of the corresponding entry in the Works Cited List.

In-text citations: Author-page style

The MLA style follows the author-page method of in-text citation. In illustration, it means that the last name of the author and the specific page where the quotation or the paraphrase is retrieved from, must be shown in the text followed with complete reference appearing on the Works Cited Page. One can decide to put the author’s name on the sentence itself or in the parentheses following the paraphrase or quotation. No matter how one decides with the author, the page number always appears in the parentheses, and not in the text of one’s sentence. Examples are;

According to Fitch, “corruption is the taking advantage of entrusted power for private or personal gain” (20).

Corruption is “taking advantage of entrusted power for private gain” (Fitch, 20).

On both example (20) and (Fitch, 20) it is clear that the writer is trying to explain to the readers that the quotation used on the text can be located on page 20 and the author of the text is called Fitch. In circumstances where a reader is of need of extra information about the source then they are advised to view the Work Cited page. In this case, in the Work Cited page extra information of Fitch will be provided as follows;

Fitch, Howard. Limitations of Globalization.Harper, 1997.

In-text citations for print sources with known author.

In the case one is in-texting Print sources like books, magazines, scholarly journal articles and newspapers, one is required to provide a signal word or phrase (mostly the author’s last name) and a page number. Note that once the signal word appears in the sentence then one does not need to include it in the parenthetical citation.

Revenge has been referred by Jonathan Ransom “as an act of anger that can cause unintended harm upon oneself” (6).

Revenge has been referred as “an act of anger that can cause ones unintended harm”         (Ransom 6).

Note that these examples must tally with an entry that begins with Ransom, and it will be the first thing that appears on the left-hand margin of the Work Cited page

Ransom, Jonathan. After a heartbreak.HarperCollins Publishers. 2012

In-text citations for print sources by corporate author

It is always right for a writer to consider using the name of a corporation followed by the page number that the paraphrase appears in cases whereby a source provides a corporate author. In addition, one should be able to use abbreviation appropriately in order to avoid interrupting the flow of reading with a long parenthetical citations (e.g. nat’l for national).

In-text citations for print sources with no known author

Is some instance a source appears to bear no known author thus in this case it is upon the writer use shortened title of the work instead of an author’s name. the procedure involves placing the title in quotation marks for short work like that of an article or italicize it if it’s a longer work like plays, books, television shows, and Web sites together with the page number if provided.

Many corporate organizations try their best on Corporate Social Responsibility especially in Africa“ so us to upgrade the relationship between an organization and the esteemed customers..” (“Corporate Social Responsibility”).

The above example represents a source that a writer does not know the author of the article, he therefore uses an abbreviated title of the article appearing in the parenthetical citation which will corresponds to the full name of the article that will be  highlighted first at the left-hand margin in the Work Cited page. It is imperative to put the title in quotation marks to act as a signal phrase in the parenthetical citation in order to lead the reader directly to the source on the Works Cited page. The following example is how the Work Cited part will look like:

“Corporate Social Responsibility in African Companies.”Corporate social responsibility.2009.http://www.corporate social Accessed 15 July 2010

Later on the text we will learn on how to prepare a Works Cited page but at the moment it is essential to understand that parenthetical citation and Work Cited pages aids a reader to identify the sources that were consulted when writing the essay. By so doing one is able to clarify your interpretation of the sources or be used in their scholarly work.

Author-page citation for classic and literary works with multiple editions

Page numbers play a crucial role thus they are highly required, added with citation information that aid scholars who have a different edition of classical work like Marx and Engels’s The communist Manifesto. In instance like this a writer is supposed to give the page number of the edition (while keeping in mind the fact that the edition is listed in your Work Cited page) followed by a semicolon, then an appropriate abbreviation for the volume (vol.), book (bk.), part(pt.), chapter (ch.) section (sec), or paragraph (par.).

Von Dariken and Kruger have associated globalization with human evolution (16; pt. 2).

Citing authors with same last names

In some casesa writer is required to highlight more information in order to identify the source where a quotation is retrieved. At time one can find two or more authors have the same last names; in this case one is required to provide authors intials. If it goes to an extent of the initials being the same then a full name maybe used in the citation. Below is an example

As much as technology has been of help to the human race, it has proven also to be demise (B. McKenzie 14). In some cases, it has created unemployment among the citizens of nation. Some of the things that have been executed manually, now they are executed by use of machine. (S. McKenzie 23).

Citing a work by multiple authors

When a source has two authors, one is required to list the authors’ last names either in the text or in the parenthetical citation:

Miller and Kurt have highlighted that it is important for children to be taught good manners when they are still young (12).

The authors have highlighted the fact that “children adapt well in behavior change while they are young” (Miller and Kurt 12).

The corresponding Work Cited will then look as follows.

Miller, David and Kurt Paul.“Taming children.”Buzz, vol.6, no.2, April 2010, pp. 7-23. JSTOR, doi:20,1525/buzz.2010.104.1.1

In the case of a source with three or more authors, a writer is required to list just the first author’s last name, and replace the other names with et al.

Palumbo et al have convinced people by saying that “the amount of global warming in the world has been rising due to high rate of deforestation” 32).

The authors have convinced people that global warming will continue to affect the world due to increased deforestation (Palumbo et al. 32)

While the corresponding  Work Cited will be;

Palumbo, Paul, et al. “Effects of Global Warming.” American Journal, vol. 12, no.3, Aug. 2010, pp. 26-42.

Citing multiple works by same author

In some cases one cites more than one work done by a particular author, thus one is required to include a shortened title for the particular work from which you are quoting to distinguish it from others. Ensure that you put short titles of books in italics and short titles of articles in quotation marks.

How to cite two articles by the same author:

Agriculture has been upgraded in most parts of the world to cater for the world food shortage that is being experienced (“life improvement” 28). Many states have deployed advanced technology to improve agricultural input although it is causing unemployment (“agricultural technology” 6).

Citing two books by same author:

Marco states that for on to develop well their learning skills, “the fundamentals of listening should be place first hand” (how to learn 8). Additionally, Marco says that the aspect of “giving feedbacks is essential in gauging the level of learning and how to improve it” (importance of feedbacks 12).

In the contrary if the authors name is not included in the text then it is upon the writer to ensure that he or she formats the citation with the author’s name followed by a comma, then followed by a shortened title of the work, and if appropriate followed by the page numbers:

Deception could cause heartache as it is “a way of misleading the one who trusts you” (Austen, “Deception” 42).

Citing Multivolume works

When one is required to cite a reference from different volumes of multivolume work, then one should consider including the volume number followed by a colon. Ensure there is a space after a colon, followed by the page number(s). incase you are citing from one volume, just provide the page number in the parentheses.)

… stated by Marti in the Buzz (1:23-29).

Citing the Bible

It is always important for one to indicate which bible is being used in the first parenthetical citation; make sure you underline or italicize the title. Reason being that each version has its own translation. After the version comes the book (do not underline or italicize), then the chapter and verse.

John said on the gospel that “Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death”(New International Version, John 8.51).

If the same edition is being used for other future reference then just list the book, followed by the chapter, and then verse in the parenthetical citation.

Citing indirect sources

An indirect source is described as a source cited in another source and one can find themselves required to use them. here one is required to use “” to indicate the source you consulted. An example is:

Harper points out that “technology has be beefed up to ensure the industry rises”( Marti 56).

Although this is acceptable, a researcher is always advised to look for the original source rather than use an indirect source.

Citing non-print or sources from the Internet

Nowadays scholarly work is easier to find on the internet and thus one could be forced to cite a research from it. It is imperative to note that scholars are advised not to use sources from the internet for scholarly work, a few Web source have been permitted for research. Once a person has decided to in-text citations from electronic, film, or Internet source, then they should complete it with a reference of the same in the Works Cited page.

It is a great challenge for researcher to provide a parenthetical citation for electronic sources because they do not possess page numbers. One should therefore understand that search entries do not require page number in the parenthetical citation.Researcher are advised to follow the following guideline for this kind of citation:

  • One should consider the first item that appears on the Work Cited entry and put it on the citation (e.g. author name, article name, website name or film name).
  • It is not necessary to give paragraph numbers or page number because they are not availed.
  • If required list the Web site name in the signal phrase in order to get the reader to the appropriate entry, it is advisable not to use URLs in in-text. Use URLS partial when name of site uses a domain name like or as opposed to writing

Electronic sources

In the online film The Source“deception has been well pointed out to represent revenge” (Reich, “The Source”).

The Purdue OWL is of help to millions of people in the academic field. Its “APA Formatting and Style Guide” is one of the widely used resource (Fitch et al.).

The first example represent a situation whereby the writer did not mention the author in the text thus the reason for the inclusion of the author’s name and article name in the parenthetical citation leading the reader to the required entry on the Works Cited page. The second example represents a parenthetical citation with a source with more than three authors. The abbreviation et al, meaning and others is prove of the numerous authors that have presented the source.

Below is how both corresponding Work Cited should look like.

Reich, John.“The Source.” Forbes, 6 Aug.2013, source/.

Fitch, Paul, et al. “APA Formatting and Style Guide.” The Purdue OWL, 12 Sep. 2015,

Multiple citations

In order to cite multiple sources a writer is directed to separate the citations by a semi-colon,

………..agriculture to be the key (McDonnell 24, Kruger 14).

Time-based media sources.

While doing an in-text citation of a platform that has a runtime it is essential to include range of hours, minutes and seconds that you want to reference. E.g. (00:03:05-00:05:15)

When a citation is not needed

Note that in some cases there is no need to document the sources in situation that one uses familiar proverbs, well-known quotation or knowledge. These examples could act as rhetoric choices depending with the kind of audience that one has. The decision not to cite some source depends on the expertise of the audience.