Skip to main content

MLA Style Citation Guide: In-Text Citations

Reflects the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (8th ed.)

Basic Guidelines

You have the option to provide source information that refers to your Works Cited page using a parenthetical citation (commonly located at the end of the sentence) or an in-text reference.  Keep the following in mind:

  • Source information in a parenthetical citation depends on the source's medium and the source's entry on the Works Cited page.
  • Information you provide in-text to reference your citation must match the left most information from the corresponding entry on your works cited page. 

For example, if your Works Cited page reference is as follows: 

Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1896. Print.

Then your indicator in-text or in parenthetical citation that alerts the reader to the works cited entry you're using should be "Crane".  If you decided to be colloquial and simply refer to The Red Badge of Courage or some other information that would identify the material, you should still include Crane in the parenthetical citation.  Each of the three examples below is correct.  

---

Crane ably illustrates the horrors of warfare when he refers to it as a "wretched, wretched thing." (261)

War's horrors are referred to as "wretched, wretched thing(s)." (Crane, 261)

The Red Badge of Courage clearly describes the horrors of war, especially in referring to it as a "wretched, wretched thing." (Crane, 261) 

---

Also keep in mind that there are special rules if a citation is directly quoted.  See the boxes below for examples of these rules.

Short Quotations

For quotations that are less than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, use double quotation marks, and provide the author and page citation.

Example: In addressing questions of purpose, "Spock often advised one to 'Live long and prosper' with customary salute." (Nimoy, 209).

For quotations that feature fewer than three lines of verse from poetry, indicate each line break with a / at the end of the line of verse.

Example: Shakespeare concludes, "To utter the smart that I suffer within; / But such it is I not how to begin." (28-29).

Parenthetical Examples

Keep in mind that your parenthetical citations should make it as easy as possible for the reader to refer to your Works Cited page if they want more information about the work cited.  The standard parenthetical citation uses (last name of author, page number), but if you're citing a work that doesn't have an author, or has a different type of author (for example, a corporation), then simply use the left-most information from your Works Cited entry.  If applicable, include page numbers.  If you refer to the author in-text preceding the citation, you do not need to include them parenthetically.

Examples

One Author: (Blake 253)

Two Authors: (Blake and Williams 200)

Three Authors: (Blake, Williams, and Silva 369)

More than three authors: (Blake, et. al. 209)

Corporate Author: (Microsoft 293)

No Author (Short work, such as an article - use title): ("Fears Over Global Warming" 8)

No Author (Long work, such as a book or play - use title): (Wind in the Willows 92)

Note: If it can be identified in your works cited page, you can use a shortened version of a title.)

URLs: Note: Do not include a whole URL.  Shorten it so as to lead the reader to the Works Cited page.

For example: (CNN.com) instead of: (http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/02/politics/netanyahu-speech-iran-obama-congress/index.html)

Multiple Citations: (Blake 253; Microsoft 293)

The Bible: (New King James Version, John 1.5-10)

 

Long Quotations

For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place the quote in a free-standing blok of text without quotation marks.  Start the quote on a new line and indent the entire block one inch from the left margin.   If you are citing multiple paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph an extra quarter-inch.  Parenthetical citation should occur outside of punctuation on the final line.  If you are quoting poetry, keep the formatting as close to the original as possible.  Maintain double-spacing.

Example: Long Quotation from Prose

Sonia's discomfort is readily apparent:

      She sat down beside Raskolnikov, giving him a hurried bow and casting a quick,       

      curious glance at him.  Most of the time, though, she seemed to avoid looking at       

      him or speaking to him.  She looked preoccupied, though she kept gazing       

      steadily at Mrs Marmeladov, trying to please her.  Neither she nor Mrs       

      Marmeladov was in mourning, for they did not possess any black dresses; Sonia       

      was wearing a dark brown dress, and Mrs. Marmeladov a dark striped cotton      

      one, the only dress she had. (Dostoyevsky 398)

Example: Long Quotation from Verse


In the first half of "Elegy", Pushkin describes the fear of death:

      The mirth, now dead, that once was madly bubbling,
      
      Like fumes of last night's cups is vaguely troubling;

      Not so the griefs that to those years belong:
      
      Like wine, I find, with age they grow more strong.
      
      My path is bleak--before me streth mr morrows:
      
      A tossing sea, foreboding toil and sorrows. (72)