Citations in the MLA Text: The Basics Purdue OWL® (2023)


The MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used for writing articles and citing sources in the liberal arts and humanities. This feature, updated to reflect theManual MLA(9heed.), provides examples for the general format of MLA research articles, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

Guidelines for referencing other people's work in your text using the MLA style are covered throughout theManual MLAand in chapter 7 ofMLA Manual of Style. Both books provide extensive examples, so it's a good idea to refer back to them if you want to become even more familiar with the MLA guidelines or if you have a specific reference question.

Basic rules for in-text citations

In the MLA Style, referencing other people's work in your text is done usingquotes in parentheses. This method involves providing relevant source information in parentheses whenever a sentence uses a quote or paraphrase. Typically, the easiest way to do this is to put all the source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence (i.e. right before the period). However, as the examples below will illustrate, there are situations where it makes sense to place the parentheses elsewhere in the sentence, or even omit information.

General rules

  • The source information required in a parenthetical citation depends on (1) the source medium (eg, print, web, DVD) and (2) the source entry on the Works Cited page.
  • Any source information you provide in the text must match the source information on the Works Cited page. More specifically, any cue words or phrases you provide your readers in the text should be the first thing that appears in the left margin of the corresponding entry on the Works Cited page.

In-text citations: author-page style

The MLA format follows the author page method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and page number(s) from which the quote or paraphrase is taken must appear in the text, and a full reference must appear on the Works Cited page. The author's name can appear in the sentence itself or in parentheses after the quote or paraphrase, but page numbers must always appear in parentheses, not in the text of the sentence. For example:

Wordsworth claimed that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous outpouring of powerful feelings" (263).

Romantic poetry is characterized by the "spontaneous outpouring of powerful feelings" (Wordsworth 263).

Wordsworth has extensively explored the role of emotion in the creative process (263).

Both the citations in the examples above, (263) and (Wordsworth 263), inform readers that the information in the sentence can be located on page 263 of a work by an author named Wordsworth. If readers want more information about this source, they can go to the Works Cited page, where, under Wordsworth's name, they will find the following information:

WORDWORTH, William.lyrical ballads. Oxford UP, 1967.

In-text citations for printed sources with a known author

For print sources such as books, magazines, journal and newspaper articles, provide a cue word or phrase (usually the author's last name) and a page number. If you provide the signal word/phrase in the sentence, you do not need to include it in the citation in parentheses.

Humans have been described by Kenneth Burke as "symbol-using animals" (3).

Human beings have been described as "animals that use symbols" (Burke 3).

These examples should be for an entry starting with Burke, which will be the first thing that appears in the left margin of an entry on the Works Cited page:

Burke, Kenneth.Language as symbolic action: essays on life, literature and method.. University of California Press, 1966.

In-text quotes from fonts printed by a corporate author

When a source has a corporate author, it is acceptable to use the company name followed by the page number for the in-text citation. You should also use abbreviations (eg nat'l for national) where appropriate to avoid interrupting the reading flow with excessively long quotes in parentheses.

In-text citations for sources with non-standard markup systems

If a source uses a marking or numbering system other than page numbers, such as script or poetry, precede the citation with that mark. When citing a poem, for example, the parentheses would start with the word "line" and then the line or classification number. For example, examination of William Blake's poem "The Tyger" would be cited as such:

(Video) MLA Style: In-Text Citations (8th Ed., 2016)

The speaker makes an ardent plea to explore the connection between the violence of nature and the divinity of creation. “Into what distant abysses or skies. / The fire in your eyes burned”, they ask in reference to the tiger while trying to reconcile his intimidation with his relationship with creationism (lines 5-6).

Longer tags, such as chapters (cap.) and scenes (sc.), should be abbreviated.

In-text citations from printed sources with no known author

When the source has no known author, use an abbreviated title of the work instead of the author's name, following these guidelines.

Enclose the title in quotation marks if it is a short work (such as an article), or in italics if it is a longer work (for example, plays, books, TV shows, entire websites) and provide a page number if available .

Titles longer than a standard noun phrase should be abbreviated to a noun phrase excluding articles. For example,to the lighthousewould be shortened tofaro.

If the title cannot be easily reduced to a noun phrase, the title should be cut off after the first clause, phrase or punctuation:

We see so many global warming hotspots in North America probably because this region has "more easily accessible climate data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change...". ("Impact of Global Warming").

In this example, because the reader does not know the author of the article, an abbreviated title appears in the citation in parentheses, and the full title of the article appears first in the left margin of its respective entry on the Works Cited page. Therefore, the writer includes the title in quotation marks as a cue phrase in the parenthetical citation to take the reader directly to the source on the works cited page. The Works Cited entry appears as follows:

"The Impact of Global Warming on North America".Global warming: first signs. 1999. Accessed March 23, 2009.

If the title of the work begins with quotation marks, such as a title referring to another work, that citation or cited title may be used as the short title. Single quotes must be enclosed in parentheses instead of double quotes.

Citations in parentheses and pages of works cited, used together, let readers know what sources you consulted when writing your essay, so they can check your interpretation of the sources or use them in your own scholarly work.

Author page citation for classic and literary works with multiple editions

Page numbers are always needed, but additional information in citations can help literary scholars who may have a different edition of a classic work, such as Marx and Engels.The Communist Manifesto. In these cases, provide the page number of your edition (making sure the edition is listed on your works cited page, of course) followed by a semicolon and then the appropriate abbreviations for volume (vol. ), book (book), part (pt.), chapter (cap.), section (sec.) or paragraph (par.). For example:

Marx and Engels described human history as marked by class struggles (79; ch. 1).

Author page citation for work in an anthology, journal, or collection

When citing a work that appears in a larger source (for example, a newspaper article or an essay in a collection), cite the author of theinternalsource (ie, the article or essay). For example, to quote Albert Einstein's article "A Brief Summary of the Theory of Relativity", published inNaturein 1921, you could write something like this:

The theoretical foundations of relativity go back to earlier work by Faraday and Maxwell (Einstein 782).

See tooour page on journal documentation in Works Cited.

Citation of authors with the same last name

Sometimes more information is needed to identify the source from which a quote is taken. For example, if two or more authors have the same last name, provide both authors' first initials (or even the authors' full names if different authors share initials) in your citation. For example:

Although some experts in medical ethics claim that cloning will lead to modified children (R. Miller 12), others point out that the benefits to medical research outweigh this consideration (A. Miller 46).

(Video) Using the Purdue/Owl Citation Generator

Citing a work by multiple authors

For a source with two authors, list the authors' surnames in the text or citation in parentheses:

Best and Marcus argue that one should read a text for what it says on the surface rather than looking for some hidden meaning (9).

The authors claim that superficial reading analyzes what is "evident, perceptible, apprehensible in the texts" (Best and Marcus 9).

Corresponding Works Cited:

Sincerely, David and Sharon Marcus. "Superficial Reading: An Introduction".representations, vol. 108, no. 1, autumn 2009, pp. 1-21. JSTOR, doi:10.1525/rep.2009.108.1.1

For a source with three or more authors, list only the first author's surname and replace additional names with et al.

According to Franck et al., “Current agricultural policies in the United States are contributing to poor American health” (327).

The authors state that one of the causes of obesity in the United States is government-funded agricultural subsidies (Franck et al. 327).

Corresponding Works Cited:

Frank, Carolina, and others. "Farm Subsidies and the Obesity Epidemic in the United States."American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 45, no. 3, September 2013, p. 327-3

Citation of several works by the same author

If you cite more than one work by an author, include an abbreviated title for the specific work you are citing to differentiate it from others. Put short book titles in italics and short article titles in quotation marks.

Citation of two articles by the same author.:

Lightenor has argued that computers are not useful tools for young children ("Too Early" 38), although he has recognized elsewhere that early exposure to computer games leads to better development of fine motor skills in the second and third year of a child. child ("Hand-eye development" 17).

Citation of two books by the same author.:

Murray states that writing is "a process" that "varies according to our style of thinking" (write to learn6). Furthermore, Murray argues that the purpose of writing is "to get ideas and information from one person's mind to another's mind" (A writer teaches to write3).

Also, if the author's name is not mentioned in the sentence, format your citation with the author's name followed by a comma, followed by an abbreviated title of the work and, where applicable, page numbers:

Visual studies, being such a new discipline, can be "too easy" (Elkins, "Visual Studies" 63).

Citation of works in several volumes

If you are citing different volumes from a multi-volume work, always include the volume number followed by a colon. Put a space after the colon and provide the page numbers. (If you are citing only one volume, give only the page number in parentheses.)

(Video) Using Purdue OWL for MLA citations

. . . as Quintilian wrote ininstitution of speech(1: 14-17).

quoting from the Bible

In your first citation in parentheses, you want to be clear which Bible you are using (and underline or italicize the title), as each version varies in its translation, followed by book (do not italicize or underline), chapter, and verse. . For example:

Ezekiel saw "what appeared to be four living creatures," each with the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle (new jerusalem bible, Those. 1.5-10).

If future references use the same edition of the Bible that you are using, list only the book, chapter, and verse in the citation in parentheses:

John of Patmos echoes this passage when describing his vision (Rev. 4:6-8).

Citation of indirect sources

Sometimes you may have to use an indirect source. An indirect source is a source cited within another source. For such indirect citations, use "qty. in" to indicate the source you actually consulted. For example:

Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as "social service centers, and they don't do it well" (quoted in Weisman 259).

Note that in most cases a responsible researcher will attempt to find the original source rather than citing an indirect source.

Citing transcripts, plays or scripts

Sources that take the form of a dialogue involving two or more participants have special citation and citation guidelines. Each line of dialogue should begin with the speaker's name written in capital letters and indented half an inch. A dot follows the name(e.g. JAMES.). After the period, write the dialogue. Each successive line after the first must be given an additional indent. When someone else starts talking, start a new line with that person's name indented just half an inch. Repeat this pattern every time you change the speaker. You can include scene directions in the citation if they appear in the original source.

Conclude with a parenthesis explaining where to find the excerpt in the source. Typically, the author and source title can be given in a cue phrase before the excerpt is quoted, so the right parenthesis usually only contains locational information such as page numbers or act/scene indicators.

Here is an example from O'NeillThe Iceman arrives.

Alcohol appears early in O'Neill's work. In the opening scene, O'Neill's characters treat alcohol as a cure-all for their ills:

WILLIE. (Begging) Give me a drink, Rocky. Harry said it was fine. God, I need a drink.

ROCKY. Den grab it. It's right under your nose.

WILLIE. (Eagerly) Thank you. (He takes the bottle with two trembling hands and raises it to his lips and swallows the whiskey in large gulps.) (1.1)

Citing non-print or Internet sources

With more and more academic articles being published on the internet, it may be necessary to cite sources found in digital environments. While many sources on the Internet should not be used for academic work (see the OWL'sEvaluation of information sourcesresource), some web fonts are perfectly acceptable for research. When creating in-text citations for electronic, film, or Internet sources, remember that your citation must reference the source on your Works Cited page.

Writers are sometimes confused about how to construct parenthetical citations for electronic sources due to the absence of page numbers. However, these types of entries generally do not require a page number in the parenthetical citation. For electronic and Internet sources, follow the guidelines below:

  • Include in the text the first element that appears in the Works Cited entry that matches the citation (eg, author name, article name, website name, movie name).
  • Please do not provide paragraph numbers or page numbers based on your browser's print preview feature.
  • Unless you need to include your website name in the cue phrase to direct the reader to the appropriate post, don't include URLs in the text. Only provide partial URLs, such as when the site name includes, for example, a domain name such,instead of typing or

miscellaneous non-print fonts

Two types of non-print sources you may find are films and lectures/presentations:

de werner herzogfitzcarraldostars Herzog's longtime film partner Klaus Kinski. During the filming offitzcarraldo, Herzog and Kinski were often at odds, but their explosive relationship made for a memorable and influential film.

(Video) Purdue OWL: MLA Formatting: List of Works Cited

During the presentation, Jane Yates stated that invention and pre-writing are areas of rhetoric that need more attention.

In the two examples above, "Herzog" (a film director) and "Yates" (a presenter) take the reader to the first item of the respective entry for each citation on the Works Cited page:

Herzog, Werner, dir.fitzcarraldo. Interpretation by Klaus Kinski. Authors Film Publisher, 1982.

Yates, Jane. "Invention in Rhetoric and Composition". Gaps Addressed: Future Work in Rhetoric and Composition, CCCC, Palmer House Hilton, 2002. Address.

electronic fonts

Electronic sources may include web pages and online news or magazine articles:

An online film critic stated thatfitzcarraldo"became notorious for its near failure and many obstacles" (Taylor, “Fitzcarraldo”).

HeCORUJA purdueIt is accessed by millions of users every year. Their "MLA Format and Style Guide" is one of their most popular resources.

In the first example (online magazine article), the writer chose not to include the author's name in the text; however, two entries by the same author appear in Works Cited. Therefore, the writer includes the author's last name and article title in the citation in parentheses to guide the reader to the correct entry on the Works Cited page (see below).

In the second example (a web page), a citation between parentheses is not necessary because the page does not include an author, and the title of the article, "MLA format and style guide", is used as a signal phrase within the prayer. If the title of the article was not mentioned in the sentence, an abbreviated version would appear in a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence. The two corresponding works cited entries are as follows:

Taylor, Rumsey. "Fitzcarraldo".inclination, June 13, 2003, Retrieved September 29, 2009.

"MLA Format and Style Guide".to coruja purdue, August 2, 2016, Accessed on April 2, 2018.

several appointments

To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations with a semicolon:

. . . as discussed elsewhere (Burke 3; Dewey 21).

Time based media sources

When creating in-text citations for running-time media, such as a movie or podcast, include the range of hours, minutes, and seconds that you plan to reference. For example: (00:02:15-00:02:35).

When you don't need an appointment

Common sense and ethics should dictate your need to document sources. You don't need to provide sources for familiar sayings, well-known quotes, or common knowledge (for example, American citizens are expected to know that George Washington was the first president). Remember that citing sources is a rhetorical task and as such can vary depending on your audience. If you are writing for a specialist audience in an academic journal, for example, you may have to deal with expectations of what constitutes "common knowledge" that differ from common norms.

Other sources

HeManual MLAdescribes how to cite many different types of authors and content creators. However, you may occasionally find a source or author category that the manual does not describe, making the best way to proceed uncertain.

In these cases, it is generally acceptable to apply general MLA citation principles to the new typeface consistently and sensibly. A good way to do this is to simply use standard MLA instructions for a typeface that closely resembles the source you want to cite.

You can also find out if a third-party organization has provided instructions on how to cite this type of source. For example, Norquest College offersGuidelines for Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Holders⁠—an author category that does not appear in theManual MLA. However, in cases like this, it's a good idea to ask your instructor or supervisor if using third-party citation guidelines might pose a problem.


How do you cite in-text citations in MLA format? ›

In-text citations in MLA style follow the general format of author's last name followed by a page number enclosed in parentheses. Here is an example: "Here's a direct quote" (Smith 8). If the author's name is not given, use the first word (or words) of the title.

What is the basic MLA citation format? ›

A standard MLA Works Cited entry is structured as follows: Author. “Title of the Source.” Title of the Container, Other contributors, Version, Number, Publisher, Publication date, Location.

What are the 7 elements of a proper MLA style citation? ›

All MLA citations will follow a template of applicable core elements: author, title, container, contributors, version, number, publisher, date, and location. If you are missing any of the core elements, simply leave them off.

What are the 9 core elements of an MLA citation? ›

Nine Core Elements and Useful Tips
  • Author. Last name, First name as it appears in the work. ...
  • Title of source. Self-contained sources (books, websites, tv episodes) should be italicized. ...
  • Title of container. This is the larger work that your source may be from. ...
  • Other contributors. ...
  • Version. ...
  • Number. ...
  • Publisher. ...
  • Publication date.
Apr 1, 2022

How do you cite in-text citations? ›

Using In-text Citation

APA in-text citation style uses the author's last name and the year of publication, for example: (Field, 2005). For direct quotations, include the page number as well, for example: (Field, 2005, p. 14). For sources such as websites and e-books that have no page numbers, use a paragraph number.

What are the two types of MLA citations? ›

There are two ways that you will include each source in your research paper using MLA style — a brief, in-text parenthetical citation and a detailed reference list (bibliography) at the end of your paper.

How is MLA citation arranged? ›

Arrange entries in alphabetical order by the first term in each entry (the first author's last name or the title of the work when there is no author). Continue with the numbering convention used throughout the paper by including your last name and the page number in the upper right-hand corner of the Works Cited page.

What is the best MLA citation generator? ›

BibGuru is the best bibliography and citation generator. With BibGuru, you can quickly add all the sources for your paper and make citations in APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago, and thousands of other citation styles.

What 3 elements do MLA in text citations consist of? ›

Author's Last Name. Page Number of Cited Material.

What are 5 key features of MLA writing? ›

MLA Paper Format General Guidelines
  • Use standard 8.5 x 11 white paper.
  • Numbering your pages.
  • 1-inch margins (all sides)
  • Readable font.
  • Double-spaced.
  • Indent new paragraphs.
  • Only one space between sentences.

What is the core of an MLA citation? ›

The author is the first core element of any citation.

Author name(s) always end with a period. If source has more than one author, list the authors or editors for each citation in the order given on the publication.

What are the 3 main components of citing? ›

The main elements included in all book citations across APA, MLA, and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.

What is MLA structure? ›

Guidelines for Formatting a Paper in MLA

Make 1 inch margins on the top, bottom, and sides. The first word in every paragraph should be indented one half inch. Indent set-off or block quotations one half inch from the left margin. Use any type of font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman.

What are the 3 purposes of MLA style? ›

MLA Style establishes standards of written communication concerning: formatting and page layout. applying stylistic technicalities (e.g. abbreviations, footnotes, quotations) citing sources.

What are the 4 things needed in an in-text citation? ›

Citation Guide: In-Text Citations
  • Author.
  • Title of Source.
  • Title of Container.
  • Other Contributors.
  • Version.
  • Number.
  • Publisher.
  • Publication Date.
Sep 26, 2022

What are the 3 types of in-text citation? ›

Citing sources
  • In-text citation.
  • Parenthetical citation.
  • Footnotes.
  • Endnotes.
Jun 24, 2022

What is text citation example? ›

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, like, for example, (Jones, 1998). One complete reference for each source should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

What are the elements of a proper citation? ›

The main elements included in all book citations across APA, MLA, and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.

What are APA 7 citations? ›

APA 7 Style uses the author-date citation method with parentheses. After a quote, add parentheses containing the author's name, the year of publication, and the page number(s) the quote appears. For quotations that are on one page, type "p." before the page number.

What 3 things must you cite? ›

ALWAYS CITE, in the following cases:
  • When you quote two or more words verbatim, or even one word if it is used in a way that is unique to the source. ...
  • When you introduce facts that you have found in a source. ...
  • When you paraphrase or summarize ideas, interpretations, or conclusions that you find in a source.

What are 5 things that must be cited? ›

Information that always must be cited—whether web-based or print-based—includes:
  • Quotations, opinions, and predictions, whether directly quoted or paraphrased.
  • Statistics derived by the original author.
  • Visuals in the original.
  • Another author's theories.
  • Case studies.


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