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MLA Citation Style Guide: In-text Citations

The MLA Citation Style Guide provides assistance for citing sources, based on the guidelines set by the Modern Language Association (MLA) in the MLA Handbook, 9th edition.

Basics of In-text Citations

  • When mentioning the author in the text of your sentence, provide the page number(s) of the reference at the end of the sentence in parentheses. Example: Tannen has argued this point (178-85).  or  It may be true, as Robertson maintains, that "in appreciation of medieval art the attitude of the observer..." (136).
  • When not mentioning the author in the text of your sentence, provide the author and the page number(s) at the end of the sentence in parentheses.  Example: This point has already been argued (Tannen 178-85).  or  It may be true that "in the appreciation of medieval art the attitude of the observer..." (Robertson 136). 
  • If the author's name is unknown or not provided, then use the first word or words of the title. Follow the same formatting that was used in the works cited list, such as quotation marks. Example: There is nothing to be done... ("Talking Cats" 18). 
  • When you quote from electronic sources that do not provide page numbers (like Web pages), cite the author name only. Example: "The tree was never the same" (Stark).

Multiple Authors

 If you cite a work written by three or fewer authors, include all of the authors' last names either in the text or in the parenthetical citation.

(Author, author, and author page number)

Examples: Smith, Thomas, and Kinkade... (133).


     The trees...growing forever (Smith, Thomas, and Kinkade 133).

If you cite a work with more than three authors, you may list all of the authors' last names or list the first author's last name followed by et. al.  

Multiple Works

Same Author:

If you cite more than one work by the same author, add a shortened title for the source you are referencing within the parentheses. 

(Author, Shortened Title page number)

Example: Shakespeare's King Lear has been called a "comedy of the grotesque" (Frye, Anatomy 237).

If the author is listed in the text, only (Shortened Title page number) is needed.

Example: For Northrop Frye, one's death is not a unique experience, for "every moment we have lived through we have also died out of into another order" (Double Vision 85).

Different Authors:

If you cite multiple works by different authors in one parenthetical reference, cite each work as you normally would and use semicolons to separate the citations.

Example: (Fukuyama 42; McRae 101-33)

Repeated Use of Sources

If you're using information from a single source more than once in succession (i.e., no other sources referred to in between), you can use a simplified in-text citation.


Cell biology is an area of science that focuses on the structure and function of cells (Smith 15). It revolves around the idea that the cell is a "fundamental unit of life" (17). Many important scientists have contributed to the evolution of cell biology. Mattias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, for example, were scientists who formulated cell theory in 1838 (20). 

 **If using this simplified in-text citation creates ambiguity regarding the source being referred to, use the full in-text citation format.**

Works Quoted in Another Source

Sometimes an author of a book, article, or website will mention another author’s work by using a quotation or paraphrased idea from that source. The basic rule is that in both your Works Cited list and in-text citation you will still cite the author of the work you are reading.  To note the original source for the quote you can include the words “qtd. in” to your in-text citation.  You may also choose to note the original author by stating the their name within your text. For example, "Brown notes that Smith..."

Examples of in-text citations:

According to a study by Smith (qtd. in Kirkey) 42% of doctors would refuse to perform legal euthanasia.

Smith (qtd. in Kirkey) states that “even if euthanasia was legal, 42% of doctors would be against this method of assisted dying” (A.10).

Kirkey quoted a study by Smith stating that 42% of doctors would refuse to perform legal euthanasia.

Example of Works Cited list citation:

Kirkey, Susan. "Euthanasia." The Montreal Gazette, 9 Feb. 2013, p. A.10. Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies.

Parenthetical Documentation

When using parenthetical documentation for in-text citations, remember two key points:

  • References referred to in the text must point to specific sources in the works cited list.
  • Be as specific as possible when identifying the original location of the cited material.


When you write information or ideas from a source in your own words, cite the source by adding an in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased portion.

Paraphrasing from One Page

Include a full in-text citation with the author name and page number (if there is one). For example:

Example: Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 65).

Paraphrasing from Multiple Pages

If the paraphrased information/idea is from several pages, include them. For example:

Example: Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 50, 55, 65-71).

Long Quotations

If your quotation extends to more than four lines as you're typing your essay, it is a long quotation.

Rules for Long Quotations

There are 4 rules that apply to long quotations that are different from regular quotations:

  • The line before your long quotation, when you're introducing the quote, usually ends with a colon.
  • The long quotation is indented half an inch from the rest of the text, so it looks like a block of text.
  • There are no quotation marks around the quotation.
  • The period at the end of the quotation comes before your in-text citation as opposed to after, as it does with regular quotations.

Example of a Long Quotation:

At the end of Lord of the Flies the boys are struck with the realization of their behavior:

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (Golding 186)