In-Text Citations in MLA Style

MLA is often used by humanities disciplines that value sources not just for their information but as meaningful artifacts (e. g. audio-visual material, books, blogs, literary works, manuscripts, multimedia). Also known as the author-page method, these in-text citations incorporate author and page number to identify sources. The following guidelines for documenting in-text sources come from the MLA Handbook, 8th ed. Where applicable, the manual sections are included in brackets.

Basic (Short) Quotation

Include the source's author (last name only) and page number (if applicable) in parentheses either at the end of sentence before the sentence-ending punctuation or before a natural break in the sentence, such as a semicolon or comma. [1.3.1]

Arts studied in Japan "are not intended to utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind" (Suzuki vii).

Because arts studies in Japan "are meant to train the mind" (Suzuki vii), many university students are often encouraged to take art courses as part of a liberal arts education.

If the author's name is used in the sentence, include the page number in parentheses before a natural break or at the end of the sentence.

According to Suzuki, arts studied in Japan "are not intended to utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind" (vii).

Block (Long) Quotation

If a quotation is more than four lines long in your document, intent it 0.5 inches on a new line without quotation marks around it. Double space the quotation, and insert closing punctuation before the parenthetical citation at the end. [1.3.2]

If the source is mentioned in the text preceding the quotation, only include the page number in the parenthetical after the quotation.

In Ancient Mysteries, James and Thorpe narrate the famous riddle of the Sphinx:

Close to the Great Pyramid, on the edge of the Giza plateau in northern Egypt, sits the world's most enigmatic sculpture -- the Sphinx. Worn by the ravages of time and scarred by the hand of man, this colossal figure of a human-headed lion, 240 feet long and 66 feet high, is the largest surviving statue from the ancient world. (213)

Paraphrase or Summary

Unlike a direct quotation, a summary or paraphrase still relays ideas from a source but in your own words to make it fit better with your document. A paraphrase is a specific idea from a source that needs a citation with author and page number.

Consider this sentence from Suzuki: The arts are not intended to utilitarian purposes only or for purely aesthetic enjoyments, but are meant to train the mind. Compare it to the paraphrase below, noting the different word choice and sentence structure. Despite these differences, the paraphrase still needs a citation because it relays a specific idea from the source.

According to Suzuki, scholars in Japan consider art studies as a form of mental exercise (vii).

Rule to Remember

When mentioning an author for the first time, use their full name; all subsequent citations should use the author's surname.

A summary offers a concise overview of the source and should incorporate mention of the author in the text. No page number is needed because the idea should be broader than a single page of the original source.

Eugen Herrigel's Zen in the Art of Archery is a manifestation of the author's personal approach to the theory and practice of Zen Buddhism.

One or Multiple Authors

Citation rules vary based on how many authors a source. Consult the following table for how to handle these different situations. [3.1]

Type of Citation In-Text Citation Parenthetical Format
Work by 1 author Johnson claims that “coffee rocks” (15). Many students believe that “coffee rocks” (Johnson 15).
Work by 2 authors Johnson and Smith claim that “coffee rocks” (15). Many students believe that "coffe rocks" (Johnson and Smith 15)
Work by 3+ authors According to Johnson et al., “Coffee rocks” (15). Many students believe that “coffee rocks” (Johnson et al. 15).
Corporate authors According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, coffee can reduce “risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults” (8). Coffee can "reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults" (United States, Dept. of Health and Human Services).

Indirect Sources

When citing a quotation from a source, include the quotation's original author in text and insert a parenthetical citation that begins with the phrase "qtd. in" to indicate the source from which the quotation came. [3.4]

According to Allegro, in archeology "almost every season brings fresh discoveries that demand a reassessment of outmoded theories and presumptions" (qtd. in James and Thorpe 527).

Rule to Remember

If a source does not have page or paragraph numbers or some other labeling system like plays or poems, simply use the author's name in the citation.

Multiple Sources in the Same Parentheses

If more than one work is cited, use semicolons to separate each source. [3.6]

Although early research considered autophagy and apoptosis separately (de Duve et al.; Pfeifer and Strauss), current scholars often examine the correlation between them (Gordy and He; Gump and Thorburn; Mariño et al.).

Anonymous Author

When a source's author is unknown, cite the first few words of the source's reference list entry, usually the title with appropriate formatting if an article (quotation marks) or book (italicized).

The imagery evokes fire's punitive force, stressing the way the forsaken lover "twist[s] in the blaze" ("Karma's Inferno" 4).

O: A Presidential Novel offers a dubious look into President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.

Two or More Works by the Same Author(s)

When using two or more sources by the same author in a document, in addition to the author's name and the page number(s), include a shortened version of the title to distinguish which source is being referenced. [3.2; 3.6]

Reacting to the turbulent social and political changes of the twentieth century, John Dewey optimistically argues that increased self-awareness and engagement by citizens can positively influence a democracy (The Public). However, this process requires constant effort and "can have no end till experience itself comes to an end" (Dewey, "Creative Democracy" 343).

Rule to Remember

Any source cited in text must be included in the Works Cited list, and sources given in the Works Cited list must be mentioned in the text.