Any time you refer to, comment on, paraphrase, or quote another writer’s information, you must document this in your essay through the use of a citation. The purpose of an MLA in-text citation, sometimes called a parenthetical reference, is to help readers easily find the sources in the Works Cited page that correspond to your referenced passage. You will want to make this process as easy as possible for the reader, so the citations are always placed at the end of the sentence and should always correspond with the first word of the matching Works Cited page entry. Let’s suppose that this is a sentence from your essay:
The author explains, “Record deals were usually negotiated by elite businessmen” (Hennessey 127).
Your reader should be able to turn to the Works Cited page and easily find the bibliographic information for this source. It might be listed like this:
Hennessey, William. The Making of Records in Memphis. Atlanta: Capital Book Press, 2001.
Notice that the author’s name in the citation corresponds to the first word of the Works Cited entry. This makes it really easy for the reader to find and match up information, which is the purpose of in-text citations.
Two primary elements of a quoted passage should be given to the reader: 1) the author’s last name and 2) the page number where the referenced passage is found. The page number is always included in the citation at the end of the sentence, but the author’s last name can be placed either in the citation or in the sentence. Here are a few items to remember concerning in-text citations:
- No “page” or “pg.” or “p.#” or any other variant is used to indicate the page number.
- End punctuation goes at the end of the citation, not at the end of the passage.
- Author’s name can either be placed in the citation or in the sentence.
- No comma or other punctuation mark is needed to separate the author’s name and the page number.
Here are a few of the most common in-text citations that you might need to write in your essay:
Example 1: Louis Armstrong easily reached difficult notes, the F’s and G’s that hindered so many other trumpeters (Bergreen 258).
Example 1a: Bergreen explained, “Louis Armstrong easily reached difficult notes, the F’s and G’s that hindered so many other trumpeters” (258).
- Note: If the work has no page numbers (i.e. website) simply put the author’s last name in parentheses.
Two or three authors of the same work:
Example 3: In Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson suggest that metaphors “actually structure our perceptions and understanding” (57).
Example 3a: In Metaphors We Live By, the authors suggest that metaphors “actually structure our perceptions and understanding” (Lakoff and Johnson 57).
- Note: If the work had three authors the citation would read (Lakoff, Johnson, and Smith 57). Remember that there is no comma between the names and the page number, and all authors must be listed either in the sentence or in the citation.
Four or more authors of the same work:
Example 4: Changes in social regulations are likely to cause new fears among voters (Carber et al. 64).
Example 4a: Carber et al. claim that changes in social regulations are likely to cause new fears among voters (64).
- Note: Only the first author, followed by the term "et al." is listed either in the sentence or in the citation. Don't forget to place a period after "al" since it is an abbreviation of a Latin word, but no period is used after “et.”
A work with no author (an organization or website):
Example 5: According to The Center for Contemporary Cultural studies, “There is nothing concrete about hierarchy” (10).
Example 5a: “There is nothing concrete about hierarchy” (Center 10).
- Note: When we don’t have a known author or editor, we can use the book title (in italics), the article title (in quotation marks), or the Web site title (in italics). If we include this title in our sentence, we should write out the entire title. If we include it in our citation, we can shorten it using the first keyword (just be sure that your reader can still find the corresponding entry in your Works Cited page).
Why we use parenthetical / in-text citations
Researchers place brief parenthetical descriptions to acknowledge which parts of their paper reference particular sources. Generally, you want to provide the last name of the author and the specific page numbers of the source. If such information is already given in the body of the sentence, then exclude it from the parenthetical citation.
Place the parenthetical citation where there is a pause in the sentence – normally before the end of a sentence or a comma. The in-text citation will differ depending on how much information you provide within the sentence.
Example with author’s name in text:
Johnson argues this point (12-13).
This point had already been argued (Johnson 12-13).
Citing sources with more than one author
If you use sources with the same author surnames, then include a first name initial. If the two sources have authors with the same initials, then include their full names:[su_spacer]
(J. Johnson 12-13).
(John Johnson 12-13).
If there are two or three authors of the source, include their last names in the order they appear on the source:
(Smith, Wollensky, and Johnson 45).
If there are more than three authors, you can cite all the authors with their last name, or you can cite the first author followed by “et al.” Follow what is shown the works cited list.
(Smith et al. 45).
Citing sources without an author
Some sources do not have authors or contributors – for instance, when you cite some websites. Instead, refer to the name of the source in your parenthetical citation in place of the author. Shorten / abbreviate the name of the source but ensure that your reader can easily identify it in your works cited (abbreviate the title starting with the same word in which it is alphabetized). Punctuate with quotations or italicize as you would in its works cited form (a book is italicized; an article is in quotes).
Double agents are still widely in use (Spies 12-15, 17).
With prices of energy at new highs, bikes have been increasingly used (“Alternative Transportation” 89).
Citing part of a work
When citing a specific part of a work, provide the relevant page or section identifier. This can include specific pages, sections, paragraphs or volumes. When the identifier is preceded by an abbreviation or word, place a comma between the identifier and the source reference.
Part of a multivolume work
It is arguably the most innovative period in history (Webster, vol 4).
Chapter within a book (if no specific numbers can be referenced)
The electoral college undermines democracy (Sanders, “Government Injustices”).
Article in a periodical
Allen claims there is an inverse correlation between higher taxes and patriotic feelings worldwide (B2).
When citing a specific page(s) of a multivolume work, precede the page number by the volume number and a colon. Do not separate by a comma.
It was arguably the most innovative period in history (Webster 4:12-15).
Use “par.” or “pars.” when referring to specific paragraphs.
The marketing dollars of big studio films has overshadowed good indie movies (Anderson, pars. 12-34).
Citing group or corporate authors
In your parenthetical citation, cite a corporate author like you would a normal author. Preferably, incorporate the corporate author in your text instead of the parenthetical citation.
Facial transplants pose significant risk to the autoimmune system (American Medical Association 12-43).
As noted by the American Medical Association, facial transplants pose significant risk to the autoimmune system (12-43).
Citing an entire source
When citing an entire work, there are no specific page numbers to refer to. Therefore it is preferable to refer to the source within the text itself with either the author or the title of the source.
Hartford suggests the Internet provides more distractions than it does information.
Citing multiple works by the same author
If you reference more than one source by the same author, distinguish the parenthetical citations by including the name of the source. Use a comma to separate the author from the source.
Wars can be economic catalysts (Friedman, World 77-80).
Industrialized nations are better equipped to rebound from recessions (Friedman, “High Tides” 56).
Citing indirect sources
When an original source is unavailable, then cite the secondhand source – for instance, a lecture in a conference proceedings. When quoting or paraphrasing a quote, write “qtd. in” before the author and pages.
John Murray calls Tim Smith “interesting but egotistical” (qtd. in Jesrani 34).
Citing literary / classic and religious works
For works such as novels, plays and other classic works, it’s helpful to provide further identifying information along with the page information. Do this by adding a semicolon and then the identifying information following the page number.
(Tolstoy 5; pt. 2, ch. 3).
When citing classic poems and plays, replace page numbers with division numbers (part, book, scene, act). The below refers to book 10 line 5. Bear in mind the divisions and the way they are written can vary by source.
Fear plays a role in Homer’s Odyssey (10.5).
The title of books in the Bible and other famous literary works should be abbreviated.
(New Jerusalem Bible, Gen. 2.6-9).
Placing parenthetical citations in direct quotations
When directly quoting a source, place the parenthetical citation after the quote.
Sanders explains that economic woes are due to “the mortgage crisis and poor risk assessment” (20).
Place the parenthetical citation at the end of an indented quotation. There should be no period after the parenthetical citation. The last sentence of the indented quote should look like:
It’s unclear whether multilateral tariffs are disruptive to bilateral talks. (Evert 30-31)
Citing online sources
Generally, follow the same principals of parenthetical citations to cite online sources. Refer to the author, and if possible, a permanent identifier that would be the same for any reader.
The economy will rebound with the new monetary policies (Smith).
Solar power will become the primary source of energy (Williams 2).
Citing online sources with no author
If there is no author, use the title that begins the citation, either the article or website title. Be sure it also takes the same formatting, i.e. articles are in quotes and website titles are italicized. Shorten / abbreviate the name of the source but ensure that your reader can easily identify it in your works cited (abbreviate the title starting with the same word in which it is alphabetized).
Elephants are thought to be one of the smartest mammals (“Smart Elephants”).
Nineteen men and women were convicted (Salem Witchcraft Trials).
Note: Ideally, when citing online sources, try to reference the source within your sentence, with either the author or the title to avoid writing a parenthetical citation.
Where to put the parenthetical citations:
- Place parenthetical citations at the end of the sentence you are paraphrasing and quoting. For example: The destruction of the argentine is due to many socioeconomic factors (Taylor 33).
- Even when quoting, place the parenthetical citations after the quotations.
“Mamma always said stupid is as stupid does” (Gump 89).
When quoting four lines or more, indent every line you are quoting by one inch (or 10 spaces) and do not use quotes.
The use of nuclear weapons in today’s society is strikingly alarming. Though the United States is the only country to employ it in the past, they are at the same time the country that condemns its use the most. While this may seem hypocritical, is it the most proper action for the United States to make as the global leader. (Taparia 9)