Introduction

In-Text Citation

Books

Dictionaries/
Encyclopedias

Selections from Books

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Other

In-Text Citation in MLA Style

In-text citation has two components:

  • A signal phrase that lets the reader know the source of the information.  Often, the signal phrase is an excellent way of making a transition from one part of your writing to the next.  It is a phrase of the general form "<author> wrote..."  It is also a good idea to describe the author's credentials in the signal phrase.  
  • Parenthetical citation that directs the reader to the exact entry of the Works Cited list from which your information was obtained. 

Every time you "borrow" information in your writing, you need to use some sort of in-text citation.  Usually, that will consist of both a signal phrase and parenthetical citation, but, depending on the amount of information presented in each, one or the other many not be necessary.  The parenthetical citations that work with specific signal phrase patterns are presented in the table below.  

Please note that in-text citations give credit to more than just quotes.  If you refer to any information that is not your own personal knowledge or thought, you should cite it.  On a similar note, when you include a quote in writing, give a good transition from the text before it to keep your essay flowing well. 

Parenthetical Citation Structure

You may be familiar with a standard style of parenthetical citation including the author's last name and a page number.  However, a parenthetical citation could require only a page number if the author's name is mentioned in the previous sentence (in the signal phrase).  The table that follows given all the potential components of a parenthetical citation.  

The entire citation is placed within parentheses and is written at the sentence being cited.  Also, contrary to what you may have been taught before, no comma goes between the author's name and the date, just a single space.  

Note that the final column of this table is preceding punctuation, not ending punctuation as in other tables on this site.  Also, "author" could be substituted with any other individual whose name is reversed and leads off the the Works Cited entry, such as an editor or translator.

The potential components of a parenthetical citation, based on the signal phrase and what else is on the Works Cited page, listed in the proper order:  

Component

Formatting Details and Usage

    Preceding
Punctuation
Qtd. in
  • If you are quoting someone whose words appear in someone else's work, precede the author of the secondary source with "qtd. in" and name the speaker in the signal phrase.
  Opening parenthesis 
( ( )
Author(s)
  • If the author is not named in the signal phrase, include the author's last name.  

  • If the author is corporate or institutional and is not named in the signal phrase, include the name of the corporation or institution.

  • If the source has more than one author and not all are named in the signal phrase,

    • For two authors, include both last names here, separated by "and."

    • For three authors, include all three last names here.  Follow the first and second with commas and precede the last with "and."

    • For four or more authors, you may include only the first author's last name, followed by "et al."

  • If your Works Cited list has two or more authors with the same last name...

    • ...and the author you are citing shares a common first initial with another author of the same last name, include the full first name and last name of the author, in normal order.

    • ...and the author you are citing does not share a common first initial with another author of the same last name, include the first initial, followed by a period, followed by the last name, of the author.

  • If the source is anonymous and the title of the work is not in the signal phrase, you must include a title in the citation. 

  Opening parenthesis 
( ( ) unless "qtd. in" is included
Title
  • If the source is anonymous and the title of the work is not in the signal phrase, you must include the full title, formatted as it appears in the Works Cited list (italicized, underlined, or in quotation marks.
  • If your Works Cited list includes two or more works by the same author...
    • ...and the signal phrase does not include the title, include the complete title of the work here, formatted as it appears in the Works Cited list (italicized, underlined, or in quotation marks.
    • ...and the signal phrase does include the title, do not include it here.
    • It is important that the title appears somewhere in the text so that the reader can tell from which source you obtained the information. 
  Comma (,)
Page Number
  • Include the page number(s) being cited, using digits.
  • If you are citing information from more than one page, separate consecutive page numbers with a hyphen.  Do not precede or follow the hyphen with any spaces.  
  • If you are citing the entire source, omit the page number(s).
  • If you are citing a web source that does not have fixed page numbers, do not include a page number.  (Do not include a page number based on a printout, because pagination could vary for different printouts.)  
    • If a web source has fixed page, paragraph, or section numbers, cite the relevant numbers.  Precede section numbers with the abbreviation "sec." and paragraph numbers with "par." or "pars."  See the MLA Style FAQ for more rationale. 
  • Do NOT precede with "p." or "pp." or a comma.
  None (a single space)
Line Number
  • If you are citing poetry, cite the line numbers instead of the page numbers.
  None (a single space)
Chapter
  • If you are citing a literary work that is divided into chapters (such as a novel), write "ch." followed by the chapter number (using digits) here.  This part will allow readers using a different edition of the work to locate the information you are citing.
  Semicolon (;)

If you wish to include multiple different citations within one set of parentheses, separate them with a semicolon (;).  However, doing so is not recommended, because it could confuse your reader.   

(Dodds 324-328)


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Created: 06/27/2000
Last Modified: 09/25/2002