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MLA Style Guide: In-Text Citations

This Guide covers the basics of the 8th edition of the MLA Style Manual and includes sample citations and additional resources.

In-Text and Parenthetical Citations

IT sounds painful but it doesn’t have to be! Parenthetical documentation or in-text citations means you are telling the reader where you got any nformation that did not come from inside your own head. This is more obvious when you are directly quoting from a source but it is also needed when you have summarized or paraphrased from a source and even when you get an idea from somewhere else. 


SO how do you do it? As the names imply, you are going to put the information about the source in parentheses in the text of your paper (rather than in a footnote, where the source information is at the bottom of the page, or in an endnote, where it goes at the end of your paper. 


YOU only need to list the last name(s) of the author(s) and the page number(s) where you found the quote or information you are using. Make sure the source information in parentheses matches your bibliography at the end of your paper. If an entire portion of your paper is referencing one source, cite the author and page number(s) the first time and then just the number(s) after that. If you are going back and forth between different sources, you need to cite the author each time you switch. In order to avoid plagiarism, it is extremely important that you cite all words and ideas that you get from somewhere else.

**Note that the punctuation for the sentence goes AFTER the final parenthesis, like this: (Kniest 20-21).


More Information: See pages 174-79 of the APA Manual, 6th edition for further explanation and examples.



Quote with author’s name in text                                   Smith argues “...” (112).
Quote without author’s name in text                      This is described as, “…” (Smith 7-8).
Paraphrase with author’s name                  
Smith suggests this too (111-12).
Paraphrase without name                    This fact has been stated... (Smith 14).
No author – give an abbreviated title, usually one word (Italics for books and “quotations” for articles)            This book... (Long, 221).
This article... (“Long,” 110).  
Entire entire website – use URL                                      The library site is one good resource (
Quote from website – use paragraph number Smith is unequivocal: “…” (2000, para. 4).
More than one author with same last name                The two studies come to different conclusions (B. Smith; G. Smith).
More than one author in text                       Smith and Lee agree that... (199; 11)

More than one author not in text

Studies suggest... (Smith & Long 17).

More than one source    

Critics agree... (Smith 4; Lee 101).

More than one work by same author published the same year 



The evidence indicates... (Smith, 2006a; Smith, 2006b; Smith, 2006c)

Smith (2006a) believes .....

It has been reported ... (Smith, 2006c)

Citing a Source WITHIN a Source

Citing a Source within a Source


Scenario: You read an article by Brown that cites, on page 424, another article by Larsen. You want to cite Larsen's article, but you have not read Larsen's article itself.


Works Cited List

In-Text Citation

Brown, J. D. "Librarians as Business People: A Review of the Literature." Journal of For-Profit Librarianship 28 (2006): 421-436. Academic Search Premier. Web. 15 May 2007.


Your Works Cited list will contain the article you read, by Brown. Your Works Cited list will NOT contain a citation for Larsen's article.

Larsen's study (cited in Brown 424) found that...

Your in-text citation gives credit to Larsen and shows the source in which you found Larsen's ideas.


Larsen writes, "Today's librarian is part teacher, part entrepreneur" (qtd. in Brown 424).

If Brown's article quotes Larsen's article directly and you want to use that quote, MLA employs the abbreviation "qtd. in" for "quoted in."


MLA Style Basics

Use these basic guidelines when preapring your final draft:

  • Paper: Prefer white, 8-1/2 by 11-inch paper.
  • Margins: Use one-inch margins all around.
  • Spacing: Double-space throughout.
  • Paragraphing: Indent the first word of each paragraph 5 spaces (1/2 inch) from the left margin. Indent long quotes (those more than 4-lines/40 words) 5 spaces from left margin.
  • Font: Choose a clean 12-point font.
  • Titles (books, periodicals, films, etc.) are italicized.

Pointers for Paraphrasing

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