How to Do an In-Text Citation in MLA

If you're going to be studying liberal arts, literature, or humanities, your instructors will probably require you to use MLA formatting when you write a research paper. In-text citation may seem complicated at first, but as you grow accustomed to the style, you'll see how useful it is: shorthand that tells the reader exactly where to find the source of any information you are quoting or referencing. The citation guides readers to a specific entry on your works cited page, where they can find more information.

Formatting Quotations

Short quotations, less than three lines of verse or four lines of text, are indicated by double quotation marks. Include your citation (author, page number) immediately following the quotation mark, before the period, comma or other punctuation that follows it.

Here's how it's done.

"Virtually everyone professionally engaged in the study of politics and foreign policy believed in the permanence of communism; its worldwide collapse in the late 1980s was therefore almost totally unanticipated" (Fukuyama 8).

Longer quotations are set off in a separate paragraph that is indented one inch farther than the main body of your text. For longer quotes, put the parenthetical citation outside the final punctuation mark:

. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice. (Thoreau 2)

If you are omitting part of a quotation, indicate this with an ellipses, or three periods. Add a space before and after your ellipses, like this: ... . If you are inserting something within a quote to add information or summarize, those words should be within brackets.


If you're quoting two or three lines of verse, separate the lines with a space, a forward slash, and another space:

"I think that I shall never see / A poem as lovely as a tree" (Kilmer).

In quoting four or more lines of verse, stick as close as you can to the poet's own formatting.

Parenthetical Citations for Print Works

The basic format for a parenthetical citation is a keyword, usually the author's name, and a page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence that contains the cited information or quotation. Do not use a comma between the two:

The fall of communism in the 1980s came as a shock (Fukuyama 23).

The author's last name refers readers to the correct entry on your works cited list. If you mention the author by name in the running text, add just the page number in parentheses:

Fukuyama points out that the collapse of communism took almost everyone by surprise (8).

Subsequent citations from the same author can also be designated by using just a page number.

Multiple Authors and No Author

If you are citing more than one work by the same author, include a shortened version of the title of the one you're citing. If you're citing more than one author with the same last name, use a first initial, and if a work has two or three authors, include them all. Larger groups can be summarized with the last name of the first author listed, followed by the phrase "et al."

A book without a known author is cited by title and page number. If you're citing more than one volume of a multivolume work such as an encyclopedia, include the volume number right before the page number, separated by a colon. And if you're citing the Bible, include the edition (King James, for example), book, chapter and verse in the first citation; you can leave out the edition if you cite the same Bible again.

Citing Other Types of Sources

If you're citing something from a Web page or a film, you obviously won't include a page number. But make sure that the information the readers do get allows them to instantly locate the correct listing on your works cited page. Make sure your in-text citation uses the first word of that work's entry in works cited as a keyword, whether it is an author, a title, a website name or the name of a movie.

The MLA recommends citing movies and electronic sources within your text, rather than putting them in parentheses:

**In *Gone With the Wind*, Scarlett's romantic dilemma plays out against a backdrop of wartime and lost privilege.**

**According to a poll on ...**

The reader can go directly to where you have listed Gone With the Wind or NewsMax on your works cited page and find more information. Since these are works that do not have authors in the usual sense, the title or the name of the website will be the first word of that listing.