How to Quote a Book Resource in MLA

After completing the hard work involved in writing a long research paper, the one remaining challenge is compiling the bibliography and ensuring that all your in-text citations are in the correct format. Many professors, such as those in the humanities, require their students to use MLA style. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers specifies several different ways to cite book resources, depending on how many authors are associated with the book.

Quoting Book Resources With One Author

Any time you quote a book with one author, you must mention the author either in the sentence itself or in the citation. For example: Joseph Cummins, in his book "Anything for a Vote," states that "Clinton jumped out to a thirteen-point lead in the polls" (268). Because you mentioned the author in the sentence, you only need to include the page number after the quote (and before the period). If you don't mention the author in the sentence, your parenthetical citation must include the author's name and the page number. For example: (Cummins 268).

Quoting Book Resources With Two or Three Authors

Quoting resources with two or three authors is almost the same as quoting book sources with one author, except that you must mention all the authors either in the sentence itself or in the citation.

Quoting Book Resources With Four or More Authors

The rules change slightly when you're drawing quotes from books with four or more authors. You can write all of the authors' names, but usually you will write the name of the first author and then write the phrase "et al.", which is short for the Latin phrase "et alia," or "of others." For example: Johnson et al. argue that "the Civil War was caused by intractable sectional divides" (195). Or: "The Civil War was caused by intractable sectional divides" (Johnson et al. 195).

Authors With the Same Last Name

You might run into a situation where two authors have the same last name. If the authors have different first initials, you must write each author's first initial to differentiate them. If the authors have the same first initial and last name but different first names, you should write out each author's full name within each sentence or citation to differentiate them.

Books With No Known Author

If you draw a quote from a book with no known author, you must include the abbreviated name of the book in quotation marks in the citation. For example, when citing a word's definition from Webster's Dictionary, you would mention Webster's Dictionary either in the sentence or in the parenthetical citation.