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MLA Citation Guide

This guide will help you understand how to use the MLA citation format for both in-text citations and works cited lists. It includes some more commonly used source formats. For complete information, please consult the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research

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The goal of in-text (parenthetical) citations is to briefly, simply and unambiguously point readers from the text to the full citation in the Works Cited List. This practice enables the reader to locate the source using the citation in the Works Cited List. In-text citations typically begin with the first element named in the Works Cited List, which is usually--but not always--the author.

  • Provide an in-text citation leading to a full citation in your Works Cited List whenever you use a direct quotation, a paraphrase, or an idea that you got from another source,
  • The in-text parenthetical citation always includes the author's name (if not evident from the text) and the page number. Never refer to a page number in the text itself. Always enclose it in a parenthetical citation.

What follows are examples of the different forms in-text citations in different contexts.

Author/Page Citation

If the author is named in the same sentence as the in-text citation, you need only provide the relevant page number where you found the quotation or the idea:

According To Jean-Jacques Weber, being a citizen of a country is not equivalent to feeling socially accepted as a citizen of that country (53).

Weber argues that "mother tongue education works best within a largely homogeneous community where a local language (e.g., French in Quebec) is opposed to a dominant language (English in Canada as a whole)" (91).

Note that the period a the end of the sentence above comes after the parenthetical citation.

If the author is not mentioned in the same sentence as the in-text citation, you must provide the author's name in addition to the page number:

In American education, although middle-class students are often encouraged to learn Spanish, students  whose native language is Spanish are typically discouraged from using it (Weber 79).

The examples above refer to the same full citation in a Works Citted List that enables the reader to locate the source:

Weber, Jean-Jacques. Language Racism. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2015.

Multiple Authors

Use the same principle as for single authors to determine when it is necessary to use the authors' names in the parenthetical citation.

For two or three authors, cite each author's last name, followed by the page number:

(Rosen and Lane 15)

For more than three authors, cite the first author's last name followed by et al, followed by the page number:

(Chomsky et al 77)

Unknown Authors

When the author of a book, article or web site is not known, list the title of the work (italicize if it is a book or an entire web site; use quotation marks for articles), followed by the page number. Abbreviate the title if it is long.

(Encyclopedia, New York Law: 52).

The full Works Cited List entry for this book is:

Encyclopedia, New York Law: Based on New York Statutes, Case Law, Sate and Federal Law; Law Reviews; Attorney

General's Opinion and Comptroller's Opinions. E. Thompson, 1957.

Works with No Page Numbers

Web sites and other works found on the Internet often have no page numbers, as is also the case with some print sources. .Just put in parenthesis whatever comes first in the Works Cited entry, using the same format..

The in-text citation for an entire web site edited by Ed Folsom and Kenneth M. Price:

(Folsom and Price).

The Works Cited List entry for this source is:

Folsom, Ed and Kenneth M. Price, editors. The Walt Whitman Archive. Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.

When referring to a web site that has neither authors nor page numbers, put the title of the web site (italicized and abbreviated for long titles) in parentheses:


The Works Cited List entry for this source is:

NCTE: National Council or Teachers of English . NCTE, 2016, Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

For a part of a web site with no page numbers, put in parentheses whatever comes first in the Works Cited entry--either the title of an article with no known author (in quotation marks) or the author's last name, if there is a known author:


The Works Cited List entry for this source is:

Doheny, Kathleen. "A Stressed Life May Mean a Wider Waistline: Study Finds Chronic Anxiety Might Raise Risk of

Obesity." WebMd. 23 Feb. 2017,

life-may-mean-a-wider-waistline#1. Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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