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MLA Style Guide

In-Text Citation Guidelines

Citing a reference within the text of your paper is called an "in-text citation," which "should direct the reader unambiguously to the entry in your works cited list for the source—and, if possible, to a passage in the source—while creating the least possible interruption in your text" (MLA 54).


  • You must cite your references both in your reference list and in the text of your paper where that source is used.
  • An in-text citation needs to contain enough information to point your reader to the full citation in the works cited list. You also need to include a page number if pointing to a specific piece of information from your source. 
  • You will present the information from your source in your paper as either a direct quotation or paraphrased (re-written in your own words). You do not need to cite common knowledge, that is, information that most people know or established facts.
  • If the author is clear (i.e. is stated in the text), their name is not included in the in-text citation.  
  • When you are citing multiple works by the same author, include an abbreviation of the title after the author. Some works have standardized abbreviations, including Shakespeare and the Bible

Always provide in-text citations for the following:

  • Quotations and paraphrases of other sources.
  • Facts and figures that are not common knowledge. 
  • Tables and images, even if they are open source. 

In-Text Citation Examples

Condition Rule Example
Basic citation Include the last name of the author and the page number. Universities are complex entities consisting of many different parts (Budd 3). 
Author named in sentence Do not include author's name in the in-text citation. According to Budd, "The academic institution is not any one single thing" (3). 
There is no author or the author is a corporate entity.  Use the first element (or an abbreviation) of the full citation.  "The title may appear in the text itself or, abbreviated, before the page number in the parenthesis" (MLA 56). 
More than one work by an author is cited in your work.

Add the title (or an abbreviation) in the in-text citation.

Universities are complex entities consisting of many different parts (Budd, "Changing" 3). 

Only work(s) by a single author are discussed.  Omit the author's name. When he says, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in our philosophy" (Ham. 1.5.173-74)... 
The source uses specific numbering rather than page numbers. Use the specific numbering with an abbreviation of what it is, e.g. par., sec., ch., vol. In Leviathan, Hobbes says, "A commonwealth is said to be instituted, when a multitude of men do agree..." (115; ch. 18, sec. 1). 
A play with act, scene, and line numbers.  Use specific formatting for act, scene, and line numbers.  At first, Trinculo is unable to fit Caliban into any category of living thing: "What have we here? a man or a fish? dead or alive?" (Shakespeare 2.2.24-25).
The source does not have page or section numbers.  You do not need them.  As recent evidence indicates, "climate change appears to be occurring more quickly than researchers predicted before the 2015 Paris accord" (Lyons). 
Last Updated: Sep 25, 2020 9:28 AM