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MLA In-text Citations

MLA calls for the author-page style of citation, which requires the author's name and the page number from which your quotation or paraphrase is taken to be included in the text of your paper, and the full citation information to be included on a separate Works Cited page. The in-text citations can be done in two ways:

Both the author's name and the page number can immediately follow the quotation or paraphrase, in parentheses (do not separate the name and date with a comma):

  • One researcher has found that dreams move backward in time as the night progresses (Dement 71).

The author's name can be mentioned in the text and only the page number included in the parentheses:

  • Freud states that "a dream is the fulfillment of a wish" (154).

In some cases, you will need to format the citation a little differently. Here are some of the most common cases:

Two authors with the same last name. When you have two or more sources by authors with the same last name, include the first initial of the author in the in-text citation.

  • While some doctors support this theory (J. Johnson 23), others do not (M. Johnson 12).

Two works by the same author. When you are using two or more sources from the same author, include the first word of the title in the in-text citation.

  • One current theory emphasizes the principle that dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes, Sleep 184). But investigation shows that young children's dreams are "rather simple and unemotional" (Foulkes, "Dreams" 78).

Two or three authors. If your source has one, two, or three authors, include the last name of each in the in-text citation.

  • Psychologists hold that no two children are alike (Gesell and Ilg 68).

More than three authors. If your source has four or more authors, you only need to include name of the first author, followed by the abbreviation et al.

  • Some theories rely on outdated clinical studies (Johnson et al. 25).

No author (common with online sources). If you cannot find an author for the source, use the title in place of the author's name.

  • Random testing for use of steroids by athletes is facing strong opposition by owners of several of these teams ("Steroids" 22).

Indirect quote. When you quote something quoted in your source, indicate the original author and use the abbreviation qtd. in to indicate your source.

  • Ravitch argues that high schools are pressured to act as "social service centers, and they don't do that well" ( Weisman 259).

Note: An author can be a person or the name of an institution or corporation working collectively to author the piece.

Punctuating In-text Citations

  • Any punctuation in your sentence must be placed outside of a direct quotation (after the quotation marks).
  • Any punctuation directly following a direct quotation (like a comma or a semi-colon) must be placed after the parenthetical citation.
  • If the parenthetical citation is at the end of a sentence, it must come before the period (or question/exclamation mark).
  • If a paraphrase or direct quotation in a sentence is followed by addition text (your own words), the parenthetical citation must directly follow the paraphrase or quote. (This avoids confusion about which words are from the source and which are your own.)
  • If you omit or add words to a direct quotation, indicate the omission by placing brackets around an ellipses in place of the omitted words ( [ . . .]), and indicate an addition by placing brackets around the added words ( add words [like this]).

Formatting Quotes

  • Place a direct quotation of four lines or less in double quotation marks within your text and follow it with a parenthetical citation.
  • Place a direct quotation longer than four lines in free-standing block format without quotation marks (continue double-spacing). Indent each line ten spaces and place the parenthetical citation at the end of the block quotation, after the closing punctuation mark. Do not to indent the following line of text unless you are starting a new paragraph.