A Complete Guide to MLA In-Text Citations

MLA is considered one of the most popular and most used citations and referencing styles in academic writing. This quick guide provides the basic rules for MLA in-text citations and reference list for academic papers and essays.

01.06.2021

A Complete Guide to MLA In-Text Citations

Modern Language Association (MLA) is considered one of the most popular and most used citations and referencing styles in academic writing and MLA style is one of the most commonly used styles to cite sources within the language arts, cultural studies, and other humanities disciplines in the academic field. The latest version of the MLA manual (9th edition) offers several examples for the general format of MLA papers, in-text citations, and the Works Cited page. This quick guide provides the basic rules for MLA in-text citations for academic papers and essays.

MLA in-text citation: one author | two authors | three and more authors

An MLA in-text citation involves the author’s surname and a page number in parentheses. For instance, when you have a source with two authors, cite both names. When you have a source with more than two authors, give only the first name of the author and add “et al.” Take note that if the cited text involves multiple pages, you need to mention the full-page range. When you have a source with multiple non-consecutive pages at the same time, you should separate the page numbers with commas.

Number of authors

Example

1 author

(Williams 67)

2 authors

(Wan and Lawrence 156158)

3 and more authors

(Alison et al. 59, 34)

You need to insert parenthetical citations after the relevant paraphrases or quotes but before the period. You will only need to add the page numbers in the text if you have already mentioned the name of the author in a sentence.

Basic MLA principles to keep in mind:

  • If there is only one author, the format of in-text citation will be (Tennyson 57)

  • If there are two authors, the format of in-text citation will be (Tennyson and Browning 57)

  • If there are three or more authors, the format of in-text citation will be (Tennyson et al. 57)

How to cite sources without authors in MLA style

When you have a relevant source with no author, you can use the first few words from the title rather than inserting the surname of the author. Any article ‘‘A,’’ ‘‘An,’’ ‘‘The’’ is not countable. Make sure that you are providing sufficient words that recognize the sources you have used.

Example:

Areas in and around North America are likely to emerge as global warming hotspots. This has come to our notice because this region has accessible data and great monitoring capability. . . ("Impact of Global Warming"). 

In the above-mentioned example, there is no author, so the few words from the title are taken in the citation. Note that you also need to mention the full title on the cited page at the left margin.

Parenthetical or inserted citation on the cited page helps the readers recognize all the information and sources you have mentioned in your research paper.

How to cite different sources with the same author-name in MLA style

If the cited page involves many entries under the same author, you have to distinguish or highlight these sources in the in-text citation. You can also use shortened titles to distinguish the sources.

Example:

Hume, Robert D. "The Economics of Culture in London, 1660–1740." Huntington Library Quarterly: Studies in English and American History and Literature 69.4 (2006): 487–533. Print.

MLA In-Text Citations and Reference List

How to cite different authors with the same last names in MLA style

If you want to differentiate between different authors who have similar surnames, you can utilize the initials of the authors. Or even if you find that the initials are identical, you need to use the full first name.

Examples:

(R. Browning 27), (E. Browning 40)

How to cite repeated sources in MLA style

When you are collecting information from similar sources and place them in the same row without using any other information from the different source in between, for the first time, you can insert the full-text citation. For the second time, you can only use the page number.

Example:

Cell biology emphasizes the function of a cell and its structure (Smith 15). The primary idea behind discussions presented by cell biology is that cells are fundamental units of life (17). Many eminent scientists have made a remarkable contribution to the evolution of cell biology. Mattias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, for example, were scientists who formulated cell theory in 1838 (20).

How to cite sources with no page numbers in MLA style

Suppose a source doesn’t have any page number, but you find that it is divided into several parts with numbers, in this case, you can just use the number to identify the relevant sources. The numbers can be anything including chapters, scenes, an article from the constitution, etc. Well, suppose there is no numbering system; in this case, you can cite the author’s name. Make sure that you won’t use any numbers if the numbers are not properly included in the sources.

Examples

  • "Three phases of the separation response: protest, despair, and detachment" (Garelli).

  • "Nutrition is a critical part of health and development" ("Nutrition").

Note: Suppose there is no numbering system and you have already mentioned the author’s name in the text; in this case, you don’t need to insert any parenthetical citation.

How to cite different sources in MLA style

Assume that you have to cite different sources in a similar in-text citation; in this case, you can separate them using a semicolon.

Example:

  • (Smith 42; Bennett 71).

Note: Using references and citations is usually a difficult process. Students may seek assistance from expert proofreading and editing to get their use of the references and citation reviewed.

MLA In-Text Citations and Reference List

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