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MLA Manual - Guide for MLA Citation: In-text citations

Use this guide for help with MLA Citation.


This vidcast by Eliza Gellis explains how to create in-text citations using MLA 8th Edition, which was published in 2016.

Other in-text citations

Need additional help?

Sometimes you may have to cite sources with more unusual formats and citation rules than books, articles, and webpages, such as a poem, a song, a religious text, etc. You can learn more about how to use in-text citations and full citations at the following sites:

What is an in-text citation?

An in-text citation, also known as an in-line citation, is a parenthetical “tag” that shows your reader what source the info came from. Here are a few things to keep in mind about in-text citations:

  • It is one of the most important writer's tools to PREVENT PLAGIARISM.
  • Each in-text citation should match up with a full citation in your works cited page.
  • Every citation in your works cited page should have at least one in-text citation in your paper.

How do I make an in-text citation?

There are two main ways to do an in-text citation in MLA style:

  1. Using the author's name in the text
  2. Using the author's name (or title of article, if no author is listed) in a parenthetical reference

Author's name in text

One option is the use the author's name in your sentence, then include the page number of the book/article where the information you are using is located.

Human beings have been described by Kenneth Burke as "symbol-using animals" (3).

Author's name in parenthetical reference

Another option If you have not referenced the author's name in the sentence, include the author's name in the parentheses with the page number(s).

Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Burke 3).

Using either style of in-text citation, your readers can trace the information back to this full entry in your works cited page:

Burke, Kenneth. Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature, and Method. University of California Press, 1966. 

No author?

If the source you are citing does not list an author, then use a shortened version of the title, since that is the first piece of information that will be in the source's full citation in your works cited page. Page number rules still apply, if your source has page numbers. (If not, leave them out.)

We see so many global warming hotspots in North America likely because this region has "more readily accessible climatic data and more comprehensive programs to monitor and study environmental change." ("Impact of Global Warming").

Because works cited pages are arranged in alphabetical order, your readers would easily trace that citation to its full citation in your works cited page:

"The Impact of Global Warming in North America." Global Warming: Early Signs. 1999. Accessed 23 Mar. 2009.

Multiple authors?

If the source you are citing has two authors, use both author's last names in the in-text citation, like this:

Best and Marcus argue that one should read a text for what it says on its surface, rather than looking for some hidden meaning (9).

Surface reading looks at what is “evident, perceptible, apprehensible in texts” (Best and Marcus 9).

If the source you are citing has more than two author's, then use the first author's name and "et al" for the remainder of them, like this:

According to Franck et al., “Current agricultural policies in the U.S. are contributing to the poor health of Americans” (327).

The authors claim that one cause of obesity in the United States is government-funded farm subsidies (Franck et al. 327).


Works cited and in-text citation examples from "MLA In-Text Citations: The Basics." Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, 2020.