A complete guide to MLA in-text citations

In MLA style, brief parenthetical citations are inserted in the text to direct the reader to your sources. An MLA in-text citation includes the author’s last name and a page number.

If a source has two authors, name both. If a source has more than two authors, name only the first author, followed by “et al.” If the text or information you’re citing spans multiple pages, include the full page range.

MLA in-text citations
Number of authorsExample
1 author(Moore 37)
2 authors(Moore and Patel 48–50)
3+ authors(Moore et al. 59)

Each in-text citation must correspond to a full reference in the list of Works Cited. You can create and save your citations with the free Scribbr Citation Generator.

MLA Citation Generator

Where to include an MLA in-text citation

Place the parenthetical citation directly after the relevant quote or paraphrase, and before the period or other punctuation mark (except with block quotes, where the citation comes after the period).

If you have already named the author in the sentence, add only the page number in parentheses.

MLA in-text citation examples
  • MLA is the second most popular citation style (Smith and Morrison 17–19).
  • According to Smith and Morrison, MLA is the second most popular citation style (17–19).
  • APA is by far “the most-used citation style in the US” (Reynolds 74), but it is less dominant in the UK (Smith 16).

Combining citations

If a sentence is supported by more than one source, you can combine the citations in a single set of parentheses. Separate the two sources with a semicolon.

Livestock farming is one of the biggest global contributors to climate change (Garcia 64; Davies 14).

Citing sources with no author

For sources with no named author, the in-text citation must match the first element of the Works Cited entry. This may be the name of an organization, or a shortened version of the title.

If the source title is longer than four words, shorten it to the first word or phrase in the in-text citation, excluding any articles (a, an, and the). The shortened title should begin with the word by which the source is alphabetized in the Works Cited.

Follow the general MLA rules for formatting titles: If the source is a self-contained work (e.g. a whole website or an entire book), put the title in italics; if the source is contained within a larger whole (e.g. a page on a website or a chapter of a book), put the title in quotation marks.

Shortening titles in MLA in-text citations
Full source titleIn-text citation
Amnesty International Report 2017/2018: The State of the World’s Human Rights(Amnesty International Report 187)
“Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions”(“Sources”)
“A Quick Guide to Proofreading”(“Quick Guide”)

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Citing sources with no page numbers

If a source does not have page numbers, but is divided into numbered parts (e.g. chapters, sections, scenes, or times), use these numbers to locate the relevant passage.

If the source does not use any numbering system, include only the author’s name in the in-text citation. Don’t include paragraph numbers unless they are explicitly numbered in the source.

Citing sources with no page numbers in MLA
Source typeWhat to doExample
Source divided into numbered partsAdd a comma after the author and give a paragraph, section, or chapter number with a relevant abbreviation.(Luxemburg, ch. 26)
Play with numbered linesInclude the act, scene and line numbers, divided by periods, instead of a page number.(Shakespeare 1.2.95)
Audiovisual sourceInclude the time range as displayed in the media player.(Wynn 10:23–45)
Source with no numbered divisionsInclude only the author’s name (or, if there is no author, the shortened title).(Rajaram)

Note that if there are no numbered divisions and you have already named the author in your sentence, then no parenthetical citation is necessary.

Citing different sources with the same author name

If your Works Cited page includes more than one entry under the same last name, you need to distinguish between these sources in your in-text citations.

Multiple sources by the same author

If you cite more than one work by the same author, add a shortened title to signal which source you are referring to:

Citing multiple sources by the same author
(Butler, Gender Trouble 27)
(Butler, “Performative Acts” 522)

In this example, the first source is a whole book, so the title appears in italics; the second is an article published in a journal, so the title appears in quotation marks.

Different authors with the same last name

To distinguish between different authors with the same last name, use the authors’ initials (or, if the initials are the same, full first names) in your in-text citations:

Citing different authors with the same last name
(A. Butler 19)
(J. Butler 27)

Citing sources indirectly

Sometimes you might want to cite something that you found quoted in a secondary source. If possible, always try to seek out the original source and cite it directly.

If you can’t access the original source, make sure to name both the original author and the author of the source that you accessed. Use the abbreviation “qtd. in” (short for “quoted in”) to indicate where you found the quotation.

Example of an indirect citation in MLA
Marx defines “the two primary creators of wealth” as “labour-power and the land” (qtd. in Luxemburg, ch. 26).

Frequently asked questions about MLA in-text citations

When do I need to include an MLA in-text citation?

You must include an in-text citation every time you quote or paraphrase from a source (e.g. a book, movie, website, or article).

How do I cite a source with multiple authors in MLA?

In MLA Style, if a source has two authors, name both authors in your in-text citation and Works Cited entry. If there are three or more authors, name only the first author, followed by et al.

Number of authorsIn-text citationWorks Cited entry
1 author(Moore 37)Moore, Jason W.
2 authors(Moore and Patel 37)Moore, Jason W., and Raj Patel.
3+ authors(Moore et al. 37)Moore, Jason W., et al.
How do I cite a source with no author or page numbers in MLA?

If a source has no author, start the MLA Works Cited entry with the source title. Use a shortened version of the title in your in-text citation.

If a source has no page numbers, you can use an alternative locator (e.g. a chapter number or timestamp) to identify the relevant passage in your in-text citation. If the source has no numbered divisions, cite only the author’s name (or the title).

If you already named the author or title in your sentence, and there is no locator available, you don’t need a parenthetical citation:

  • Rajaram argues that representations of migration are shaped by “cultural, political, and ideological interests.”
  • The homepage of The Correspondent describes it as “a movement for radically different news.”
Are titles capitalized in MLA?

Yes. MLA Style uses title case, which means that all principal words (nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and some conjunctions) are capitalized.

This applies to titles of sources as well as the title in the heading of your paper. Use MLA capitalization style even when the original source title uses different capitalization.

Who uses the MLA citation style?

MLA Style is the second most used citation style (after APA). It is mainly used by students and researchers in humanities fields such as literature, languages, and philosophy.

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.

2 comments

May
January 8, 2020 at 11:37 AM

Please I ned to know with examples if possible how to punctuate in-text citation in quotations whose sentence has not finished with a period but using specifiacally (,) and (;)?? Do I put these punctuation marks inside the quotation continuing the sentence or out sid the quotation?

Thank you very much

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
January 16, 2020 at 9:58 AM

Hi May,

In this case, you would place the comma or semicolon after the in-text citation:

The author writes that "quotation" (Smith 4), and goes on to say...

You can see more examples of different placements of in-text citations in this post on the MLA blog.

Hope that helps!

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