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 authors Example
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 title In-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”)

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing.

See editing example

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 type What to do Example
Source divided into numbered parts Add a comma after the author and give a paragraph, section, or chapter number with a relevant abbreviation. (Luxemburg, ch. 26)
Play with numbered lines Include the act, scene and line numbers, divided by periods, instead of a page number. (Shakespeare 1.2.95)
Audiovisual source Include the time range as displayed in the media player. (Wynn 10:23–45)
Source with no numbered divisions Include 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 authors In-text citation Works 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.

10 comments

Timothy Follis
October 26, 2020 at 11:46 PM

As part of my research, I did an interview with an expert through email. I summarized much of what they told me, but did quote a couple of items verbatim. How would I cite the interview?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
October 27, 2020 at 6:18 PM

Hi Timothy,

Cite quotes from your interviewee the same as you would any other source: mention their last name either in the sentence where the quote is introduced, or in parentheses after the quote. You should also list the interview in the Words Cited – see our guide to citing interviews in MLA for more information. I hope that helps!

Reply

Pooja Tejas Patel
October 20, 2020 at 8:33 AM

Hello!

I was wondering how to cite a song lyric in-text and in works cited.

Thank you,
Pooja.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
October 30, 2020 at 9:34 PM

Hi Pooja,

In-text, you simply cite the name of the artist. In the Works Cited, the format depends on how you accessed the song (e.g. on a streaming service or on CD). See this post on the MLA blog for more information.

Hope that helps!

Reply

Matthew Geary
October 17, 2020 at 11:28 PM

How do you include an original date for a poem in a single parenthetical citation that refers to ?

The sentence construction will not allow me to put the date elsewhere.

So for example:

For example, in the early censored poem ‘Ode’ (1920) there are the ‘Children singing in the orchard / (Io Hymen, Hymenaee) / Succuba eviscerate’ (Poems, 280) who reappear in ‘New Hampshire’ (144). Further, there are the ‘children in the foliage’ in Burnt Norton (184) who resurface in ‘the apple-tree’ in Little Gidding (209).

I would like to put the date 1934 in the parentheses for 'New Hampshire'.

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
November 5, 2020 at 12:48 PM

Hi Matthew,

The simplest and clearest option is simply to integrate the date into the sentence: "...who reappear in the 1934 poem "New Hampshire" (144).

Alternatively, you could integrate this information into the same parenthesis using a semicolon: (1934; 144).

Hope that helps!

Reply

Suzie
October 9, 2020 at 8:52 PM

How do I format a signal phrase,quote and in text citations for a source coming from a website with no author or title for its article?

Reply

Shona McCombes
Shona McCombes (Scribbr-team)
November 5, 2020 at 12:31 PM

Hi Suzie,

It's usually possible to identify some kind of title for a web page. Try hovering over the tab in your browser – this should show you a "meta title" that describes the content of the page. If so, you can use this as the source title in both your Works Cited entry and in your signal phrase or parenthetical citation – see our article on citing a website in MLA for examples.

If you really can't find a suitable title, use a description of the source in the Works Cited, for example: Article about citing sources. When quoting the article in the text, make sure it is completely clear where the information comes from, using the same description of the source. For example:

According to an article about citing sources on the Scribbr website, "citing sources is an essential part of academic writing."

Hope that helps!

Reply

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!

Reply

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