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MLA Citation: 8th Edition  

This guide explains the rules for citation and formatting in 2016 update of MLA Style.
Last Updated: Aug 8, 2017 URL: http://infoguides.lccc.edu/mla Print Guide RSS Updates

In-text citations Print Page

Signal Phrases

If you decide to identify your source within the text of your sentence, rather than in a parenthetical citation, be sure that you identify it using the first item that appears in the works cited entry.  That way, readers can easily match the in-text citation to the correct entry.  Don’t send them on a scavenger hunt through the Works Cited to find a matching element. 

If you don’t want to put the author’s name (or other first element) in your sentence, put it in a parenthetical citation, even if your sentence includes other information about the source. 


Citing Shakespeare or the Bible

Works of Shakespeare and Books of the Bible:

There are some special rules for setting up in-text citations for Shakespearean plays and books of the Christian Bible.  These works exist in so many different editions that page numbers are largely useless for helping readers find a particular passage.

Shakespeare: Put the abbreviated name of the play, and the act, scene, and line numbers. 

The Bible: Put the abbreviated name of the book, followed by the chapter and verse.  The works cited entry should also indicate which version or translation of the Bible is being used. 

For more information, including the standard abbreviations used to cite these works, check with a librarian or consult the MLA Handbook (pp. 97-101; 118; 120-123). 


A note on hanging indents

MLA style requires "hanging indents" for works cited entries:  the second and subsequent lines of each entry are indented 5 spaces past the first line.  

Examples in this guide do not show the hanging indent, because of the way that the guide displays across different screen sizes.  See the tab "hanging indents" for more information on hanging indents and how to create them.

In addition, example citations in this guide are shown in bold.  This formatting is used to help separate them from explanatory text.  Do not use bold type for the citations on your real works cited page. 


Contact Us!

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In-text Citations

In-text citations, also called parenthetical citations, tell the reader which source a particular quote or piece of information came from.  An in-text citation should refer the reader to an entry in your list of works cited.  For that reason, it should include the first element from the works cited entry—usually that’s the author’s last name.  When possible, it should also identify the page, or other part, of the source where the quote or information can be found.  In-text citations are set up the same way, regardless of whether the information is quoted, paraphrased, or summarized. 

Every in-text citation must match up to an entry in your list of works cited!


Authors and other identifiers

A typical in-text citation consists of an author’s last name and a page number:

“Participants almost unanimously identified ways in which research and information directly related to their job responsibilities” (Sokoloff 10). 

Notice the punctuation:

·         Closing quotation marks come before the parentheses.

·         No punctuation between the name and page number.

·         Period after and outside the parentheses. 

Parenthetical citations are also needed if you paraphrase or summarize the information from a source:

Almost all of the people in the study said that they used information literacy skills in their jobs (Sokoloff 10).

If the author’s name (or other first element of the works cited entry) is incorporated into the signal phrase before a quote or paraphrased information, you can omit it from the parenthetical citation:

Most of the people in Sokoloff’s study said that “research and information directly related to their job responsibilities” (10).

Two authors:

If a source has two authors, put both last names in the in-text citation, like you did in the works cited entry:

“The main idea is a claim or a statement, not just a topic” (Zweir and Mathes 89).

You would also use both last names if you decided to name the authors in a signal phrase:

Zweir and Mathes say that a “main idea is a claim or statement, not just a topic” (89).

Three Authors:

If the source has three or more authors, use the first author’s last name and “et al.,” as you did in the works cited entry:

To keep your research project do-able, “aim to generate a manageable number of research questions” (Moore et al. 56).

Here, the period after “al.” is used because “al.” is an abbreviation for the Latin word alia, or “others.”  Ordinarily, there is no punctuation between the author’s name and the page number.

Use et al. the same way in a signal phrase:

Moore et al. identify strategies for keeping your research questions manageable (56).

Corporate Author:

If your works cited entry identifies an organization as the author of your source, put that organization’s name in the in-text citation.  As in the works cited entry, write the organization’s name in normal order—don’t try to pick out a part of it to treat like a last name:

“No one can avoid stress, but you can deal with it in effective ways” (American Medical Association 58).

Corporate authors can also be named in a signal phrase:

The American Medical Association advises that stress is unavoidable, “but you can deal with it in effective ways” (58).

No Author: 

A parenthetical citation includes the first element of the works cited entry—that way, the reader can easily match up the in-text citation to the right source from the list.  If the entry doesn’t start with an author’s name, it will start with the source’s title, so that’s what goes in your parenthetical citation:

“Academic writing is at root a conversation among scholars about a topic or question” (MLA Handbook 5).

Format the title the same way as it is in the works cited entry—italics or quotation marks.  Long titles may be shortened, but be sure that you include beginning, because that is how readers will find it in your list of works cited.    


Page Numbers and More

If your source has page numbers, you should include them in your in-text citations, but not every source has them.  If page numbers are available, put the number of the specific page where the quote or paraphrased/summarized information is found.  Do not simply copy the entire page range from the works cited entry. 

Here is an example of a citation with a single page number:

“Participants almost unanimously identified ways in which research and information directly related to their job responsibilities” (Sokoloff 10). 

If the quoted, paraphrased, or summarized information appears across two or more pages, put the page range:

Almost all of the people in the study said that they used information literacy skills in their jobs, and about half also discussed the importance of being aware of current events that might affect the company (Sokoloff 10-11).

Notice that there’s no “p.” or “pp.” in front of the page number in the parenthetical citation.  Those are used in the works cited entry, but not in the in-text citation. 

If there are no page numbers, MLA calls for using other location information, such as paragraph or section numbers, if that information is “explicit and fixed” in the source (123).  That means that the numbers (or other location identifiers) must appear in the source itself, and they must be the same for anyone looking at the source, regardless of what device they’re using.   For instance, if a website numbers its paragraphs, you can use those, but don’t count the paragraphs yourself.  For an ebook that does not supply page numbers, you can put chapter numbers (assuming they are shown in the book), but not a Kindle location. 

If location identifiers other than page numbers are used, include a brief explanation of what the number means.  For paragraph numbers use the abbreviation “par.”, “ch.” for chapter.  Here’s an example of how it would look:

“Stuff the source said” (Smith par. 3).

More often, a source without page numbers will not have other location information that is explicit and fixed.  In that case, simply put the author’s last name (or other first element from the citation):

“Ask yourself whether providing a URL will help readers wishing to retrace your footsteps” (Gibson).

If you put the author’s name in a signal phrase, and there are no page numbers or other explicit and fixed location identifiers, you may not have a parenthetical citation at all:

Gibson suggests, “Ask yourself whether providing a URL will help readers wishing to retrace your footsteps.”

If your source is a recording (audio or video), and the recording includes a timestamp, put the exact time of the quote or information, in hours, minutes, and seconds:

“When you do something philanthropic to help another person, it lasts and lasts” (Seligman 00:18:34-38).

Internet recordings, as well as DVDs and CDs, usually include timestamps.  If the recording is in an format that is not timestamped, such as a vinyl record or an audiocassette tape, omit the time—don’t try to calculate it yourself.  

Works Cited

American Medical Association.  Family Medical Guide.  Wiley and Sons, 2004

Gibson, Angela. “URLs: Some Practical Advice.”  MLA Style Center, 2 November 2016, style.mla.org/2016/11/02/urls-some-practical-advice/.

MLA Handbook.  8th ed., Modern Language Association, 2016.

Moore, Sarah, et al.  The Ultimate Study Skills Workbook.  Open UP, 2010. 

Seligman, Martin, speaker.  “What Positive Psychology Can Help You Become.”  TED Talks, TED Conferences LLC, 28 Jan., 2012.  Films on Demand, Films Media Group. 

Sokoloff, Jason.  “Information Literacy in the Workplace:  Employer Expectations.”  Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship, vol. 17, 2012, pp. 1-17.

Zwier, Lawrence J., and Glenn Mathes II. Study Skills for Success.  U of Michigan Press, 2005.  


Literary Classics

Classic works of literature are often available in multiple editions, with different page numbers.  MLA offers the option of using other division numbers that appear in the work and will be consistent across editions, either instead of or in addition to the page numbers from your edition.  For a novel, these may be chapter numbers; for a play, acts and scenes; for poetry, line numbers or stanza numbers.  Division numbers may be used in addition to the page numbers in your edition, or instead of them.

Note:  Where MLA gives several options, your professor may have specific requirements—check the syllabus and assignment instructions carefully. 

Novel with chapters:

“I sopped around the house, the Store, the school, and the church like an old biscuit, dirty and inedible.  Then I met, or rather got to know, the lady who threw me my first life line” (Angelou 2040, ch. 15).

Play with act and scene numbers:

“That’s all death is to me.  A fastball with inside corners” (Wilson 2417, act 1 scn. 1).

Poem with line numbers:

“Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/(I am large, I contain multitudes)” (Whitman, 2240, lines 1323-1325).

For short poems of less than a page, line numbers are not used (even if they appear in the source).  If the page number appears in your works cited entry, you don’t need that, either:

“I, too, sing America” (Hughes).


Works Cited

Angelou, Maya.  I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsThe Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nelly Y. McKay, Norton, 1997, pp. 2040-2050.

Hughes, Langston.  “I, Too.”  The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nelly Y. McKay, Norton, 1997, p. 1258. 

Whitman, Walt.  “Song of Myself.”  The Norton Anthology of American Literature, edited by Julia Reidhead, 5th ed., vol. 1, Norton, 1998, pp. 2198-2241

Wilson, August.  FencesThe Norton Anthology of African-American Literature, edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Nelly Y. McKay, Norton, 1997, pp. 2411-2462.  


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