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MLA (8th ed.) Citation Style Guide: In-Text Citations

In-Text Citations

In-Text Citations

In-text citations are intended to direct the reader clearly and easily to the full citation in the works cited list.  These are references in the body of the paper that document quotations, paraphrases, and the direct use of information and ideas.   They are used instead of footnotes or endnotes.  They are sometimes called parenthetical references because the references appear in parentheses within the text of the essay.

The parenthetical references correspond to the list of works cited.  In other words, the information given in the parenthetical reference should make it absolutely clear to the reader which source is being referred to in your list of Works Cited.  In-text citations is typically composed of the author’s surname (or whatever comes first in the citation in the works cited list) and a page number. 



If your Works Cited includes only one title by a particular author or editor, you only need to place the author’s last name and the relevant page number(s) without any intervening punctuation in your parenthetical reference.

Keep the references in parentheses as brief as possible.  If you mention the author’s name or the title of the source in your text, then you do not include that information in the parenthetical reference.

e.g.     This point has been argued before (McMann 16-19).

McMann has argued this point (16-19).

Others, like Blocker and Plumer (52), hold an opposite point of view.

Stress and a poor diet can have a detrimental effect on proper liver functioning (American Medical Association 209).


If the work has three or more authors, follow the form in the bibliographic entry in your works cited list: give the author’s last name followed by et al., without any intervening punctuation.  (MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 116)

Give the first author’s last name followed by “et al.” then the page number(s).

e.g.      Some interesting interpretations of this concept have recently been suggested (Jones et al. 25-37).


If there are citations to material by different authors with the same surname, add the author’s first initial.  If these authors have the same initial as well, use the full first name (MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 55)

e.g. Neurological pathways are created through habitual actions (J. Stevens 87).


If there are two or more titles by the same author in your Works Cited list, give the author’s last name, the title, followed by the page number(s).  Abbreviate the title if it is longer than a few words.  When abbreviating the title, begin with the first word. (MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 55)

e.g.      The fashion was very popular in certain parts of Northern England (Pollack, Dickinson 32-33).

 (In the example, ‘Dickinson’ is the shortened title of Pollack’s Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender).


If there is no author, the in-text citation would contain the title.   “The title may appear in the text itself or, abbreviated, before the page number in the parenthesis.” (MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 56)

e.g. Classical Mythology of Greece notes that he was cut up and boiled in a cauldron by Titans sent by Hera (78).


e.g.  He was cut up and boiled in a cauldron by Titans sent by Hera (Classical Mythology 78).


Web documents usually do not have fixed page numbers or any kind of section numbering.  If your online source does not have numbering, you have to omit numbers from your parenthetical references.  Do not count unnumbered paragraphs.  (MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 56)

e.g.      Winkfield compares it to the current political environment of Zimbabwe.

The works cited list would include an entry that begins with Winkfield.


If a source, such as a web document, does provide definite paragraph numbers, give the abbreviation par. or pars. or sections (sec., secs.) or chapters (ch., chs.) along with the paragraph number or numbers. (MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 56)

e.g.      Devereux states that “Finley introduced energy psychology to modern psychiatry in the late twentieth century” (par. 30).


For audio visual material which is time-based, “cite the relevant time or range of times.  Give the numbers of the hours, minutes, and seconds as displayed in your media player, separating the numbers with colons.”

Buffy’s promise that “there’s not going to be any incidents like at my old school” is obviously not one on which she can follow through (“Buffy” 00:03:16-17).

(MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 57)


Paraphrased ideas - "Identifying the source in your text is essential for nearly every kind of borrowing - not only quotations but also facts and paraphrased ideas. (The only exception is common knowledge.)  The Parenthetical citation for a fact or paraphrased idea should be placed as close as possible after the borrowed material, at a natural glance in your sentence, so that the flow of your argument is not disrupted."

(MLA Handbook, 8th ed., p. 57)