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MLA Citation Style, 8th Edition: In-Text References

A University of Lethbridge Library guide to MLA style citations.

Guidelines for In-Text References

  • Every time you use a source, whether you are quoting directly or paraphrasing (explaining the idea of another in your own words), you should include an in-text reference.
  • Each in-text reference must provide enough information about the source to direct the reader to the appropriate entry in the list of works cited.
  • In most cases, a parenthetical reference is used to cite sources in the text. The parenthetical reference usually includes the author's last name and the page number(s) where the quote or idea was found.
    • e.g. This relationship has been noted before (Hinrichsen 47).
    • See this page for examples of parenthetical references for sources with multiple authors.
  • If the author's name is written in the text, only the page number need be included in the parenthetical reference.
    • e.g. According to Hinrichsen, "Frost’s poem becomes the linguistic stage on which fears and anxieties can be performed and confronted" (55).
  • If the source cited does not have page numbers (e.g. webpage, radio broadcast, lecture) and the author's name is written in the text, the parenthetical reference may be omitted.
  • If the source referred to has no author, cite it by title. Include either the full title in the text or a shortened form of the title in parentheses. Be sure to include the first word of the title in the shortened form so the reader can find the source easily in the list of works cited.
    • e.g. The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style makes this distinction (124-26). 
    • e.g. There is, however, a clear distinction between the two (American Heritage Guide 124-26).
  • If you cite more than one work by the same author in your paper, include a shortened form of the title in each parenthetical reference.
    • e.g. Bickerton advances a similar argument (More than Nature Needs 85).
  • When citing multiple sources in one parenthetical reference, separate the citations with a semicolon.
    • e.g. Other scholars suggest the opposite (Johnson 89; Ambrose 324-37).

For an example of a paper with in-text references in MLA style, see Purdue University's Online Writing Lab (OWL) website.