How to Use In-Text Citations in MLA Format

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Using in-text citations properly helps you avoid plagiarism. The MLA format focuses on author information, so this information and the page numbers of original sources are referenced in in-text citations.

When to use in-text citations for MLA format

Whether you use indirect or direct quotes, the following information is cited in papers in MLA format.

  • Three or more important words
  • Opinions
  • Data, numbers, percentages or statistics
  • Unusual or controversial information from one source
  • Paraphrased material

The basics of MLA format in-text citations

You can present information in a direct or indirect quotation without the author’s name in the text. Alternatively, you can use a signal phrase to introduce information. A signal phrase introduces the author of the original source. The parenthetical information should appear as near as possible to the referenced information, preferably at the end of a sentence to avoid interrupting the flow of your writing. No comma is used between author name and page number.

  • No signal phrase—include the author(s) name and the page number for printed sources in parentheses.
    “The rate of conversation is 90 percent (author name page #).
  • Signal phrase—do not repeat the author(s) name in the parenthetical citation.
    According to [author name], the rate of conversion is 90 percent (page #).

Other rules for in-text citations: print sources

When citing print sources, situations where multiple authors have the same name or multiple authors wrote one source may occur. The rules below dictate how to use a citation in these instances and others.

  • Two authors, same last name—use the first initial of their first name or their full first names.
  • Three or fewer authors—use all three author names.
  • More than three authors—use either the first author’s last name followed by “et el” or all the authors’ last names. Consult the sources bibliographic information for which to use.
  • One author, multiple sources—include a shortened title in the citation. For book titles, use italics; for article titles, use quotations.
  • Single volume, multi-volume work (citing more than one volume)—include the volume number in the in-text citation. Follow the volume with a colon, space and page number(s).
  • Indirect sources—use “qtd. in” in the parenthetical information.
  • Multiple sources, one citation—use a semicolon between sources.

Rules for in-text citations: electronic/internet sources

Because information provided on a website or in an electronic source is often without page numbers or listed authors, there are slightly different rules. Below are the most common.

  • If author information unavailable, use information that starts the entry in your Works Cited.
  • Do not include page or paragraph numbers based on print previews from your browser.
  • Do not use full URLs as signal phrases. For example, use Write.com, not http://write.com.

Common knowledge, well-known quotes or familiar proverbs do not require citation. Using common sense and a careful examination of your audience should help you determine when to cite information in the MLA format.