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MLA Style Guide: In-Text Citations

This guide is designed to help students learn about MLA style and cite sources for their research.

In-Text Citations

Citing sources no longer means endnotes or footnotes. It is a simple way of noting that you are borrowing an author's words or ideas by inserting a brief parenthetical acknowledgement in your paper that includes the author's last name and the page reference:

"It is vital for a designer to learn to see each element as a shape as well as a signifier of meaning" (White 39).

When the reader sees this reference to White, they know to refer to the Works Cited portion of the paper to find the complete bibliographic citation.


The overuse of quotations may take away from the style or presentation of your essay; therefore, you may want to paraphrase the content or put the ideas of an author into your own words.  If you are paraphrasing, you need to cite the author and include a page number, but do not use quotation marks.

Citing Web Sites:

For web sites or other electronic sources that do not provide page numbers, you may simply cite the entire work or include a reference to the work in the text of your essay.  If the paragraphs are numbered, you may also cite the relevant paragraph number preceded by the abbreviation par., e.g. (Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, par. 4). If the author's name precedes the paragraph number in the citation, follow the name with a comma. Do not include unnumbered paragraphs.

Type of CitationFirst Citation in TextSubsequent Citations in TextParenthetical Format, First Citation in TextParenthetical Format, Subsequent Citations in Text
One work by one author White states that . . . (39)   White indicates . . . (98) (White 39) (White 98)
One work by two authors White and Bos state that . . . (56) According to White and Bos, . . . (90) (White and Bos 56) (White and Bos 90)
One work by more than three authors Wilkins and his colleagues . . . (407) Wilkins et al. have stated . . .  (409) (Wilkins et al. 407) (Wilkins et al. 409)
Groups as authors (readily identified through abbreviation) The National Research Council (NRC) has stated that . . . (par. 6) The NRC . . . (par. 8) (Nat'l. Research Council, par. 6) (NRC, par. 8)
Groups as authors (no abbreviation) The University of Pittsburgh . . . (205) The University of Pittsburgh . . . (267) (University of Pittsburgh 205) (University of Pittsburgh 267)
Two or more works by the same author cited together Heller states that . . . (Design Literacy 23; Design Humor 59) Heller . . . (Design Literacy 40; Design Humor 67) (Heller, Design Literacy 23; Design Humor 59) (Heller, Design Literacy 40; Design Humor 67)
Two or more works by two or more authors cited together In agreement with Eskilson (23), Gomez-Palacio and Vit state that . . . (92) Eskilson (27) and Gomez-Palacio and Vit (102) . . . (Eskilson 23; Gomez-Palacio and Vit 92) (Eskilson 27; Gomez-Palacio and Vit 102)

Source: Modern Language Association. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed. New York: MLA, 2009.

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