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What is MLA in text citation?

Citation is a reference list of the sources that someone has used in writing. MLA (Modern Language Association) is a style used in writing papers or essays and citing the sources within the text. The main objective of using MLA in text citation is to provide readers help in easily finding the sources of the work. All good writers crave for making the process of citation as easy as possible for the reader, that is why it is placed always at the end of a sentence. This also corresponds with the very first word of the cited entry of the Works Cited page.

For example, let’s suppose that this is a line from your essay.

The author outlines, “Ways to utilize MLA in text citation by means of this precise guideline essay” (Cuthbert 112).

Your reader must be able to turn to the Works Cited page at the end of your essay and find the information related to this source. You may list it like this;

Johnson, Emilia The Sample Work, Atlanta, Publishing Press, 2016.

It means that any sources the writers use in the text of their paper will be listed in Works Cited page at the end of the paper. The citations used in parentheses must be as short as possible but complete enough so that a reader can find the sources in the list.

The following examples illustrate the use of MLA in text citation.

MLA in text Citation – Author named in signal phrase

Normally a writer introduces the cited material with a signal phrase which includes the name of the author of that material. This way the writer not only prepares the reader for the source but also keep the parenthetical citation concise.

Example: Chadwick claims that “the rate of cutting rainforest timbers is much more than in the last decade” (84).

The signal phrase – “Chadwick claims” – provides the writer’s name; the citation in parentheses gives the page number where the words quoted can be found. By looking up the last name of the author in the cited works list, the reader will discover the whole information about the title of the work, publisher and place of publication and date. Thing to notice is that the period will follow the parenthetical citation.

In case the author is not named in a signal phrase or there is no signal phrase, the last name of the author must emerge in parentheses with page number.

Example: Though the ratio of feline attacks on humans is low but the increase in rate of number of attacks since last decade is a serious concern (Schakowsky 45).

Notice that no punctuation should be between the name of the author and the page number.

And in case you want to cite two or more works by the same author you should opt to include the title of the work in your signal phrase or in abbreviated form inside the parentheses.

Example: In his essay “Text Citation and Styles” author K. Feather upholds that MLA in text citation is being used more often than other styles “the number of undergraduates is increasing who are preferring to use MLA in text citation unless otherwise asked” (B3) 2.

According to K. Feather “Citation is a necessary prerequisite of every paper to avoid plagiarism in academic writing” (Why to Cite Works?” 1)

It is worth mentioning that the title of a piece of writing from a publication should be placed in quotation marks whereas the title of a book should be italicized or underscored.

In rare cases where both the short title and name of author needs to be given in parentheses, the use of MLA in text citation should appear as follows:

The population of mountain lions has been encroaching on human territories in California since 1972, when voters passed a law which banned the hunting (Gibbs, “Cougars” 2).

MLA in text Citation – Two or more authors

If your work needs to cite the names of two or three authors, incorporate them in the parenthetical reference or designate them in the signal phrase.

Example: Roy and Mellissa report that the population of adult mountain lions is now estimated to 5000 to 6000 thousand in California only (B1)

If your paper needs to cite the work of four or even more authors, include only the name of the first writer in your reference list followed by “et al” (which is a Latin word stands for “and other”) in parentheses or in signal phrase.

Example: The work was extended for two more years and authors published their outcomes only after the results were updated (Dempsey et al. 140)

MLA in text Citation – Corporate or Unknown Authors

In case of a corporate author (if the author is an organization or corporation) you can either name it in the signal phrase or add a shortened version in your parenthetical reference.

Example: The Internal Committee for Revenue Collection warns businesses that tax evasions for “luxurious and extravagant and profligate entertainment exercises” are prohibited (44).

If the author is unknown, you can either use the complete title in your signal phrase or use a shortened form of the title in parentheses.

Example: Game officials estimate that since 1973 number of lions has increased to around 5,500 from 2,500 (“Lion Numbers” A27).

MLA in text Citation – Authors with similar last name

In case the work that you want to cite in your Works Cited list includes two or more authors with the similar last name, include only the first name of the writer in the signal phrase or references in parentheses.

Example: There is a study that maintains that at least 70,000 lions were killed between 1915 to1980 in the territories of Canada and the USA (Smith Philips 60).3

If your paper needs citation from more than one volume of a work, indicate only the volume you are referring to in parentheses followed by a colon.

Example: Trueman’s studies reveal a gifted pattern of accelerated acquisition in special students (3:380)

MLA in text citation – novel, play or a poem

Citation of literary resources comprises of the information that enables readers to locate the passage in a number of editions of the related work. For example, in case of a novel, you must write the page number at the first place and then indicate the part or chapter, if possible, where the passage can be found.

Example: Gerald’s narrator portrays Cosby in the moment of isolation: “An impulsive hollowness seemed to run in from the windows and the doors, bequeathing with absolute isolation in the figure of the presenter” (38, ch. 4)

For a stanza of the play, first list the act, then the scene and then the line numbers all separated by periods. Give preference to Arabic numerals unless your tutor advises you to use roman numerals.

Example: In his famous advice to players, Romeo defines love's depth, “love for nature is inevitable and you are all natural” (2.3.20-21)

In case of a poem, if there are various and more than one part, cite the part and then the line numbers, separated by dots.

Example: When Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale comes to the garden, “it builds a nest and sings sweet songs to welcome spring” (10.101-11)

No matter whether you are high school learners or a professional writer, you may need, at times, to cite your references using a specific formatting style. There are a number of styles being used out there for in text citation out of which the three most common are:

  • MLA in text citation
  • APA in text citation
  • Chicago in text citation

These styles ensure that writers do not copy the work of other writers and, at the same time, provide readers with a roadmap to locate the information that notifies the essay. Citations are an important part of any research; hence try to follow the given guidelines precisely.

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