In-Text Citations

What is an In-Text Citation?

Learning Outcome

After completing this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Create in-text citations using MLA style.

You find a great idea in a source, and you want to use it to support your argument. To do this, you need to create an in-text citation and add it to your paper where you have used information from that source, either as a direct quotation or a paraphrased idea. In-text citations tell your reader which ideas belong to you and which ideas belong to someone else.

Narrative and Parenthetical Citation

The information for an in-text citation is pulled directly from its matching works cited list entry. It is usually easiest to create the works cited entry first and use it to create an in-text citation. The example below shows a works cited list entry.

Dolmage, Jay Timothy. Academic Ableism: Disability and Higher Education. U of Michigan P, 2017. JSTOR, https://jstor.org/stable/j.ctvr33d50.

There are two different ways you can add an in-text citation to your writing: as a narrative citation, in which the author’s name is part of your sentence, or as a parenthetical citation, in which the citation details are given in parentheses at the end of a phrase or sentence.

Here is a sentence with a narrative citation that matches the works cited list entry above:

Dolmage describes universal design for learning as a way to increase accessibility for everyone (117).

Here is the same sentence, but with a parenthetical citation:

Universal design for learning is a way to increase accessibility for everyone (Dolmage 117).

As the above examples show, an in-text citation includes two key pieces of information:

  1. Author last name(s) (e.g., Dolmage)
  2. Page number, or other location within a work (e.g., 117)

Formatting Author Names

The following table shows examples of how to format the author element for in-text citations.

Author Type Formatting Example
1 author or editor Last Name Dolmage
2 authors or editors Last Name and Last Name Stuessy and Lipscomb
3+ authors or editors Last Name et al. Kameron et al.
Organization or group Organization Name United Nations Human Settlements Programme
No author Title of Work Room

Formatting Page Numbers and Other Divisions

The next table shows how to format page numbers and other divisions of works in your in-text citation. For most works, you should use a page number. For poetry or drama, you should usually use line numbers. For works with no page numbers, you might use a chapter, scene, or other division provided in the work. This information should go in parentheses at the end of the words or ideas you are citing. For works without any page numbers or any other division, do not include a number in the parenthetical citation; just follow the guidelines for Formatting Author Names.

Type of Division Example
Single page 117
Page range 12-13
Line number line 72*
Chapter ch. 3
Scene sc. 5

*Include the word “line” only the first time you cite the work.

Direct Quotation

So far we have focused on paraphrasing examples. Next we will explore how to cite quotations.

Short Quotations

For a quotation that “runs no more than four lines in your paper” (MLA Handbook, sec. 6.34), incorporate it into your paragraph with quotation marks around it. The following examples are for prose. If you are quoting more than one line of poetry, add a forward slash ( / ) between the lines.

Narrative citation example

Dolmage argues that universal design “is a form of hope, a manner of trying” (116).

Parenthetical citation example

Universal design “is a form of hope, a manner of trying” (Dolmage 116).

Block Quotations

According to the MLA Handbook, “a quotation that runs more than four lines in your prose should be set off from the text as a block indented half an inch from the left margin” (sec. 6.35). The following examples are for a poem, but the rules are the same for prose.

Narrative citation

In Rich’s poem, the narrator’s gender is fluid:

And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he (lines 72-77)

Parenthetical citation

The narrator’s gender is fluid:

And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair
streams black, the merman in his armored body.
We circle silently
about the wreck
we dive into the hold.
I am she: I am he (Rich lines 72-77)

Now that we’ve introduced in-text citations, go to the next section to complete a few in-text citation practice activities.


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MLA Style Citation Tutorial by University of Alberta Library and NorQuest College Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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