Online Writing Lab

Roane State Community College

MLA In-Text Citations

Any time you refer to, comment on, paraphrase, or quote another writer’s information, you must document this in your essay through the use of a citation. The purpose of an MLA in-text citation, sometimes called a parenthetical reference, is to help readers easily find the sources in the Works Cited page that correspond to your referenced passage. You will want to make this process as easy as possible for the reader, so the citations are always placed at the end of the sentence and should always correspond with the first word of the matching Works Cited page entry. Let’s suppose that this is a sentence from your essay:

The author explains, “Record deals were usually negotiated by elite businessmen” (Hennessey 127).

Your reader should be able to turn to the Works Cited page and easily find the bibliographic information for this source. It might be listed like this:

Hennessey, William. The Making of Records in Memphis. Atlanta: Capital Book Press, 2001.

Notice that the author’s name in the citation corresponds to the first word of the Works Cited entry. This makes it really easy for the reader to find and match up information, which is the purpose of in-text citations.

Two primary elements of a quoted passage should be given to the reader:  1) the author’s last name and 2) the page number where the referenced passage is found. The page number is always included in the citation at the end of the sentence, but the author’s last name can be placed either in the citation or in the sentence. Here are a few items to remember concerning in-text citations:

Here are a few of the most common in-text citations that you might need to write in your essay:

One author:

Example 1: Louis Armstrong easily reached difficult notes, the F’s and G’s that hindered so many other trumpeters (Bergreen 258).

Example 1a: Bergreen explained, “Louis Armstrong easily reached difficult notes, the F’s and G’s that hindered so many other trumpeters” (258).


Two or three authors of the same work:

Example 3: In Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff and Johnson suggest that metaphors “actually structure our perceptions and understanding” (57).

Example 3a: In Metaphors We Live By, the authors suggest that metaphors “actually structure our perceptions and understanding” (Lakoff and Johnson 57).

Four or more authors of the same work:

Example 4: Changes in social regulations are likely to cause new fears among voters (Carber et al. 64).

Example 4a: Carber et al. claim that changes in social regulations are likely to cause new fears among voters (64).

A work with no author (an organization or website):

Example 5: According to The Center for Contemporary Cultural studies, “There is nothing concrete about hierarchy” (10).

Example 5a: “There is nothing concrete about hierarchy” (Center 10).