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In-Text Citations in MLA Format

What are in text citations?

In-text citations are the little parentheses that you use in your paper in order to tell the reader the name of the person/source that you are citing.  You need to use in-text citations when you are citing/using information from an outside source, and that information is not common knowledge.  

How to set up in-text citations?

You can set up in text quotes by using something called a signal phrase, or you can set up a quote by including all the information in an in-text citation.  
Here's an example of a signal phrase: 

Wordsworth stated that Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" (263).

Or, you could set it up by including all necessary information in the in-text citation: Romantic poetry was marked by a "spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings" ( Wordsworth 263).

In both examples you can see two things: who the author is (Wordsworth) and the page number (263) where you got the quote.  These two simple things, combined with the Works Cited page, tell the reader exactly where to find the original quote.  

Using Exact Quotes:

When you quote directly from a source, enclose the quoted section in quotation marks. Add an in-text citation at the end of the quote with the author name and page number:


What if you are using an internet source?

In MLA 9th edition, when you quote from electronic sources that do not provide page numbers (like Web pages), cite the author's name only.

"Three phases of the separation response: protest, despair, and detachment" (Garelli).

Let's look at another example:  "Standardized tests ineffectively measure student intelligence" (Brown). 

In this example we see that the author's last name is in the parenthesis.  That is because the quote doesn't clearly indicate who the writer is.  If you don't set up the sentence to indicate who the writer is, you should include that information in the parenthesis. 

Let's look at one last example:  "Proponents of milk say calcium and other vitamins and minerals in milk make it an important part of a healthful diet for people of all ages. They argue that milk’s benefits include weight loss, strengthening bones, improved cardiovascular and oral health, cancer prevention, and relief of PMS"  ("Is Milk Healthy for Humans").

In this example the reader knows two things: one, there isn't an author because instead of citing the author the writer cites the article title ("Is Milk Healthy For Humans").  

More Example Signal Phrases

Keep things interesting for your readers by switching up the language and placement of your signal phrases.


  • In the words of professors Greer and Dewey, “…”
  • As sociology scholar Janice Kinsey has noted, “…”
  • Creative Commons, an organization that helps internet users understand and create copyright for materials, reports that “…”
  • “…,” writes Deidre Tyrell, “…” “…,” attorney Sanderson claims. Kyles and Sanderson offer up a compelling point: “…”

One good reason for using signal phrases

When you use a signal phrase withing an in-text citation, you DO NOT have to include the authors name at the end in parentheses, because it's redundant.  Therefore, the only thing you have to include in parentheses is the page or paragraph number.  

Paraphrasing in MLA format

When you write information or ideas from a source in your own words, cite the source by adding an in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased portion.

Paraphrasing from one page: Include a full in-text citation with the author name and page number (if there is one). For example: Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 65).

Paraphrasing from Multiple Pages: If the paraphrased information/idea is from several pages, include them. For example: Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 50, 55, 65-71).

In Text Block Quotations

Any quote that is longer than four lines should be put in block quotes.  That means, the whole quote should be indented half an inch from the left margin.  You do not need to indent the first word, and you do not need to have quotations marks around the block quote (as you do in short quotes).  You should introduce the block quote using a colon, and you should close the block quote with your in-text citation information.  

Here's an example: 


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