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MLA Citations: Learn it. Love it.
But first, what IS M.L.A? It stands for Modern Language Association.
In-text Citation vs. Works Cited Page
An in-text citation is when the writer references the originating author in the actual body of the essay. This citation is always located just after the quoted, paraphrased, or summarized material. The in-text citation is simple, generally including the author's last name and page number. Clearly, an author's last name is not enough information for readers to know exactly where the outside information came from. This is why writers need to include a works cited page at the end of all researched essays: the in-text citation references something more fully listed in the works cited page.
A works cited page is an alphabetized list (generally by the author's last name) of all referenced materials used in the body of the essay. Following the author's name, there is a series of information that more specifically details the reference. There is a special way to order this information, and MLA guidelines provides the "how to" for just about every kind of material--from journals, to web sites, to personal interviews.
CREATE AN IN-TEXT CITATION
- Use an Author Tag: An author tag is when you use the author's name somewhere in the sentence. Next, if a page number is available, type the page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence. The period ALWAYS goes after the parenthesis. Ex: According to Brown, "standardized tests ineffectively measure student intelligence" (42).
- Using author tags over and over can be cumbersome. When you don't use an author tag, cite the information by typing the author's last name and page number in parentheses at the end of the sentence. Ex: "Standardized tests ineffectively measure student intelligence" (Brown 42).
- If the author's name is not known, type the title of the article instead of the author's last name. Some titles are very long and can be cumbersome in the body of the essay. If a title is determined to be too long, a shortened version of the title is appropriate. Include the page number, if known. Ex: "Standardized tests ineffectively measure student intelligence" (American Testing 42).
- If the page number is not known, omit it. This is the case with most web page sources.
MLA In-Text Citations provides more information for particular situations, such as when a work has multiple authors, or is a reference book.
CREATE A WORKS CITED PAGE
As mentioned before, a works cited page is an alphabetized list (generally by the author's last name) of all referenced materials used in the body of the essay. Every in-text citation refers readers to the complete documentation of the source in a Works Cited page at the end of the paper. You do not need to include works that are not cited in the body of your essay.
As shown in the "MLA Style: How to Format using MS Word" all pages of the essay are numbered. The Works Cited page(s) is the final page(s) of the essay, and on it, there should be the correct page number(s). Type the words Works Cited at the top of the page, and center it. Then, list the sources used in the paper, alphabetized by the first word in each source, usually the author's last name. If a work has no author, alphabetize it by its title. Notice that everything is double spaced. Also, be sure to indent after the first line of each new citation.
If the source is from the internet or the Web, use all that is available from the following list:
PRACTICE FINDING INFO FOR CITING A WEB PAGE
Copy the following bulleted list above, and use the following web article to fill-in each point: http://www.csicop.org/scienceandmedia/controversy/You can generally find a lot of the web site information at the bottom of the web page.
Usually some of these elements will not be available. Use as many as you can find. List the items in the order as shown above. Below is a quick, brief, and very short guide on how to actually type this information into your word processor:
Lastname, Firstname. Title of Book. Place of Publication: Publisher, Year of Publication.
A Page on a Web site:
"Title of Page." NameofWebSite.com. Day Month Year last updated . Day Month Year accessed online
EXAMPLES OF CITATIONS ON THE WORKS CITED PAGE
*Excerpts taken from the Purdue Online Writing Lab*
Article in Online Magazine
"Business Coalition for Climate Action Doubles." Environmental Defense.. 8 May 2007. Environmental Defense Organization.
..................24 May 2007 <http://www.environmentaldefense.org/article.cfm?ContentID=5828>.
Article from Online Newspaper
Clinton, Bill. Interview. New York Times on the Web. May 2007. 25 May 2007 <http://video.on.nytimes.com/>.
........... Keyword: Climate.
Unknown Author, Page on a Web site
Global Warming. 2007. Cooler Heads Coalition. 24 May 2007 <http://www.globalwarming.org/>.
An Article from a Professional Journal, NOT online:
Gowdy, John. "Avoiding Self-organized Extinction: Toward a Co-evolutionary Economics of Sustainability."
International Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology. 14.1 (2007): 27-36.
Click here to see a Works Cited page of the above information.
Finally, here are some very helpful web sites:
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:
- No “page” or “pg.” or “p.#” or any other variant is used to indicate the page number.
- End punctuation goes at the end of the citation, not at the end of the passage.
- Author’s name can either be placed in the citation or in the sentence.
- No comma or other punctuation mark is needed to separate the author’s name and the page number.
Here are a few of the most common in-text citations that you might need to write in your essay:
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).
- Note: If the work has no page numbers (i.e. website) simply put the author’s last name in parentheses.
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).
- Note: If the work had three authors the citation would read (Lakoff, Johnson, and Smith 57). Remember that there is no comma between the names and the page number, and all authors must be listed either in the sentence or in the citation.
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).
- Note: Only the first author, followed by the term "et al." is listed either in the sentence or in the citation. Don't forget to place a period after "al" since it is an abbreviation of a Latin word, but no period is used after “et.”
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).
- Note: When we don’t have a known author or editor, we can use the book title (in italics), the article title (in quotation marks), or the Web site title (in italics). If we include this title in our sentence, we should write out the entire title. If we include it in our citation, we can shorten it using the first keyword (just be sure that your reader can still find the corresponding entry in your Works Cited page).