MLA In-Text CitationsWriter's Web
(printable version here)

Modern Language Association (MLA) documentation is used primarily for English papers and uses a parenthetical format. This is a system of using parentheses within the body of the paper, instead of footnotes or endnotes. Don't forget to also include a Works Cited list at the end of the paper.

Only a few typical references are offered below. Consult the MLA Handbook, on reserve at the Boatwright Library's circulation desk, for complete information. Be certain you are using the 8th Edition, as each edition makes significant changes to formatting rules.

Books with Single Author

If you use the author to introduce the quotation, then only the page number would appear in the parentheses:

Ex. According to R. Lewis, "When Thoreau would sit outside his house . . ." (93).

If you don't use the author to introduce the quotation, state the author's last name and the page number within parentheses:

Ex. Thoreau believed that, since America was a new nation, it had an abundance of natural resources; but he could see something had to be done to preserve them. He had traveled to Europe and observed firsthand how abused and depleted the land of the Old World had become (Fussell 152).

Note: In both cases, there is no comma within the parentheses, and the period for the sentence follows the citation.

Long Quotations

If a direct quotation is set-off from the text, skip two spaces after the concluding punctuation mark, then add the parenthetical reference.

Note carefully: the period for such quotations appears before the first parenthesis, not after, as with shorter quotations.Do not use quotation marks for these long quotations. For poetry, mimic the original line breaks if possible.

Ex. In "Song of Myself," Walt Whitman lavishes praise on the earth, as if he were addressing a lover:

Smile, o voluptuous, cool-breathed earth
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees
Earth of departed sunset, earth of mountains misty-topped
Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just tinged with blue. . . .
Smile, for your lover comes. (87)

Note: In set-off quotations the quotation should be at least four lines long and should be indented one inch, or at least 10 spaces, and double-spaced.

Books with Multiple Authors

If your book has more than one author, use the authors' last names as they appear on the title page. Include each name, up to three authors:

Ex. In the 1970s the Great Pyramid inspired a fad of pyramid enthusiasts, who . . . (Schul and Pettit 159).

Schul and Pettit draw attention to the fact that in the 1970s the Great Pyramid . . . (159).

If there are more than three authors use "et al." showing there are others:

Ex. The editors of Writing About the World set an agenda for their text book. They intend to "include the study of women as well as men, and people of color as well as Western European figures in university courses" (McLeod et al. iii).

Articles from journals

Use the name of the author and the title of the essay in the text; place the page number within the parentheses:

Ex. In "Criticism and Sociology," David Daiches insists that "sociological criticism can help increase literary perceptions" (17).

Note: If the journal comes from an online database and is a facsimile of the original, with pagination, cite it the same way here but note, in the Works-Cited list, other information. The Boatwright Library's page on citing sources provides the details needed for making the Works-Cited list.

Music, Film

Titles of film and recording titles should be underlined or put into italics. A song's title would be placed in double quotations, however

Ex. In "Vague Directions," a song from McMurtry's album Candland, an old man asks the main character about his mother who moved away. The old man sounds a bit like the intolerant men in Easy Rider when he asks, "Did she show you how to curl that hair?/ A grown man would have never dared/ When I was just a boy" ("Vague Directions").

Web Sites

The general rules for Web sites are simple enough: cite by title of a particular page, not an entire site. There are almost never page numbers for a site.The best place to find the title of a particular page in a larger site may be in the browser's title bar, not on the text of the page itself. Using this page as an example:

Ex. The University of Richmond's Writing Center provides several pages of information about documenting sources through its online handbook, "Writer's Web," including a page specifically about in-text citations ("MLA Documentation").

This detail about a page's title is important, because any "favorites" or "bookmarks" list in a Web browser will present pages by the title in the title bar and no other way. The Boatwright Library's page on citing sources provides the details needed for constructing a Works-Cited list with electronic sources.

Anonymous Works

It is not unusual to find articles in newspapers or online that lack an author. In such cases, a shortened version of the title will suffice. Here is a paraphrase and reference to an online article, with pagination, called "All About Buying Used Cars":

Ex. When making an offer on a vehicle, never begin at the price suggested by the salesman or written on the car's windshield ("All About Buying").

Indirect Quotation within a cited work

(that quotation of a quotation)

Always try to quote from the original source. When that is not possible, and you are referring to a quotation within a work not made by the author, write "qtd. in . . ." within the parentheses following the quotation.

Ex. Bernard Baruch states that "Mankind has always thought to substitute energy for reason" (qtd. in Ringer 274).

Note: On your Works Cited page you would use Ringer as the author of the work cited, then the title of his book, etc.

Citing two or more works by the same author

When using more than one book by the same author, provide a shortened title of the book in each citation. The "Works Cited" or "Bibliography" will have two separate entries for this author.

Ex. Feodor Dostoyevsky declares that the "underground rebel is representative of our society" (Underground 3). He seems to confirm this view in Raskolnikov's superman speech (Crime 383-84).

When the author's name does not appear in the text, it is placed first within the parentheses followed by a comma, the shortened title, and the page number.

Multivolume Work

When citing a work that has more than one volume, put the author, the volume followed by a colon and a space, and the page number within the parentheses:

Ex. It is interesting to note that while Johann Sebastian Bach composed in the modern era, his use of the polyphonic style was a regression to medieval music (Wallbank and Taylor 2: 67).

MLA Bibliography: The Works-Cited List

This document should be titled "Works Cited" if it includes those works actually cited in your paper. If it includes works consulted but not actually cited, use the title "Bibliography" or "Works Consulted." Readers can find more examples from our handbook for writing in English.

  • Double-space between and within entries
  • Type the first line of each entry flush with the left margin; indent each additional line 1/2 inch
  • Arrange entries alphabetically by authors' last names, with anonymous works included by title (ignoring the articles a, an, & the).

In the following examples, note that Barnes' article comes from a weekly magazine, and thus uses the same form as would a newspaper article. Cook's article is from a "scholarly journal." Lannon's work is a book, while Leap's article comes from a book containing the works of several authors. Can you spot the differences between the citations?

Works Cited

Barnes, Fred. "Finest Hour." New Republic 11 Feb. 1991, pp.14-16.

Cook, Eleanor. "Reading Typologically, For Example, Faulkner." American Literature , vol. 63, No. 4, 1991, pp. 693-711.

Hopper, Dennis, director. Easy Rider. Columbia Pictures, 1969.

Lannon, John M. Technical Writing. Glenview: Scott- Foresman, 1988.

Leap, William L. "American Indian Languages." Languages in the USA, edited by Charles A. Ferguson and Shirley Brice Heath. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1981, pp. 116-144.

McMurtry, James. Candyland. Columbia, 1992.

Works Consulted

Modern Language Association. MLA Handbook. 8th Ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2016.

Winkler, Anthony C. & Jo Ray McCuen. Rhetoric Made Plain. NewYork: Harcourt Brace, 1988.

Back to 'Documentation'
Writer's Web
| Writing Center | Make an Appointment | Library

Copyright Info

Reference corrected January 2021