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Citations: MLA Style (9th ed.)

A guide to writing and citing in MLA format.

Rules of In-Text Citations

The purpose of the in-text citation is to briefly give readers the identity of the information you are citing, and allow them to find the information you provide in the reference list that enables readers to locate the exact piece of literature you used.


Every citation on the Works Cited needs to be used at least once in your paper.

Every source documented in your paper should have a  Works Cited entry.


Each in-text citation will, at a minimum, refer to an author's name or authors' names. (If there isn't an author, your in-text citation will refer to the first couple words of the article title.)

If the original source has page numbers, include the relevant page, too.

In MLA style, in-text citations follow this basic format:

(Lastname p. #)   e.g., (Smith 14)

Common Examples

Parenthetical Citations:

The moon is made of green cheese (Carter 47). The moon is made of green cheese (Carter and Sousa 47).

Experts agree that "the moon is comprised of green cheese" (Sousa and Thompson 43).

Narrative Citation:

Lunar geologist Dr. Margaret Carter reports that the moon is made of cheese. Carter also notes that it is probably a blend of cheddar and gruyère (47).

If you mention that author's name in your actual sentence, you must contextualize who they are. Putting them in your narrative indicates they're important, so you need to clarify why. Conversely, if the author is not someone significant, don't name them in-text: use a parenthetical citation instead.


Need to Know:

  • Author last name(s) only, with page number if needed
  • Join the names with "and" not "&"
  • Never refer to a professional researcher by their first name alone (Taylor discovered...). They are Smith or Dr. Smith or folklorist Dr. Taylor Smith. Even if you were on a first-name basis with that researcher, you would still apply professional courtesy and refer to their titles and last names in this context.

Others argue that the moon is actually made up of various rocks (Stark et al.). The SSR researchers Carter, Sousa, Thompson, and Dooley further reveal that these rocks are inedible (88). Everyone is disappointed by this development (Stark et al. 198).

Need to Know:

  • First author last name followed by et al.
  • Page number if needed
  • If writing the names in-text, you have to write everybody out the first time. It might be easier/smoother to say "researchers with __" and then use the (Author et al.) parenthetical citation at the end.


In MLA, when there are 3 or more authors, you can abbreviate their names to just the first author "et al." ("and the others") in your Works Cited and your in-text citations. However, if you're going to name the authors in-text, you must instead write out all their names the first time you reference them -- no "et al."

If you refer to them in-text again later on, you could then say Carter et al. since you previously established who is in that group. Of course, you need to make sure you don't have any other citations that could be a "Carter et al."

Experts agree that "the moon is comprised of green cheese" ("Moon Analysis").

Need to Know:

  • First word or two of the article title
  • "Quotes" if it's an article, Italics if it's a book
  • Enough to be unique

Author names are typically the first part of the citation, but if you have a source with no named author, the article title becomes the first part.  You don't have to use the full title -- just the first word or two will be sufficient.

Your in-text citations are, essentially, an abbreviation of your full reference that makes it easy for your reader to very quickly find the citation by skimming the left margin.


See also:

Source is Divided into Numbered Parts

Electronic Source, no page numbers

She defused the antimatter cannon and closed the wormhole (Rogers ch. 15).

Rogers emphasizes the character's development by echoing a conversation from earlier in the book (ch. 2, ch. 10).

If there aren't any page numbers, or the numbers aren't reliable (like an e-book, which can grow or shrink based on the reader's preference in font size, line spacing, etc), look for other landmarks: chapter numbers, line numbers,  paragraph numbers.

If these aren't available, oh well! You'll just omit that part of the citation. Don't start counting the paragraphs yourself.

Multimedia Sources

The heroes renew their resolve to escape the moon following a tense conversation (Stark 00:54:30-01:03:00).

If your source has a runtime rather than page numbers, you'll go by the time stamps of particular scenes or quotes.

Experts agree that "the moon is comprised of green cheese" (Sousa and Thompson 43).

Sousa supports this theory but adds that "the core could be made of white cheddar" as well ("Deeper" 374).

Need to Know:

  • Direct quotes always need to be framed by your own words before and/or after.
  • Don't change anything inside quotes!
    • If you do change something (for clarity or to fit your own sentence), place the changed word(s) in square brackets. E.g. Sousa adds that "the core could be [cheese]" as well.
  • Keep just what you need -- you have no obligation to keep the author's whole sentence if you don't need it.
  • When quoting, you always need to include a specific page number (if the source has pages).


Quote sandwich: You should always have your own words framing the quote text, either before it, after it, or both. Use direct quotes sparingly in your paper and only quote the minimum you need to make your point.

Lunar geologist Dr. Carter reports that the moon is made of cheese (47). Carter's colleague Dr. Slate has further evidence that is made of brie and gouda in particular (Moon and Crackers 174, 176).

Need to Know:

  • Not just rewording -- synthesize the info a bit to make it your own while still giving credit to the originator.
  • Still needs an in-text citation, just like a quote!

Tables & Images Inserted in Paper

Place any visuals as close as possible to the relevant parts of your paper they support.

All visuals will be labeled and numbered as well as provide a caption of some kind. The label will depend on the type of visual.

How to Add Captions in Word

Example Table 1, Number of Libraries in the US, showing a source and note below the tableTables will be labeled Table # (e.g. Table 1) with a title on the next line. The Table label appears above the actual table.

In a caption below the table, provide the source and any notes you want to add, double-spaced throughout.

You might add a horizontal line below the table to make the caption obviously separate.

Use alphabetical letters to identify each note rather than numbers. (This ensures there's no confusion with the numbers in the table itself.)



Mention the table in parentheses where relevant. For example,

Public and school libraries make up the majority of the total libraries in the United States (Table 1).

More Examples

Any photos, maps, graphs, charts, etc will be labeled as Figures (usually abbreviated as Fig.) and consecutively numbered (e.g. Fig. 1., Fig. 2., and so on). Include a period after the number before the citation or caption.

Below the figure, you'll provide a citation or a caption.

  • If you write a full, proper citation, you don't need to invert the creator's name (that is, the citation will start with Jane Doe rather than Doe, Jane). If you have a full citation with the figure and you didn't otherwise have an in-text citation referring to that source, you don't have to include the figure's citation on the Works Cited.
  • If you just want to provide a caption, include:
    Author Name, Title of the Source, the date of the image (YYYY), and, if relevant, the location of the image.
    • You will need a full citation in the Works Cited as well.

Caption Examples

Photo of a dog named Honey Bun

Fig. 1. John Doe. Therapy Pets Newsletter. 2018, Therapy Pets Pals of Texas.

Fig. 2. Artemisia Gentileschi. Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting. 1638-39, British Royal Collection.


Works Cited

Gentileschi, Artemisia. Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting. 1638-39. Google Arts & Culture,

These are labeled Example (usually abbreviated Ex.) and consecutively numbered (Ex. 1, Ex. 2, and so on), and will have a caption beneath the score.

Weird Situations

Jump to:


Source Cited by a Source (Indirect/Secondary Citation)
  • A study done by a team of geologists led by Dr. Underwood casts doubts on the moon being made of cheese (qtd. in Sousa and Carter 153).

This is what you'll use when you've read an article that mentions another study. You want to use the info that other study mentions, but you can't find a copy of the full original. Instead, you will cite the article you've actually read in your Works Cited (which means your in-text citation will be based on that), but you'll name-drop the other study in your paper.

To be clear: in the above example, Underwood should not appear on your Works Cited page: only Sousa and Carter.

Two Different Sources, One Sentence

Join the regular parenthetical citations with a semicolon.

  • Several recent studies indicate that ancient humans believed in the moon's rockiness (Underwood; Ladrian and Harms).

In this example, there are no page numbers because we're referring to the overall/main idea of the authors' works rather than specifically citable information, which is typically what you're doing when using multiple sources at once. A semicolon ( ; ) separates the authors of the different sources from each other.

A further example:

  • Other studies have shown the composition of the moon to include silicon, magnesium, and iron ("What is"; Underwood 16; Ladrian and Harms 53-4).

In this second example, we're citing 3 sources at once:a no-author article, an Underwood article, and a Ladrian and Harms article. Page numbers were included because of the more specific nature of the info given.

Same Author, 2 Different Works

Include the source titles titles with either the narrative or parenthetical citations in your paper.

  • Lunar geologist Dr. Carter remains convinced that the moon is made of cheese ("Theories" 68) and has further evidence that is made of brie and stilton in particular (Moon and Crackers 174, 176).
  • Sousa supports this theory but adds that "the core could be made of white cheddar" as well ("Deeper" 374). No evidence of crackers or charcuterie is available (Sousa, "Accompaniments").

To distinguish which source provided which information in-text, we include a snippet of the title. It doesn't matter if you're referencing the articles at the same time (first example sentence) or apart from each other (second example sentence): you have to make this distinction.

Same Name, Different People
  • Childrens' fairy tales give us the idea of the moon being of cheese (S. Rogers 37). This idea has persisted through modern imaginings like certain claymation features (B. Rogers 52).

If two different authors have the same last name, you need to include their first initials to keep them distinct from each other. If they happen to have the same first initials, even, include their full first names:

  • Childrens' fairy tales give us the idea of the moon being of cheese (Steve Rogers 37). This has persisted through modern imaginings like certain claymation features (Shmeve Rogers 52).
No Authors, Same Article Titles

Include the website name in brackets inside the parenthetical citation. Notice that the quote marks stay on the "article title," while the Website Name is in italics -- matching the format of the full Works Cited citation.

  • The median salary of chefs as of May 2020 is around $53k ("Chefs" [Occupational]). Starting pay tends to be around $20k, however ("Chefs" [Career Star]).

In-Text Citations for Non-Paper Works

Though written essays are kind of the default format -- or at least, incredibly common -- you do still need to worry about citations when creating presentations, movies, infographics, or other types of works! The only thing that doesn't apply is all the 'Times New Roman size 12 double-space' formatting rules.

You do also have more flexibility in how and where you include citations, too!


You can use traditional parenthetical citations, especially if you've used multiple sources on one slide.

Traditional in-text parenthetical citation

You can also go less formal [unless your professor has said otherwise!] by tucking the citation into the corner of the slide (Greene). You even have the flexibility to include extra info that MLA wouldn't normally allow but can help contextualize the source (Green, NPR Morning Edition).

Traditional citation but in corner of slide Less traditional, more contextual attribution

You must also include a Works Cited slide! We could create hanging indents, but it's not strictly necessary. A bulleted list might also work in this situation.

Sample works cited slide


Annotation added to movie with citationYou can add a formal parenthetical citation at the appropriate times in your video in some corner of the video.

Recommendation: wherever you place it, keep it consistent! E.g. if the first one is the bottom-left corner, make all the citations in the bottom-left corner. This helps your reader know where to look as well as to know what that pop-up means each time it appears.

There's no rules about size/font/format! Just pay attention to how it contrasts to your video's background.

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