MLA Style & In-text Citations

23 Oct

In a previous post, Style Guides & How to Use Them, we discussed the APA style, MLA style, and Chicago style guides and how to use them, noting some of the similarities and differences between the three styles. Regardless of which style a writer is using, whenever information from an outside source is included, an in-text citation is needed. The construction of the in-text citation varies according to the style guide the writer is using.

MLA Style & In-Text Citations

In MLA Style, outside information is cited within a text using an author-page number citation system, where the writer includes the author’s (or authors’) last name and the page number where the information appeared in the publication. As the “Documenting Sources” chapter in A Writer’s Reference notes “MLA recommends in-text citations that refer the readers to a list of works cited. A typical in-text citation names the author of the source, often in a signal phrase, and gives a page number in parentheses. At the end of the paper, a list of works cited provides publication information about the source” (Hacker and Sommers 388-89).

The above quotation from Hacker and Sommers would correspond with the following Works Cited entry:

Hacker, Diana and Nancy L. Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.

Any source used within the text, whether included in the form of a quotation, summary, or paraphrase, must be referenced with an in-text citation in the text itself, and with the corresponding full citation in the Works Cited list at the end of the text.

As Hacker and Sommers discuss in A Writer’s Reference, there are different ways that writers can include this citation information within the body of their writing. First, writers can choose to include the author’s name in a signal phrase. A signal phrase is a phrase, clause, or sentence that introduces a quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Including the author’s name in a signal phrase prepares readers for the source and allows writers to include only the page number in the parenthetical citation. For example:

Frederick Lane reports that employers do not necessary have to use software to monitor how their employees use the Web: employers can “use a hidden video camera pointed at an employee’s monitor” and even position a camera “so that a number of monitors [can] be viewed at the same time” (147).

Since Frederick Lane is the name of the author, and the writer has used his name in the signal phrase within the actual sentence, only the page number is included in the parenthetical citation. If a signal phrase does not name the author, then both the author’s last name and the page number need to be included in parentheses at the end of the sentence; no punctuation is needed between the author’s last name and the page number. For example:

Companies can monitor employees’ every keystroke without legal penalty, but they may have to combat low morale as a result (Lane 129).

In the previous example, the writer chose not to include Lane’s last name within the sentence itself, so both the last name and the page number must appear in the parenthetical citation. Often, the author’s name is used in the signal phrase when information from the source is first included – and many writers also incorporate the title of the publication as well. In subsequent references, writers can choose between the above examples according to their preference.

MLA Style in-text citations differ slightly when dealing with sources with no known author or page number. When dealing with a source without a known author, use the complete title when referencing the source in a signal phrase, and use a shortened version of the title when referencing the source in parentheses. For example:

According to the article “10 Minute Vegetable Chili,” not only is the dish delicious and vegetarian friendly, it is also “healthy and super easy to make” (3).

Vegetable chili, a delicious and vegetarian friendly dish, is “healthy and super easy to make” (“10 Minute” 3).

When dealing with a source without a known page number, such as a Web source, do not include the page number in the parenthetical citation. If using a PDF of an article available through a website, use the page number included in the PDF. If a source does not have page numbers but does include numbered paragraphs (“par.” or “pars.”) or sections (“sec.” or “secs.”), use these in place of the page number in the parenthetical citation. For example:

As a 2005 study by Salary.com and American Online indicates, the Internet ranked as the top choice among employees for ways of wasting time on the job; it beat talking with co-workers – the second most popular method – by a margin of nearly two to one (Frauenheim).

Or:

As Jacobs explains, “[t]he stretch of Hudson Street where I live is each day the scene of an intricate sidewalk ballet” (par. 2).

Notes on MLA Style in-text citations:

  • When including a quotation in the text, it will appear as either a long quotation or a short quotation.
    • A long quotation is any quotation that is longer than four typed lines of prose (most standard writing) or three typed lines of verse (plays, poems, song lyrics, etc.). Set off long quotations by indenting and double-spacing the entire quotation. Quotation marks are not needed, but an in-text citation should follow.
    • A short quotation is any quotation that is shorter than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse. Short quotations are included as a part of the original sentence, with the quoted material surrounded by quotations marks and an in-text citation at the end of the sentence.
  • When using a work with multiple authors:
    • Two authors: Name the authors in the signal phrase or include their last names in parentheses.
      • Kizza and Ssanyu note… (2).
      • (Kizza and Ssanyu 2).
    • Three authors: Name the authors in the signal phrase or include their last names in parentheses, separating their last names with commas.
      • Alton, Davies, and Rice… (56).
      • (Alton, Davies, and Rice 56).
    • Four or more authors: Name all of the authors or include only the first author’s name followed by “et al.” The format that you use should match the format in your Works Cited entry.
      • (Blaine, Martin, Smith and Springer 35)
      • (Blaine et al. 35)
  • Sometimes, an organization or corporation may be the author of the source. Name the organization or corporation in the signal phrase or parenthetical citation.
    • According to a 2001 survey of human resources managers by the American Management Association…. (2).
    • According to a 2001 survey of human resources managers… (American Management Association 2).
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2 Responses to “MLA Style & In-text Citations”

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  1. Direct Quotations & Stand-Alone Quotations | The Christ College Writing Center - February 25, 2014

    […] quotation. We know that we would need to include a parenthetical citation (in either APA Style or MLA Style, depending on our instructor’s specifications), and we know that we need to put double […]

  2. Direct Quotations & Stand-Alone Quotations | Cincinnati State Writing Center - April 2, 2014

    […] We know that we would need to include a parenthetical citation (in either APA Style or MLA Style, depending on our instructor’s specifications), and we know that we need to put double quotation […]

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