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MLA Citation Guide (MLA 9th Edition): In-Text Citation

Discover the ins and outs of MLA citation

In-Text Citation

In-text citations are inserted in the body of your research paper to briefly document the source of your information. 

  • In-text citations in MLA style follow the general format of author's last name followed by a page number enclosed in parentheses. Here is an example: "Here's a direct quote" (Smith 8).
  • If the author's name is not given, use the first word (or words) of the title. Follow the same formatting that is used in the works-cited list, such as quotation marks. Here is an example: This is a paraphrase ("Trouble" 22).
  • If the source does not have page numbers (for example, some online articles, websites and e-books), only include the author's name for the in-text citation. Do not estimate or make up page numbers.  
  • In-text citations point the reader to the works-cited list, which is located at the end of your paper, for more complete bibliographic information.

Repeated Use of Sources

If you use information from a single source more than once in succession (i.e., no other sources referred to in between), you can use a simplified in-text citation. Here is an example:

Cell biology is an area of science that focuses on the structure and function of cells (Smith 15). It revolves around the idea that the cell is a "fundamental unit of life" (17).

 Note: If using this simplified in-text citation creates ambiguity regarding the source being referred to, use the full in-text citation format.

In-Text Citation Formatting and Examples

One Author

Format: (Author's Last Name Page Number)

Example: (Hunt 358)

Two Authors

Format: (Author's Last Name and Author's Last Name Page Number)

Example: (Case and Daristotle 57)

Three or More Authors

Format:  (Author's Last Name et al. Page Number)

Example: (Case et al. 57)

Unknown Author

Where you would normally put the author's last name, instead use the first one, two, or three words from the title. Do not use  initial articles such as "A", "An" or "The". Provide enough words to clarify which sources from your works-cited list that you are referencing. 

Follow the formatting of the title. For example, if the title in the works-cited list is in italics, italicize the words from the title in the in-text citation, and if the title in the works-cited list is in quotation marks, put quotation marks around the words from the title in the in-text citation.

Format: (Title Page Number)


(Cell Biology 12)

("Nursing" 12)

Multiple Sources

To cite more than one source when you are paraphrasing, separate the in-text citations with a semi-colon.

Format: (Author's Last Name Page Number; Author's Last Name Page Number).


(Smith 42; Bennett 71). 

(It Takes Two; Brock 43).

 Note: In MLA style, the sources within the in-text citation do not need to be in alphabetical order.

Works Quoted in Another Source

Sometimes an author of a book, article or website will mention another person's work by using a quotation or paraphrased idea from that source. (This may be a secondary source.) For example, the Kirkey article you are reading includes a quotation by Smith that you would like to include in your essay. The basic rule is that in both your Works-Cited List and in-text citation you will still cite Kirkey. Kirkey will appear in your Works Cited list – NOT Smith. Add the words "qtd. in" to your in-text citation.

Examples of in-text citations:

According to a study by Smith (qtd. in Kirkey) 42% of doctors would refuse to perform legal euthanasia.

Smith (qtd. in Kirkey) states that “even if euthanasia was legal, 42% of doctors would be against this method of assisted dying” (A.10).

Example of Works Cited List citation:

Kirkey, Susan. "Euthanasia." The Montreal Gazette, 9 Feb. 2013, p. A.10. Canadian Newsstand Major Dailies.