Citing in an MLA Paper

When should you cite someone else’s work? Writers should include a citation when directly quoting or paraphrasing someone else’s words. This means that you should also cite any and all data, statistics, and/or definitions that you did not create yourself. Besides avoiding plagiarism, writers who cite their sources properly also give credit where credit is due and sound more persuasive.

Although there are other systems of citation, like APA or Chicago, MLA (Modern Language Association) is most often used for papers in writing and literature courses.

MLA In-Text Citation

In-Text (or parenthetical) Citation is a method of giving information about a source within the text (in parentheses) rather than at the bottom of a page as a footnote. Note that the MLA citation system treats web sites and other electronic sources just like print sources. If the online source has paragraph, section or division numbers, use these numbers in your in-text citation, but do not add these numbers if the source does not use them. 

Note the Following: 

Example: Anna Karenina begins with an acute observation that “happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (Tolstoy 1). 

  • Parentheses belong directly before and after the quotation. All other punctuation goes outside the quotations and after the in-text citation parentheses. 
  • In-text citations should never include the word “page” or “pg”. Simply provide the page number. 
  • When an in-text citation includes the author’s name,  no punctuation comes between the author’s name and the page number.

Formatting In-Text Citations


  1. If your sentence names the author, the citation includes only the page number.
  2. Lesley Brill observes, “Hitchcock’s films tend to start in public locations and move to more private spaces” (195).
  1. If your sentence does not name the author, the citation should include the author’s last name and the page number.
  2. Importantly, “Hitchcock’s films tend to start in public locations and move to more private spaces” (Brill 195).

If the essay is about a single work, it should not include the author’s name each time that work is cited. After the author’s name is mentioned once, only the page numbers are needed. If the author is unknown (as is often the case for web sources and dictionary entries), use a short form of the title. Italicize book titles and put article titles in quotation marks.

  1. If the author is unknown (as is often the case for web sources and dictionary entries), use a short form of the title in your in-text citation. Italicize long-form titles (such as TV shows, books, plays, etc) and place short-form titles (such as an article) in quotation marks.
  2. (Book Title 21)

(“Article Title” 21)

  1. If there are two or three authors, use each of their last names in the order you find them.
  2. (Short and Zilkha 3)

(Ohiomoba, Hirose, and Dahl 10)

  1. If there are four or more authors, include only the first author’s name followed by “et al.”
  2. (Brooke et al. 170)
  1. If you are citing two or more authors with the same last name, use the initial of the author’s first name to make it clear which author you mean. 
  2. Although some writers claim that writer’s block simply does not exist (T. Robert 10), others claim that writer’s block is a challenge that can be overcome using a series of practical techniques (C. Thomas 101).
  1. If you are citing multiple works by the same author, include a shortened title for the specific work that you are quoting so that it is clear which text you are citing. Put short titles for books in italics and short titles for articles in quotation marks.
  2. In her novels, Virginia Woolf writes QUOTE (Lighthouse 43)  . . . QUOTE (Mrs Dalloway 98).
  1. Sometimes a source you are using may quote another source. This is called an indirect source. When you are providing a quote from an indirect source, use the following abbreviation for “quoted in.”
  2. Mason argues that school uniforms help strengthen students’ perceived sense of "safety, unity, and professionalism" (qtd. in Campell 16).

Creating an MLA-Compliant Works Cited

The Works Cited section of your essay should clearly present all of the sources you used throughout your essay. This section should be clearly organized so that your reader easily recognizes what sources you used. When creating a Works Cited page, remember the following:

  • Present your “Works Cited” on a separate page at the end of your paper
  • Alphabetize each entry by the first letter of the last name or by the first listed title
  • Use a Hanging Indent (indenting every line after the first)
  • Use double-spacing throughout the “Works Cited”, but do not skip lines between entries.  
  1. Print Sources
  2. Book with One Author:
  1. Last name, first name. Book Title. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Print. 
  2. Book with One or More Authors:

Brill, Lesley. The Irony of Hitchcock. Philadelphia: Ashton Press, 2005. Print.

* If multiple cities of publication are listed, use the first one.

  1. Smith, Danielle, Mike Cambell, and Mary Stach. Hitchcock’s Greatest Films. Boston: Harper, 1996. Print.
  2. Book with Author and Editor:
  1. Short, Tom. Film Noir: Gender and Genre. Ed. John Hope. London: St. Martin’s Press, 1984. Print.
  2. Article or Chapter in an Anthology:
  1. Campbell, Arnold. “Bollywood Economy.” Indian Film Anthology. New York: Norton, 2001. 15-32. Print.
  2. Article in a Magazine, Newspaper:
  1. Hsi, Betty. “Morals and Film.” Newsweek 29 Dec. 2002: 10-15. Print.
  2. Article in a Journal:
  1. Ohiomoba, Elinathan. “Demystifying New Wave Cinema.” Film Forum 76.3 (2004): 24-29. Print.
  2. Web Sources
  1. Encyclopedia or Dictionary:
  2. Article from a Scholarly Journal:

“Article Title.” Encyclopedia/Dictionary Title. Most Recent Update. Web. Date of Access. Ex. “Film noir.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 2008. Web. 28 Feb. 2011.

  1. Smith, John. “Spielberg’s Twists and Turns.” Film Studies Journal 5.2 (2006): 1-15. Web. 24 Oct. 2010.
  2. Website with Organization as Author
  1. “Blood and Guts: Action Movies.” When Films ‘Get Medieval.’ National Council of Violent Films, 14 Jan. 2002. Web. 29 Feb. 2011.

Where in The Bedford Handbook?

Section 53: MLA Documentation Style Further Information 

See Writing Center handouts: “Citing in MLA Paper,” “Quoting and Paraphrasing,” and “Safeguarding Against Plagiarism.”

MLA: General Format and Style <>

MLA Formatting and Style Guide <>