The MLA (Modern Language Association) offers uniform guidelines for citing sources within the text. By developing a standard, that writers must use, the reader is better able to identify and understand the various sources that were used in the project or paper. This article provides information on how to do this properly.
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MLA in-text and Corresponding Works Cited Page
Whenever you write a paper or work on a project that utilizes outside sources, you are required to give proper credit to the authors since not doing. This applies whether you are directly quoting the material or paraphrasing, making references or comments to it. The citation must be placed within the paper itself as well as in the bibliography page, referred as the Works Cited page when using MLA guidelines. An MLA in-text citation provides the reader with an easy, convenient way to find the articles, books, and other material in the Works Cited page that correspond to the passage that you referenced. Note that the word used in the in-text citation should always correspond with the first word in that same source’s Works Cited page entry. Here is an example:
According to the author, “Children who on average play 3 hours of violent video games per day are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior” (Patterson 41).
When the reader turns to the Works Cited page, he or she should have no difficulty finding the corresponding details about the source used. Here is how the source could be entered:
Patterson, Albert. How Violence in Media Affects the Behavior of Children. New Haven: Yale Press, 2015.
Note that while the in-text citation is often placed at the end of the sentence, it is not required. For example, when quoting passages of prose, the in-text citation can be placed at different spots in the sentence depending on how it is phrased. Consider these examples:
Some people hold the view that the most effective way to prevent gun violence is “through tougher restrictions on sales” (Heinrich 201), although gun-rights advocates strong disagree.
According to Heinrich’s study, the most effective way to prevent gun violence is “through tougher restrictions on sales” (201).
Could the most effective way to prevent gun violence be “through tougher restrictions on sales” (Heinrich 201)?
Heinrich, Ronald. The Problem With Lax Gun Laws. New York: Pennington Press, 2011.
Note that with both examples, the author’s name in the citation corresponds to the first word of the Works Cited entry. This makes it really easy for the reader to find and match up information, which is the purpose of in-text citations.
Ultimately, when using quotations in a passage, the reader should be provided with the author’s last name and the page number where the quotation can be located.
Here are other things to keep in mind in regards to MLA in-text citations:
- When indicating the page number, do not write “page” or “pg.” or “p.#” or any other variant.
- End punctuation goes at the end of the citation, not at the end of the passage itself.
- It is possible to make reference to the author’s name within the text of the paper and then include the page number separately at the end of the sentence.
- The author’s name and the page number should not be separated using any punctuation marks such as a comma.
- If the source is one book or journal within a multi-volume set, include the volume number as such: (Davidson 1: 312-15) In this example, “1” represents the volume number.
The Most Common Examples of MLA In-Text Citation:
Example 1: What set Michael Jordan apart from other basketball players was his killer instinct and ability to take over the game down the stretch (Costas 125).
Example 1a: Costas explained, “What set Michael Jordan apart from other basketball players was his killer instinct and ability to take over the game down the stretch” (125).
Note that if the source lacks page numbers (such as web pages) just reference the author’s last name without an accompanying page number.
Two or three authors of the same work:
Example 3: In Fixing the Economy, Williams and Edwards argue that trickle-down economics “doesn’t really work in practice” (36).
Example 3a: In fixing the Economy, the authors argue that trickle-down economics “doesn’t really work in practice” (Williams and Edwards 36).
Note that if this work had three authors, the citation would read (Williams, Edwards, and Jones 36). Keep in mind that there is no comma between the names and the page number, and all authors must be listed either in the sentence or in the citation.
Four or more authors of the same work:
Example 4: Outside of humans, dolphins are regarded as the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom (Bradley et al. 42).
Example 4a: Bradley et al. found that dolphins are the most intelligent creatures in the animal kingdom (42).
Note that only the first author, followed by the term “et al.” is listed either in the sentence or in the citation. A period should not be placed after “et” but must be used after “al” since it is an abbreviation of a Latin word.
A work with no author (most common when the source is an organization or website):
Example 5: According to the Institute for Biology Studies, “Living organisms are going extinct at an unprecedented rate” (19).
Example 5: “Living organisms are going extinct at an unprecedented rate” (Institute 19).
Note that if the author or editor are unknown, substitute it with the book’s title (italicized), the article title (in quotes), or the name of the web site (italicized). Titles must be written in full if they are part of the sentence, but can be shortened to the first keyword if included in the citation. As always, make sure the reader is able to match this up with the source as it is entered in the Work Cited page.