Chapter 12: Documentation Styles: MLA and APA

12.2 MLA Citation: In-text Citations

John Brentar and Emilie Zickel

In-text Citations

We use in-text citations, also called parenthetical citations, to give our readers brief yet specific information about where in the original source material we found the idea or words that we are quoting or paraphrasing. In order to determine what the in-text citation should look like, we have to know what kind of source we are using.

  • Is our source print or digital?
    • Print sources are any source that are on paper or were originally printed on paper, even if you found a copy of it from an online research database like Academic Search Complete. These sources have page numbers. These page numbers need to appear in your in-text citations.
    • Web/digital sources, in many instances, do not have page numbers. Do not make them up! Page 1 of your computer screen is not the same as an actual page one in a print source.
  • Do we have a named author or not?
  • Is the source paginated (i.e., does it have page numbers in its original or current format)? Or is it a digital source without page numbers?

The basics of in-text citation

A complete in-text citation in MLA format includes three components:

  1. a signal phrase
  2.  the original source material (quoted or paraphrased), and
  3. a parenthetical citation (also called in-text citation)

For sources with page numbers–books and articles which were originally published in print publications, even if you access them using a research database like Academic Search Complete, place the page number in the citation. In MLA, we do not use the word “page” or the abbreviations “p.”  or “pg.” before the page numbers.

Example of Basic Citation

Miller claims that “this, that, and the other thing are true” (34).

Citations for sources with authors and pages

The first time that you mention a source in a paper, you need to introduce the source. For this introduction, you can include the author’s full name and a bit of description about the text that this author or these authors produced.

How to cite a source the first time you mention it 

In discussing the act of reading, Donald Hall, an American writer and scholar, states “it seems to me possible to name four kinds of reading, each with a characteristic manner and purpose” (15).

  • The words in bold show the author’s full name and a bit of description of who the author is

After that first time (which, more formally, would be called successive mentions of the source), you can give only the last name. If you name the authors in the signal phrase, you do not need to add the author(s)’ names in the parenthetical citation, too.

Example of citing with a successive mention 

Huynh and Maroko indicate that neighborhoods are not static but dynamic entities that can experience change across a number of dimensions (212). 

  • Only author last names are used in the signal phrase because this is not the first time these authors have been cited in the essay
  • Because author last names are in the signal phrase, they are not also needed in the the parenthetical citation

If you do not name your author(s) in a signal phrase, then you must place the last name(s) only in the citation.  In doing so, do not place a comma between the author name(s) and the page number. For more information on signal phrases, visit section 11.4.

Example of citing when no signal phrase is used 

 In one study of the effects of gentrification upon health, the researchers conclude that “the health implications of gentrification have not been explored comprehensively, despite the likelihood of its effect on neighborhood socioeconomic status” (Huynh and Maroko 212). 

  • Author last names are included in the in-text citation because they were not used in a signal phrase at the beginning of the sentence

Citations for sources with no authors, but page numbers

If your source does not list an author, then you must refer to the work by its title.  If you name the title of the source in your signal phrase, give the entire title exactly as it appears in the source.

Citing print sources with no author

Option 1:

The article, “Poverty in the United States: Census Population Report,” reveals that the official poverty rate rose from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% in 2009 (298).

  • The article title forms the signal phrase (in bold)
  • Note that the article title is written in Title Case – the first letter of each keyword is capitalized – and is inside of quotation marks, as MLA requires

Option 2:

If you do not mention the article title in the signal phrase, then you must place a shortened version of the title in your parenthetical citation:

Census Bureau data indicate that nearly 44 million Americans lived below the poverty line in 2009 (“Poverty” 298).

  • Note that the name of the article title – “Poverty in the United States: Census Population Report” – is shortened to “Poverty” inside of the citation.
  • To shorten an article title for this type of citation, use the first word or first few words of the article title

Citations for sources with no page numbers (i.e., web-based sources outside of research databases)

Some sources have no page numbers. The prime example are web-based sources, such as news, magazine, or website articles published directly to the web.

When you cite an online source,  name the author(s) in your signal phrase. If there are no named authors, use the article title in your signal phrase.

However, with online sources, since there are no page numbers, you do not need to make up a page number for your citation. Whereas previous editions of MLA allowed writers to refer to paragraph numbers for works without page numbers, it now instructs writers not to refer to paragraph numbers unless the work contains explicitly numbers its paragraphs. In some instances, you may not need a parenthetical citation for an online source at all.

Citing online articles with authors

Option 1: 

In discussing the pedagogic approach that St, Louis area schools took in the aftermath of the 2014 Ferguson violence, Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Roberston, in their article, “The Case for Contentious Curricula,” note that, “the major focus of concern remained the psychological well-being of the students, not their intellectual or political growth”.

  • Note that there is a signal phrase that names the authors and the article they wrote (in bold)
  • Note, also, that after the quoted material, there is no parenthetical citation. Just the signal phrase and the quotation of material taken from their article suffices.

Option 2: 

Whereas the approaches may have varied from progressive action to silence, “the major focus of concern remained the psychological well-being of the students, not their intellectual or political growth” (Zimmerman and Roberston) 

 

Examples of citing online articles with no named author 

Option 1: 

Focusing on the economic woes of long-haul truckers, the article, “The Trouble with Trucking” points out that “over the past several decades, inflation-adjusted driver pay has fallen sharply.”

Option 2:

The economic woes of long-haul truckers can be summed up this way: “Over the past several decades, inflation-adjusted driver pay has fallen sharply” (“The Trouble”).

  • Note that, because there is no signal phrase to introduce the quoted material, the first couple of words in the article title is placed inside of the citation.

Citations for sources with multiple authors

If your source has one or two authors, list all the authors in either your signal phrase or in-text citation.

Examples of citations for multiple authors 

If your source has one or two authors, the authors’ names must appear in either your signal phrase or in-text citation

  • Signh and Remenyi opine that “the extent of cheating at universities is hard to gauge” (36).
  • While speculation abounds about how widespread the problem is, “the extent of cheating at universities is hard to gauge” (Singh and Remenyi 36).

If your source has more than two authors, list only the first author followed by the abbreviation “et al.” (short for the Latin phrase et ailii, literally, “and others”).

  • Brenda Bustillos et al. note that “when a campus roadway configuration is changed, introducing new parking facilities or other transportation services also changes campus circulation patterns” (5).
  • One major problem is that “when a campus roadway configuration is changed, introducing new parking facilities or other transportation services also changes campus circulation patterns” (Bustillos et al. 5).

 

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