College students must be familiar with the guidelines for MLA in-text citations to ensure their work is up to academic standards. This article summarizes the main MLA guidelines for in-text citations and offers examples for every scenario.
Definition: MLA in-text citations
MLA style is a standardized way of referencing the sources used in academic writing. MLA in-text citations are a set of guidelines that were developed by the Modern Language Association and is currently used in courses related to languages, literature, arts, and humanities.
An MLA in-text citation appears in the body of an academic essay and provides information about an external source. The specific formatting depends on whether the source has one, two, or more authors.
|Number of Authors||Example MLA In-Text Citation|
|2||(Jameson and Briggs 215-216)|
|3+||(Jameson et al. 215)|
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MLA in-text citations: Placement
MLA in-text citations are placed after the quote or reference and before the period that ends the sentence.
There are different methods of writing an MLA in-text citation based on how the author is quoted in the text.1
Some MLA in-text citations have more than one source (when more than one author makes the same statement). In this case, they must be formatted as follows to ensure you credit all sources
The same source with multiple citations
If you reference the same source multiple times within the text, provide the full citation the first time you reference it, and only use the page number in the remaining references.
When a source can’t be attributed to an author, the guidelines for MLA in-text citations require that you use the organization’s name or the source title instead of the author’s surname. The in-text citation must match the first element in the Works Cited entry.
|In-text citation:||(Office for National Statistics 21)|
|Works Cited entry:||Office for National Statistics Employment in Inner City London 2019|
If a title or organization’s name consists of 4+ words, it must be shortened in the in-text citation by omitting the articles and only using the first word or phrase.
|Full Source Title or Organization Name||In-text Citation Shortening|
|Animal Species in the Jungle||(“Animal Species”)|
|Modern Language Association of America||(Modern Language Association 81)|
MLA in-text citations: No page numbers
Some sources don’t have page numbers, but instead are divided into sections, chapters, articles, or other sub-divisions. This is common when referencing video sources, law articles, theatre plays, etc. In this case, MLA in-text citations must be formatted as follows:
|Play with numbered lines||Include the act, scene, and line||(Wilde 1.3.15)|
|Source divided into sections or chapters||Comma after the author’s surname and section or chapter number, abbreviated||(Ross, ch.15)|
|Source with no page number and with no sub-divisions||Only quote the author’s surname||(Moore)|
|Videos or audiovisual material||Specify the author and time stamp||(Rogers 1:03:22)|
MLA in-text citations for different sources written by the same author are referenced as per the following guidelines.
If you quote multiple sources written by a single author, include the author’s surname in citation, along with a shortened version of the title.2
Different authors with the same name
Sometimes you will have to cite different authors who share the same surname. In that case, MLA in-text citations must include the author’s initials to differentiate them. If the initials also coincide, cite the full first name.
MLA in-text citations: Indirect citations
In academic writing, it’s always recommended to quote original sources directly. If this isn’t possible because the original source is unknown or unspecified, MLA in-text citations should include both the original author and the author of the secondary source. To indicate that this is an indirect citation, use the abbreviation “qtd. in”, which means “quoted in”.3
In this example, Martin is the original author, and Andrews is the author of the secondary source you accessed. This source should also be referenced in the Works Cited section.
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You only need to cite the author’s surname in parentheses. If the author isn’t known, cite the title of the webpage or article.4
No, you must follow these guidelines for every source you quote, including theatre plays, films, videos, or websites.
It means “and others”, and it’s used to cite sources written by more than 2 authors.
No. In that case, it’s okay to only cite the author’s surname.
1 Modern Language Association. “In-Text Citations: An Overview.” MLA Style Center. April 1, 2021. https://style.mla.org/in-text-citations-overview/.
2 Writing Commons. “Shorten the Title of this Source in the In-text Citation.” Accessed December 8, 2022. https://writingcommons.org/article/abbreviate-the-title-of-this-source-in-the-citation/.
3 University of Portland. “MLA Style (9th Edition) Citation Guide: Secondary Sources.” September 27, 2022. https://libguides.up.edu/mla/common/secondary_sources.
4 MLA Style Center. “How should a website with no author or clear organization authorship be cited in an in-text citation?” May 9, 2018. https://style.mla.org/web-site-with-unclear-authorship/.