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MLA - How to Cite Your Sources

Basic Information

In-text citations should look consistent throughout your paper. References in the text must clearly point to specific sources in the list of work cited. In order to do this, a quote or a paraphrase must be followed by the source and page number(s) in parentheses, This is called a parenthetical reference.

MLA guidelines for this kind of documentation are covered in section 3 of the MLA Handbook, 8th ed., starting on page 116.

In Text

  • For time-based media like video, times are now cited in the text (57).
  • The use of my trans. to identify the writer’s translation of a non-English quotation is described (90–91).
  • How to shorten long titles when they have to be included in a parenthetical citation is clarified (117–18).
  • The common practice of documenting borrowings from Greek, Roman, and medieval works with part numbers, not page numbers alone, is described (122).
  • The punctuation used when various items are combined in one parenthetical citation is summarized (126–27).
  • Ways of formatting citations in research projects other than traditional papers are suggested (127–28).


There are a number of different ways to use parenthetical references in MLA formatting. Here are some examples:

  • After a quote, add the author's last name and a page number(s). 

Example: "the ancestor of every action is a thought." (Emerson 154).

  • If using the author's name in your text, do not include it in the parentheses.

Example: In his essay, Emerson observed that "the ancestor of every action is a thought." (154).

  • If more than one author has the same last name, include enough information to differentiate them.

Example: "the ancestor of every action is a thought." (R.W. Emerson 154).

  • If two or more authors wrote the work, list them all.

Example: "the ancestor of every action is a thought." (Emerson and Thoureau 154).