MLA Citation Guide to In-Text Citations and Bibliography Format

Updated on April 18, 2017
VirginiaLynne profile image

Virginia has been a university English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Article Includes

1. Basic format for works cited list (also called a bibliography).

2. Links to online tools that help you make your citations correctly.

3. Explanation of how to do in-text citations (parenthetical citations).


Easy Citations Guide

Note: Remember that Author= last name, first name.


Author. Title of Book. City of Publication: Publisher, Year. Type of Material.


Author. "Title of Article." Title of Magazine Date: Page(s). Type of Material.

Scholarly Journal

Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume number.Issue number (Year): Pages. Type of Material.


Author. "Title of Article." Title of Newspaper Date, edition: Page(s). Type of Material.

Website Article

Author. "Title of the Web Page." Title of the Overall Web Site. Version or Edition. Publisher or Sponsor, Date. Web. Date of Access.

note: if the title of the website and the publisher are the same, you only list them once.

Pamphlet or Newsletter

Author (or committee, commission or organizer that prepared pamphlet). "Title of Article." Title of Pamphlet or Newsletter. City of Publisher: Publisher, date. Print or Online.

Magazine or Newspaper article in a database like Gale Opposing Viewpoints

Author. "Title of Article." Title of Magazine Date: Page(s). Online Database Name. Web. Date of Access.

Scholarly Journal in Online database

Author. "Title of Article." Title of Journal Volume number. Issue number (Year): Pages. Online Database Name. Web. Date of Access.

Newspaper in Online database:

Author. "Title of Article." Title of Newspaper Date, edition: Page(s). Online Database Name. Web. Date of Access.

Government Publication

Name of government entity (such as "U.S. Congress or U.S. Senate). Name of legislative body producing the publication. Title of Publication (including report or bill numbers, when available). Date. Print or Web. Date of Access (if Web).

Interview conducted by student:

Name of Person Interviewed. Type of interview. (Personal or Telephone or email) Date.

Site Visit (for Non-Profit Research Papers):

Place visited.Person observing.(type of observation notes: typed notes, handwritten notes or video recording) Date.


Citation Tools

Need to make a work's cited list? Here are your options:

  1. Use my Easy Guide above: In most cases, you really only need is my easy guide. You can bookmark this Hub or copy and print it off for a reference. In fact, if you use one of the online websites to put your references in MLA format for you, you probably need to double check them for being correct (so that your English professor doesn't count you off) by using this guide.
  2. Use a Printed Citation Guide: You can purchase the MLA Handbook for the full citation references and many college textbooks, like the ones I use Perspectives on Argument and The Prentice Hall Guide for College Writers have a mini-MLA handbook inside of them.
  3. Use an Online Citation Machine: Although you will need to double-check whether it is correct by using a printed guide or a website guide, an online citation machine can do a lot of the work for you. If you have a lot of sources, this can be a big help. In addition, many of these websites can change your style from MLA to Chicago or APA:
  • EasyBib: a free bibliography maker which is simple to use. Offers auto fill or manual.
  • BibMe: also free and easy to use. Also, offers auto-fill for common texts as well as the manual entry of data.
  • WorksCited4U: free APA, MLA and Chicago styles.
  • Refworks: more comprehensive, this may be something your school subscribes to, or you can get a free 30-day trial.
  • Zotero is free to download and powerful tool for getting references from any source and building a library and citations. However, it really requires that you use a Firefox browser.

Adding Sources Inside Your Paper

Your Bibliography or Works cited page will list the different sources you are using in your paper, but you also need to tell the reader when you are using those sources in your paper. To do that, the MLA format uses "in-text parenthetical citations." What does that mean?

Author Tags: When you are writing something in your paper which is using the ideas you found in your research, use the name of the author and the title of the article to show where you got your ideas. For example:

In Fred Snow's article, "Until Global Warming Stops," he discusses the four things we must do to stop ruining our atmosphere including.......(Snow 32).

Parenthetical Citation:In the example above, the author's last name and the page the information is found on are included at the end of when I stop talking about the source. Actually, if I've already mentioned the name of the source, I don't need to put the name in parenthesis in that same sentence, but if you are mentioning the source again later, you do need to do that.


1. When you don't mention the name of the source in the sentence:

During the turbulent 1960s, civil rights was at the forefront of our nation’s thoughts (Remier 179).

2. When you do mention the author in the sentence, you don't need to put it in the parenthetical reference:

Remier discussed how, during the turbulent 1960s, civil rights came to the forefront (179).

How to Add Sources to Your Paper

Author Tags

Author Name Rules
words for said
strong words for author tags
First Author Tag: use first and last name, such as Mary Baker, or Tedd Jones
Author Tags after first time: use only the last name, such as Baker or Jones
Variations on last name:
the author
the writer
the author of this article
points out


Put the parentheses before a period, semicolon, or comma in order to avoid disrupting the flow of the sentence. If you are referring to the entire source in a general way, you may leave out the page numbers.

Examples: warming is real (Jones).

....can we believe it? (Jones 4).

...we can't believe it! (Jones 4).

Using two sources in one sentence with a semi-colon:

Some sources say that sea levels are our best evidence for global warming(Jones 4); however, Smith says we can't rely on sea levels to judge global warming (Smith 54).

Questions and Answers

What if there is a book or article with two or more authors? Put last names of all main authors:

(Devine and Jones 156-57).

(Baker, Ryan and Sampson 1701)

What if there is a source with no author? Use the title instead. Shorten a long title to 2-3 words:

(Realistic Revelations 63-66)

What about a source like a webpage with no page numbers? Use the title alone:

("Can’t Take it Anymore")

What about a document with no personal author? Use the name of the group:

(US, NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

(House Report)

(Cong. House Comm. on House on Communication)

What about abbreviations?

Use standard abbreviations for words in long names if they exist. Place commas between units instead of periods. MLA prefers that you incorporate lengthy names into the text (without abbreviations) and place only the page numbers (if any) in parentheses.

Questions & Answers

  • How do you cite a quote within the quotation when the author of the quote isn't named?

    That can be complicated. If the author of the quote isn't named, then what you would emphasize is the name of the person who said that quotation. The quote inside of a quote is handled by using single quotation marks. Here is a sample:

    My grandfather always said, "I want you to remember my favorite saying, 'Tis better a borrower than a lender be,' whenever you get into a business situation."

    In this case, I might know that the quote is from Shakespeare, but if my grandfather didn't, I wouldn't have to say that, or if it would help my story, I might talk in some other part of the paper about whether what my grandfather took from the quote was what Shakespeare meant from it.


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    • VirginiaLynne profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Kearney 

      8 years ago from United States

      Thanks for stopping by xstatic! Even though I've been in this business a long time, I always double check the format before I send my work off.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      8 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      A good reminder of style in this world of casual writing.

      It has been a long time since I used the proper way of citing sources. I will bookmark this Hub.


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