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MLA Style:  In-text citations

UON Library guide to MLA referencing style 8th edition for UON students

In-text citations: general rules


Click the tabs above for detailed instructions and examples


General rules:

  • MLA features parenthetical in-text citations and a corresponding alphabetical works-cited list at the end of the document.
  • The brief in-text citation leads unambiguously to a specific entry with full details in the works-cited list, and to a passage in the source.
  • References cited in the text (in-text citations) must appear in the works-cited list and vice versa.
  • An in-text citation lists the author's surname and the page/s cited, enclosed in parentheses, e.g. (Smith and Jones 108)
  • If the author's name is mentioned in the text, only the page/s cited appears in the citation, e.g. Smith and Jones (108) stated ...
  • Terms such as editor or translator, included in a works-cited list, are omitted from an in-text citation.
  • Use “and” when citing two authors e.g. (Smith and Jones 108), or Smith and Jones (108). 
  • If a source has three or more authors, list only the first author followed by et al. e.g. Dempster et al. (281)... or (Dempster et al. 281).
  • When no author is available, cite the work using the first a few words from the title. Do not count initial articles such as “A”, “An” or “The”.
  • When citing multiple works by the same author, include a short title after a comma, e.g. (McGregor, Linguistics 71) … and … (McGregor, “Semantics and Pragmatics” 366) to differentiate the references.
  • For different authors with the same surname, include their first initial before the surname, e.g. (A. Smith 17) and (D. Smith 13). If the initial is also shared, use their full first name, e.g. (Adam Smith 17) and (Andrew Smith 32).
  • For multiple in-text citations within parentheses, alphabetise citations by the first author and add a semicolon (;) between them to differentiate citations, e.g. (Sato and Yamada 14; Smith and Jones 16). 
  • To cite a footnote or endnote from another source, add the note number after the page number if the note is numbered, e.g., (Smith, 59n3). Here Smith is the author, 59 is the page number, and n3 is the note number cited. 
  • For secondary sources, use "qtd. in" followed by the source you have consulted, e.g. Baker’s study (qtd. in Bail 1175) ...
  • An in-text citation can appear anywhere there is a natural pause in a sentence, provided that it follows the paraphrasing of the source or a direct quote.
  • The closing parenthesis precedes a comma, period, or other punctuation marks except for a block quotation.
  • A parenthetical citation that directly follows a direct quotation is placed after the closing quotation mark, e.g. ... "..." (Smith 196).
  • The opening parenthesis follows the terminal punctuation at the end of a block quotation, and no period either precedes or follows the closing parenthesis. 

In-text citations with 1, 2, 3 or more authors


Every time you paraphrase, or use an idea from another source you must include an in-text citation to that source.

See the general rules for in-text citations for more details:


  • General format for a source that has 1 author:

(Author's Surname page cited)

Australian education providers will need to address a number of challenges to ensure standards of special education are fully supporting students with special needs and their families (Dempsey 22).

  • General format for a source that has 2 authors:

(1st Author's Surname and 2nd Author's Surname page cited) technologies need to be evaluated before large scale investment is made by organisations (Marra and Edmond 31).

  • General format for a source that has 3 or more authors: list only the first author followed by et al.

(1st Author's Surname et al. page cited)

... the role for adult literacy partnerships (Black et al. 151) ...

In-text citations where the author is unknown (no author)


If the source has no author, cite the work by its short title, including the first word (other than an initial article). The short title should be up to 4 words in the proper format (the same format as the title in the works-cited list, e.g. if the source is a smaller part of a larger publication, such as journal articles, book chapters, or web pages, enclose the title in double quotation marks; if the source is a book, brochure, web site or report, italicise the title. 

See the general rules for in-text citations for more details:


  • General format for a journal article / book chapter / web page (smaller part of a large source):

("Short Title" page cited)

... to avoid visiting the doctor ("Australians Turning to Dr Google" 16).


  • General format for a book / brochure / web site / report:

(Short Title page cited)

... a memorial to all Australians who lost their lives in service during the First World War (Anzac Memorial 12) ... 

In-text citations for corporate authors


If the source is a corporate author (e.g. a university, association, or government department) include the corporate author's name within the in-text citation, plus the page/s cited, in the format:

(Corporate Author Page cited)


... thousands of teachers, principals, early childhood workers and academics have graduated and gone on to make their mark in and out of the classroom in communities (University of Newcastle 19).


If an author's name is known by a common acronym (e.g. ABS for Australian Bureau of Statistics, WHO for World Health Organization), include the full name, plus the acronym in the first in-text citation, in the format:

(Corporate Author (CA) Page cited)


"Over half of people aged 15 years and older (56%) considered their overall health to be very good or excellent, and 29% stated that their health was good" (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 3).

In subsequent references, include just the acronym:

(CA Page cited)

... 19% of people aged 18 years and over were current daily smokers (ABS 12).

In-text citations for works by authors with the same surname


Whenever you reference works by authors who SHARE the SAME SURNAME, but who are in fact different people:

  • Add the first initials of the lead (first) author to the in-text citation to identify the specific reference, e.g. (A. Smith 32) ... and (D. Smith 25).
  • If you have multiple references where the lead (first) authors share the same surname and first initial, include the authors full name (first and last names) for the in-text citation, e.g. (Adam Smith 32) ... and (Andrew Smith 21).


Adding the initial to the author names helps readers avoid confusion with the in-text referencing and allows easier location of entries in your reference list.

In-text citations for works by the same author


For citing multiple works by the SAME author, include a short title of the source after a comma to differentiate the references.

For example:

  • One author:  ... (McGregor, Linguistics 71) … and … (McGregor, “Semantics and Pragmatics” 366) 
  • Two authors: ... (Gregson and Edwards, "Phase Transitions" 623) ... and ... (Gregson and Edwards, "Quark Spin" 34)
  • Three or more authors: ... (Ostler et al. "Randomised spin" 456) ... and ... (Ostler et al. "Modelling of Variant" 14)

In-text citations that include multiple references


  • More than one publication

If you need to cite more than one publication within an in-text citation, list all the sources alphabetically separating each citation with a semicolon.

For example:

...several reviews (Featherstone 12; Gates 21; Muldoon 124) have found that...


  • Two or more locations from the same work

Citations of different locations in a single source are separated by commas:

For example: ... (Baron 194, 200, 197-98)...


  • Two or more publications by the same author

If you need to cite two or more publications by the same author, add the short titles joined by and for two titles, or commas and and before the last title for more than two publications. 

For example:

...reading and the physical media (Baron, "Redefining" 194 and Words Onscreen 203) ...

...the digital world, reading, and the physical media (Baron, Always On, "Redefining,"  and Words Onscreen) ...



Direct quotations


If you include a direct quote, that is word-for-word, from a source, the in-text citation must include the author and page numbers where the quotation appeared if available. Direct quotations must be accurate and follow the wording, spelling and punctuation of the original source.

The in-text citation for a short quotation (no more than 4 lines enclosed in quotation marks) is placed after the closing quotation mark, before the full stop. If the author is mentioned in the text, only the page cited appears in the citation. For example:

Reading is "just half of literacy. The other half is writing" (Baron 194). ...


According to Naomi Baron, reading is "just half of literacy. The other half is writing" (194). ...


For a long quotation (more than 4 lines) that is set  in a separate block off from the text (block quotation, indented, without quotation marks), type a space after the concluding punctuation mark of the quotation and insert the in-text citation. There is no punctuation before or after the citation. For example:

The forms of writing that accompany reading 

can fill various roles. The simplest is to make parts of a text prominent (by underlining, highlighting, or adding asterisks, lines, or squiggles). More-reflective responses are notes written in the margins or in an external location--a notebook or a computer file. (Baron 194)

Omitting words from a quotation:

A quotation may be shortened from that included in the original source by including three spaced ellipses points (...) within the quotation to indicate where the omitted words had been included.


Whereas, other researchers "believe that the third stage of labour is a much neglected stage in the process of labour ... and it deserves much greater attention" (Harris and Clark 856).


Quotations of sources without pagination:

If your source uses explicit part numbers rather than pages numbers, as some web resources do, give the relevant number or numbers, preceded by the label, e.g.

  • par. or pars. (for paragraph or paragraphs),
  • sec. or secs. (for section or sections),
  • ch. or chs. (for chapter or chapters).

Separate the author and the part number with a comma, e.g. (Smith, par. 3)

If the source includes headings, but not paragraph or page numbers, you may use the section heading, e.g. James concludes "bullying is at epidemic levels in organizations which do not display strong leadership at the top" (sec. Discussion).

When a source has no page number or any other kind of part number, no number should be given in an in-text citation. Do not count unnumbered paragraph or other parts.


Quotations of Prose

If a prose quotation runs no more than four lines, put it in quotations marks and incorporate it into the text. If a quotation ending a sentence requires a parenthetical reference, place the sentence period after the reference, e.g. 
For Charles Dickens the eighteenth century was both “the best of times” and “the worst of times” (35). 

If a quotation extends to more than four lines when run into your text, set it off from the text as a block indented half an inch from the left margin. A parenthetical reference follows the last line of the quotation.


Quotations of Poetry

If you quote up to three lines of verse, put it in quotation marks within your text, using a forward slash (/) to indicate a line break, and double slashes (//) for a stanza break.  
Verse quotations of more than three lines should be set off from your text as a block, indented half an inch from the left margin. 

A verse quotation may require citing line and other division numbers, a page number, or no number, depending on its length and whether it is published in editions with numbered lines. 


In-text citations for secondary sources


  • Please note: you should always use the original work wherever possible. Use the secondary source only when it is impossible to obtain the original publication, e.g. it may be published in another language, or out of print.


Sources cited within another source are known as 'secondary sources'. In-text citations to secondary sources must name the original source, and provide a citation for the secondary source after qtd. in

For example, Grieve and Gear’s work from 1966 is being quoted in Kirtley’s 2006 book on page 23. If we could not access the original Grieve and Gear’s work from 1966, we could reference it as a secondary source:

… the pattern (Grieve and Gear qtd. in Kirtley 23) ... or ... Grieve and Gear (qtd. in Kirtley 23) suggest a pattern of ...


In the works-cited list, list the work you have actually consulted, i.e. Kirtley’s 2006 book, not Grieve and Gear’s work from 1966.


By following this pattern we are crediting the original author while being able to reference the source we are actually using.

For more information see Secondary sources.

Repeated use of sources


There may be times when you need to use the same reference multiple times in consecutive sentences (or even a whole paragraph) where there are no other references to break up the in-text citations. To make your citations more concise, you can use one of the following techniques:

  • Give a single parenthetical citation after the last borrowing, e.g. ..."...." (Zender 138, 141).
  • Provide the full citation the first time, followed by other citations of page cited only, e.g.  ... (Zender 138). ... (141).
  • Define the source in the text at the start, followed by citations of page cited only, e.g. According to Karl F. Zender, .... (138). ..."..." (141).

No matter which way you cite it, make it clear that the information or quotations are borrowed from the source cited. 

Using citations in multimedia


PowerPoint Presentations

In a slide-based presentation using software such as PowerPoint or Keynote, when you borrow material (quotations, paraphrases, images, videos, and whatever else you copy or adapt), you may provide the citations by:

  • including brief citations on each slide, and 
  • adding a works-cited list on a slide at the end.


Video or Video Clips

In a video, you might overlay text at the bottom of the screen to provide your viewers with brief information about what they are seeing (e.g. the producer and title of a borrowed video clip, or the name of a person being interviewed), and include full documentation in your closing credits.


Project on the Web

In a project on the Web, you might link from your citations to the online material you cite, and add a works-cited list as an appendix to the project.