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MLA Citation Guide to In-Text Citations and Bibliography Format

Updated on July 30, 2016
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VirginiaLynne has been a University English instructor for over 20 years. She specializes in helping people write essays faster and easier.

Easy MLA Citation Guide

Simple is better, right? Here is the outline of this easy guide to MLA citations.

  1. The beginning section gives you a basic format for your works cited list (also called a bibliography).
  2. Next, I give you some links for online bibliographical citation makers.
  3. Then I tell you how to do the in-text parenthetical citations (telling inside the paper when you are using a source).

Making Works Cited

MLA Citations are easy.
MLA Citations are easy. | Source

Basic MLA Citation Guidelines

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.


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

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.

Cite your sources correctly so you don't drive your English teacher crazy!
Cite your sources correctly so you don't drive your English teacher crazy! | Source

MLA Citation Tools

How to you cite correctly in Modern Language Association (MLA) format?

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.

Use a Website: In most cases, you really only need this one-page 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.

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 and can also change from MLA to Chicago Style or APA. Here are three good online bibliographical engines:

  • 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 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.

Explains When and How to Use Citations

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

Add Variety to Your Author Tags

Using a variety of words for "said" lets you express your response to your sources.
Using a variety of words for "said" lets you express your response to your sources. | Source

How Do You Cite Inside the 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 is 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.

Samples of format:

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 Punctuate In-Text Citations

What about Punctuation Marks?

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).

Common Questions on In-Text Citation

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.


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    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 5 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 5 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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